Apr 30, 2023 - Business

Why it’s so pricey to fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

CHARLOTTE, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 28: Planes are seen at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on December 28, 2022 in Charlotte, United States. The holiday travel period has been plagued by a winter storm and thousands of delayed and cancelled flights. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

If you’ve tried booking flights out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport recently, you probably know they are not cheap.

What’s happening: CLT is American Airlines’ second-largest hub behind Dallas. The airline operates 92% of daily flights at CLT.

Why it matters: If you’re flying out of Charlotte, you have relatively few options when it comes to which airline to fly.

American has little incentive to lower ticket prices if customers show a willingness to pay for them, says Scott Mayerowitz, executive news director of The Points Guy, an airline-focused publication owned by Red Ventures.

  • American executives have said that Dallas and Charlotte are the airline’s most profitable hubs.

Charlotte has long been dominated by business travel. Banks, tech and other sectors rely on the proximity of CLT to fly employees in and out of the city — and this group of travelers is less sensitive to prices than the average leisure traveler.

These days, however, leisure travel is starting to catch up, Mayerowitz adds. Travelers are, in a sense, making up for the travel they didn’t take during the pandemic.

“Leisure passengers are also more willing to pay more for tickets now. There’s a sense still of lost time and buying up to make that experience better,” Mayerowitz tells Axios.

  • As of January, traveler traffic at CLT had almost returned to its pre-pandemic levels, according to data from airport officials.

Zoom out: CLT is in the midst of a major expansion of its terminal lobby, a $608 million project that will transform the airport’s entrance. An overhaul is necessary to accommodate the growing number of daily passengers, airport officials have said.

  • Much of the cost of airport improvements comes from the airlines, which pay a price per passenger, as WFAE reported a few years ago.

Yes, but: Airfare nationwide has surged. American Airlines ticket prices rose 28.1% year over year, Mayerowitz says, citing data from Airlines for America, an industry trade group.

What they’re saying: “American’s fares out of CLT are competitive for the market and we cannot comment on future pricing plans on specific markets or routes,” American spokesperson Gianna Urgo told Axios.


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