Jul 22, 2022 - Development

6 things to know about Charlotte airport’s latest expansion

Queen's Courtyard. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

The first section of Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s expanded terminal lobby opens on July 27.

State of play: This is the second phase in the airport’s six-phase project known as Terminal Lobby Expansion, and it’s located on the west side of the building, closer to checkpoints A and B. The project as a whole began in November 2019 and is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Why it matters: Charlotte is the fifth busiest airport in the world for arrivals and departures and ranks sixth-busiest for passenger traffic, per Airports Council International 2021 preliminary rankings. Congestion at security checkpoints has been problematic at CLT; these upgrades will help improve the airport experience, officials say.

By the numbers: Terminal Lobby Expansion is a $608 million project designed to transform the airport’s entrance. It will include 366,000 square feet of new and renovated space. Construction on a 146,000-square-foot canopy will begin in September. The project is part of the airport’s $3.1 billion capital investment program.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport renovation
A massive white canopy will cover the upper level lanes of traffic at CLT. (Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport)

Zoom out: Airport construction is ongoing across multiple projects. For instance, phase two of Concourse A expansion began earlier this year. 

What’s next: The airport’s five security checkpoints will ultimately become three security checkpoints, but they will be larger, with updated technology. For instance, checkpoint E has already been renovated. It will become checkpoint three. Checkpoints A and B will become checkpoint 1 and checkpoints C and D will become checkpoint 2.

  • The airport won’t lose any security capacity. They’ll actually gain a lane when renovations are complete, airport chief operating officer Jack Christine told reporters during a walkthrough Thursday.
  • Upgrading the current ticketing and baggage claim areas begins at the end of this month.

Here are six things to know about this phase of the project.

1. There will be more space

The expansion adds roughly 90,000 square feet of space to the terminal lobby.

2. There will also be rocking chairs

Charlotte Douglas is known for its rocking chairs on the other side of security. Now people waiting to pick up friends and family can also enjoy one of the popular seats.

3. There’s now an underground walkway

This phase debuts the west subterranean walkway, which will take you from the terminal lobby to the car rental and hourly parking area without having to cross over several lanes of traffic.

  • Construction is underway on phase three of the project, which will also include a subterranean walkway, Christine said.
Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

4. Art is everywhere

Expect to see three new artworks in terminal lobby.

  • “Restless Sky” by Catherine Widgery is currently being installed on the west subterranean walkway. As the name implies, it gives off the illusion of seeing the sky, despite being below ground.
  • “Carolina Moon” by Scott Parsons is also in the west subterranean walkway. Parsons used vibrant colors to celebrate North Carolina music through terrazzo flooring.
  • “Meridian” by Danielle Roney is on the ticketing level before security. Its 569 spheres and 467 LED lights are meant to represent travel histories of Charlotteans.

Bonus: “Meridian” will have a twin sculpture installed in phase three on the east side of the terminal lobby.

Of note: The Terminal Lobby Expansion as a whole will have eight original artworks.

“Restless Sky” by Catherine Widgery. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
“Carolina Moon” by Scott Parsons. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
“Meridian” by Danielle Roney. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

5. The Queen’s Courtyard will greet travelers

The Queen Charlotte statue, which was built in 1991, sits in the Queen’s Courtyard on the ground level before you head to baggage claim. It’s near the rocking chairs and beneath a skylight, which splashes light across what traditionally would have been a dark and gloomy area.

  • “I’ve had to move her five times, and each one was a harrowing experience,” Christine said.
  • The statue is currently covered to protect it during ongoing construction. It is scheduled to be unveiled in 2023.

My thought bubble: Standing in the Queen’s Courtyard in front of the Queen Charlotte statue felt more like standing in a museum in Washington, D.C. than standing in an airport.

5. Gold history is highlighted

You’ll notice a gold ribbon on the second level of the new space. Christine said this pays homage to Charlotte’s gold mining history.

6. Don’t get confused

You won’t immediately see ticket counters, security or baggage claim when you enter the new section. Airport staff will be there to help you, and there will be signs pointing you in the right direction.

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