Sep 4, 2015 - Things to Do

The best and worst of Charlotte Douglas International Airport


Photo via Charlotte Douglas International Airport

With 545,178 takeoffs and landings in 2014, more than 44.3 million people passed through Charlotte Douglas International Airport last year – that’s about 44.299 million more people than I want to deal with on any given trip to the airport.

While trying to get through security on a Friday afternoon can feel like you’re fording the population of a small country, Charlotte Douglas ranks as the seventh-busiest airport in the world based on take-offs and landings, not passenger numbers. Atlanta can keep the most passengers title (and the lines that come with it).

It’s kind of cool to think of Charlotte as a power hub for moving people.

As I waited on a flight last Thursday, I wandered around trying to look at my home port through a stranger’s eyes. After two laps and a giant craft beer, I came up with this list of the best and worst things about the Charlotte airport.


The rocking chairs


It wouldn’t be a true Charlotte Douglas roundup without the rocking chairs. People love them – and why wouldn’t they? White rocking chairs conjure images of lazy Southern afternoons on a wide front porch. They provide a moment of peace in the swirl of anxiety inducing manic airport energy. The only thing that would make them better is bar service. I want a glass of wine with my rocking, thank you very much.


The beer

We may not have airport restaurants equipped with iPads for ordering/entertaining (I’m looking at you Minneapolis), but we do have bars stocked with local craft beer goodness to soothe your nerves and tickle your taste buds. Even if you’re only on a layover, you don’t have to miss the booming Charlotte craft beer scene thanks to spots like Carolina Beer Company in Concourse D, Stock Car Café in Concourse B and Whisky River in Concourse E.

The Charlotte stuff

Hop on a moving sidewalk and slide by every movie filmed in Charlotte, the top NASCAR drivers (of 2003) and art from local students depicting the weather (from whatever day they had art class).

The bathrooms


If you’ve ever tried to grab a moment of peace in JFK or O’Hare, you know the Charlotte bathrooms are like the Taj Mahal of airport bathrooms. Next time you’re there, hug your bathroom attendant (or at least give them a healthy tip) for making sure we’re never out of toilet paper, seat covers or soap.

The rental car desks

Do you know how lucky we are to have the rental car station situated right outside the arrivals exit? In Phoenix, I had to shuttle hop until I finally found a bus that took me on a 15-minute journey to rental car land. Ain’t nobody got time for that.


The Wi-Fi

I’m of the millennial opinion that free Wi-Fi should be a God-given right. Charlotte has free Wi-Fi only in that it’s free to connect to something that doesn’t work. You actually have to disable your Wi-Fi in order to get anything done on your phone. I once streamed four episodes of Scandal during a particularly long flight delay in Salt Lake City. Get on their Internet plan, Charlotte Douglas!


The security lines

I’m all about being safe and want TSA workers to do their thing, but I also want to get to the airport an hour before my flight leaves instead of three. Charlotte has five security lines, but only one or two are ever open to the masses. Even those that are open will have three lines feeding into one machine. THIS IS MADNESS! While I’ve learned to always head straight for E (it’s farthest away, but has the most machines/workers), even that line can make me want to cry.


The stores

This is more of a general airport gripe than specific to Charlotte, but I’m including it anyway. I guess I understand buying duty-free alcohol, but the luxury shops feel ridiculous. If you’re thinking about buying me a Pandora bracelet, don’t. If you’re thinking about buying me a Pandora bracelet with a jacked up airport price tag, SERIOUSLY, don’t. I’ll remember that I like ladybugs and pizza without overpriced charms from the airport.

The long-term parking lots

I think Charlotte is pretty good about running shuttles around to their long-term lots and minimizing wait times, but last weekend I walked straight into a bus driver relieving himself behind a car, which got me thinking … what else is hiding in these giant, mostly deserted parking wastelands? I think there needs to be more security around those areas or at least a bathroom. I’ll never look at parking lot puddles the same again.

(Photo credit: Cover, rental car and parking images via Charlotte Douglas International Airport.)


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