First established in 1935, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) has undergone a number of name changes over the years. Originally called Charlotte Municipal Airport it was renamed Douglas Airport after former mayor of Charlotte, Ben Elbert Douglas. In 1982, another name change took place when it became Charlotte Douglas International Airport with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) designation code CLT.
Approximately 6 miles (10 km) to the west of the city of Charlotte in the state of North Carolina, the airport occupies almost 5,600 acres of land and is used for both civil and military aircraft.
In 2019, Charlotte Airport was ranked 11th busiest in America with passenger numbers exceeding 50 million per year. By 2021, the airport had climbed to sixth in the official rankings and is a stronghold of American Airlines operations, the company now responsible for the bulk of CLT's flights.
There are four runways at CLT with just one passenger terminal building housing 115 gates spread between five concourses for civilian passengers.
Although American Airlines operates around 90% of all air traffic at Charlotte International it is not the only major airline running flights into and out of the airport. Some other notable airlines with a presence at CLT are Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Lufthansa, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Contour Airlines.
Established in 1935 and officially opened in 1936, Charlotte Municipal Airport began scheduled services in 1937. In 1941 as World War II spread across the globe, the U.S. Army Air Force commandeered the airport, renamed it Morris Field, and used it in the following years for training purposes. During this period the army invested heavily in improvements which helped boost the airport's effectiveness when it was returned to civilian control in 1946.
A large two-storey passenger terminal was added in 1954 as the airport underwent improvements and was renamed the Douglas Municipal Airport in that same year. By 1956, Delta Air Lines was operating out of the airport and flights out of CLT regularly exceeded seventy in a week. The number steadily increased as other major airlines Eastern Air Lines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southern Airlines also began regular flights in and out of the airport.
Further renovations took place at the end of the sixties with improved passenger facilities to baggage claim areas, gates and departure lounges. A new concourse opened in 1969 and Eastern Airlines added additional gates to its concourse in 1973.
Following airline deregulation, passenger numbers almost double in the two years up to 1980 and a much-needed runway and control tower were opened in 1979 to cope with the increasing demands placed on the airport while a new terminal building began construction in the same year.
Piedmont Airlines decided to use CLT as an operational hub in 1979 and the new terminal building opened in 1982, the same year the final name change to Charlotte Douglas International Airport took place.
CLT continued to expand over the following years as the main terminal was enlarged and some of the biggest airlines began to run flights to and from the airport.
Although there is only one terminal at Charlotte Airport it is large, well laid out and used very effectively. A total of 115 gates are divided between five concourses, all of which are connected to ticketing, baggage and security areas.
The main pier in Concourse A is used by both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines while the North extension is the domain of Spirit Airlines, JetBlue, Air Canada, SprintAir, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
Concourse B is exclusively used for American Airlines domestic flights.
As with Concourse B, this is the exclusive domain of American Airlines.
All international flights, without a customs pre-clearance, are routed through Concourse D including those operated by American Airlines, Volaris and Lufthansa.
The main base of American Eagle's operations is located in Concourse E.
The main terminal building at Charlotte Airport is a rectangular shape with the five concourses spreading out from the base in a star shape with a car rental center also located at the base of the rectangle.
Because the airport is relatively small there is no requirement for any bus or shuttle service between concourses as all five are within a short walk of each other.
Regardless of whether a passenger arriving on an international flight is traveling with an ESTA approved passport or on a U.S. Visa the procedure for clearing customs and immigration checks is the same.
ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization and is applicable to citizens of those countries on the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) list. Passport holders from VWP countries must have applied for and received an ESTA, which shows up when the passport is scanned, before embarking on any trip to the United States.
A U.S Visa is required by anybody who does not qualify as a VWP citizen and must be produced for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent on duty at the airport security checkpoint. The CPB agent will scrutinise the visa for any irregularities and also usually ask some questions regarding the purpose for, and length of, the visit to America.
Regardless of which form of documentation is used it is always necessary to declare any foodstuffs, liquids, plants or animals in a visitor's carry on or stored luggage as failure to do so is a serious offence. There are five security checkpoints at Charlotte International and clearing security and customs can take some time due to the ever-increasing passenger numbers passing through the airport.
There is no rail link to CLT from Charlotte so travel to and from the airport is confined to bus, taxi or car.
CATS, Charlotte Area Transit System, operates two buses to the airport. The Sprinter (Route 5) runs from various locations around the city center to the terminal building while Route 60 covers much the same route.
Taxis can be had outside the arrivals area at CLT.
The Rental Car Facility at CLT is located in the Hourly Deck lobby at the front of the terminal building. Individual companies offer different services at different rates so it is advisable to check first before making a decision.
Some of the best-known ride-share companies operate at CLT from outside the arrivals area.
There are some courtesy vehicles available at Charlotte Airport but these are exclusively for hotels participating in the airport's courtesy vehicle scheme.