Charlotte airport plans to keep jobs, cut expansion projects to save money

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The City of Charlotte aviation director says there will not be a reduction in workforce for city workers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Right now there is a hiring freeze as the airport tries to save money after a huge loss in passengers from COVID-19 fears.

Airport leaders estimate that passenger traffic is down 95% at the Charlotte airport. They say between 10,000-15,000 people are still flying daily. Many of them are doctors, first responders or people who have been stranded across the country when COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into place.

Airport officials say it’s not a question of if, but when passengers will return to the friendly skies. Right now they’re faced with one very important question.

“What an airport looks like post COVID-19? Because it will not be the same,” said City of Charlotte aviation director, Brent Cagle.

If you visit the Charlotte airport right now you’re likely to find more workers inside the terminal than passengers. American Airlines has slashed hundreds of flights and canceled dozens more daily. Hundreds of contract workers at the airport have also been furloughed.

“We have 28,000 parking spots at the airport and 22,000 are closed because of no demand,” said Cagle.

Parking and concessions are two of the airports biggest non-airline sources of revenue. That money is usually used for improvement projects. Airport leaders are now projecting a $45 million loss in non-airline revenue.

To save money the airport has suspended phase II of the concourse A expansion, a new joint operations center, a concession distribution and receiving center and the design for a new international concourse. Project already underway, like the main terminal expansion, will not be impacted.

Airport leaders predict passenger traffic could return to around 90% by August. Right now they are trying to figure out how to use social distancing rules, while operating a packed airport.

“That’s really what we are looking at now is what are passenger expectations going to be and how do we provide services in the way passengers want it for them to feel safe,” said Cagle.

The prediction of a spike in travel by August seems bold, but airport leaders believe there is built up demand both on the business side of flying as well as leisure travel.

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