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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Charlotte Douglas airport having busiest travel period on record, amid ongoing construction

Charlotte Douglas International Airport

If you’re flying out of Charlotte this summer, prepare for longer lines … and maybe checking in outside. The airport says right now is the busiest travel period on record, with 925,000 passengers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport during the Fourth of July holiday. Adding to the traffic jam is ongoing construction to expand the terminal lobby.

Joining me now to talk more about this and other business stories is Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Chris Jones: Tony, I don’t envy folks who have to go to the airport any time soon.

Tony Mecia: I've been there a couple times in the last two to three weeks and it's definitely more crowded. It feels a lot more crowded, a little more chaotic with some of the construction you have going on there. And it's just a busy time for travel. It's going to be the busiest summer ever at the airport and with some of the ongoing construction and some of the existing infrastructure that they have there, it definitely feels pretty packed.

This week, American Airlines and the airport are getting ready to open up some outdoor check-in ticket counters outside of Door 2 on the departures level. You might say, gosh, it's gonna be pretty hot out there, supposed to be in the 90s this week. They're just, sort of, out of space and so, it is a bit turbulent, it's a little bit chaotic, but they're just asking people to, sort of, pack their patience, show up early at the airport, they're saying maybe two and a half hours early for domestic flight. Use the kiosks to check in — not everybody needs to go to a ticket counter. It's gonna be a little bit different if you haven't been to the airport in a while.

Jones: I understand. So will things get a little slower in the fall?

Mecia: Well, I think so. You know, summer is usually the busy travel season. Although I will say, you know, the airport is supposed to open a few more gates on the A Concourse. So the question is, is that going to help relieve some of this overcrowding in other parts of the airport, or is it going to make it worse? You know, the airport’s been pretty full for a while.

You'll remember last Thanksgiving, there were concerns about all the traffic going into the airport and that sort of thing. So it definitely seems like more of a structural long-term issue rather than just sort of a one-off. It's only the summer of 2024 where this is happening. Haley Gentry, the airport CEO, said a few months ago, told the City Council that they had anticipated these numbers of passengers in a few years and now the numbers are here already.

Jones: All right, then. Like you said, pack your patience. All this week the Ledger is getting an inside look at the Federal Reserve branch in Charlotte. The Fed is something everyone has heard of it, but I don’t think many know exactly what it does. I’m picturing a Scrooge McDuck-style or Gringott's vault of gold coins in uptown. Am I wrong in thinking that?

Mecia: Well, I don't know that people at the Fed are necessarily in the vaults, having parties throwing money around necessarily. We don't have any evidence to support that, Chris. But you know, it is certainly — and if you look at the pictures, it's a little bit more ordinary looking than that.

Charlotte has a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. They basically process money. They take money from banks, credit unions, they make sure that the money isn't damaged and then they ship the money back out and put it back into circulation. And so, it’s a pretty vital cog in moving cash around in the Carolinas. They send out about $150 million a day. Writer Mark Washburn has been out there getting an inside look at how it all operates, and it's certainly a pretty interesting operation.

Jones: We look forward to the insight on that. Finally, Harper’s Restaurant in SouthPark says it’s closing at the end of the month. This is one of those places that’s synonymous with Charlotte and especially SouthPark. Why is it closing?

Mecia: Yeah, the owner of Harper’s, which is a small restaurant chain, said that they would like to stay there, but it sounds as though the landlord, the owner of the property, has other plans for it. Harper’s has been at that location for 32 years, right at the corner of Fairview and Sharon roads. It's pretty well known. But, you know, it's going to be making way, according to the Charlotte Business Journal, for a Chase bank branch. We're seeing a lot of prominent corners in Charlotte being taken over by bank branches, and this is the latest one.

Jones: Well, banks and Charlotte — two synonymous things there, as well.

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A self-proclaimed Public Radio Nerd, Chris Jones began working as a Weekend Host here at WFAE in 2021.