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As Airlines Seek Gates, CLT Plans New Expansion

CLTairport_Nicola_since_1972.jpg
Nicola since 1972
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Flickr

Less than two months after opening a new $200 million nine-gate concourse, Charlotte-Douglas Airport is planning to expand again.

The City Council Monday night approved spending nearly $1.5 million with Perkins and Will North Carolina to design more gates on Concourse A. The expansion comes as American Airlines says Charlotte is one of its most profitable hubs, and that it plans to expand in Charlotte, as well as Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington D.C.

The airline recently said in a presentation to invetors that its profit margin at those three hubs is nearly twice as much as in the rest of its network.

Aviation director Brent Cagle says most airlines are asking for more gates, including American.

“American management has continued to say publicly over the last six or seven months that they really want to focus on Charlotte as one of their primary growth markets,” Cagle said in an interview Monday.

In July, the airport opened the new gates, which are being used by airlines such as Southwest, United, Frontier and JetBlue. The airport is now renovating the old Concourse A, and American Airlines will have access to seven of those gates in late 2019 or 2020.

American has already announced some expansion. It’s launching new service to Munich, Germany – a route that will compete with Lufthansa’s service to the same city.

One problem today is that American Airlines often doesn’t have a place to park its planes during peak times. It’s common for planes to wait 15 or 20 minutes after landing in Charlotte because there isn’t a free gate.

Cagle says the new gates will help – to a point.

“Then you have the push-pull,” Cagle says. “Yes there’s new gates. But there’s also new flights coming and additional frequencies. And so you see all of that new capacity being eaten up with new service.”

The next two phases could add 18 new gates. The first group of gates could open in 2021.