Busy but easy: New hourly deck smooths the trip to Charlotte Douglas airport

By Sunday afternoon, it was all getting so much easier for travelers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

At least it was for the smart drivers who got in the left lane and cruised up the corkscrew ramp into the newly opened hourly parking deck.

The cars that got into the right lanes, to pull up to the terminal and drop off or pick up passengers, were a little backed up. But in the hourly parking deck, there were plenty of spaces, no parking fees (for the first hour, anyway), and a chance to say a leisurely goodbye to friends and family.

“Nobody blows a whistle at you over here,” said Bill Dillard, the owner of Parking Unlimited, which is helping direct traffic in the deck, as he watched the easy coming and going inside. “This deck is wonderful.”

Inside the terminal by late afternoon, it was hectic but not frantic. Occasional clots formed at security checkpoints, but they moved smoothly.

It didn’t look too bad for the sixth day of a busy travel holiday that combined bad weather (on Tuesday), a big holiday (on Thursday) and an expected 600,000 to 800,000 travelers, roughly equivalent to Charlotte’s entire population, by the time it finally settles down again Monday.

Lee Davis, an airport spokeswoman, said final numbers won’t be available until next week. But Sunday’s total was expected to be 26,942 coming through the airport doors – people leaving from here – and an additional 80,000 to 100,000 travelers passing through inside, either arriving or making connections.

Davis said it has gone smoothly, despite the crowds. Even the vendors kept up with demands for food and beverages.

In fact, the most stressed person on Sunday afternoon may have been Jeffrey Yoh, a sophomore at Duke University, who was having a hard time finding his girlfriend’s car in the hourly parking deck.

Yoh parked kind of fast Tuesday: He had an exam in Durham that didn’t end until 1:30 p.m., and he had to drive 145 miles to meet his parents at the airport in Charlotte for a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that left at 4:15 p.m.

He cut it so close, the fastest parking choices were either the hourly parking deck – at $20 a day – or curbside valet, at $28. He picked hourly.

Was it worth it?

“Definitely, it was all worth it,” he said, when he finally found the car and got ready to drive back to Durham. “Got to play a lot of golf. The weather was so nice.”

And, yeah, his parents sprang for the parking.