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CLT Sets New Passenger Record

Nearly 40 million travelers came through the Charlotte airport last year, setting a new record and marking a second consecutive year of passenger growth. That's a two percent increase from 2010. Charlotte Aviation Director Jerry Orr is particularly pleased with that because one of the airport's runways was closed for more than two months in the fall. "It was a carefully planned project - we got everything ready to go so the minute we closed the runway the contractor worked round-the-clock straight through," says Orr. Charlotte actually spent millions to speed up the project at the request of US Airways which operates its largest hub in Charlotte. Orr notes that US Airways helped boost the airport's passenger numbers last year by directing more routes through the city. Other airlines added flights, too. "Everybody did probably better than expected," says Orr. But more passengers mean more pressure on the airport's existing facilities. That's the point of a five-year, $500 million airport improvement plan underway. The improvements include a new airport entrance road and hourly parking deck, baggage claim renovations and expansions to Concourse E. All are scheduled to be finished in 2015. "You cannot do those things in just a couple of months, so we really have to get a running start in order to have the facility here when the people get here," says Orr. Even with the extra passengers in 2011, Charlotte flights came and went on-time more than 88 percent of the time, which is better than many other large airports. Passengers also spent 5.5 percent more on concessions last year, lured by several new shops and restaurants including Brooks Brothers, Lacoste, Pinkberry and Big Daddy's Burger Bar.