Feb 15, 2024 - Business

CLT's $27M grant will get passengers off planes more easily

Airplane wing

Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Charlotte Douglas International Airport has scored a $27 million federal investment that aims to prevent situations in which passengers are stuck idling on the runway.

Driving the news: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is visiting Charlotte today to celebrate $970 million in grants for 114 airports.

  • The money, made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will fund terminal projects.

Why it matters: Charlotte's grant will help replace up to 16 passenger boarding bridges over five years.

  • The bridge upgrades don't necessarily sound as sexy as a $1 billion runway or a "destination district." But Buttigieg says these investments will modernize airports and improve the passenger experience.
  • When old bridges malfunction, it can cause frustrating delays in boarding and deplaning.
  • Plus, replacing them cuts maintenance costs. The ones in use are more than two decades old, CLT tells Axios.

What they're saying: Charlotte's project will ensure the "walk from the gate to the seat is comfortable and has safe filtered air," Buttigieg told reporters during a briefing Wednesday morning.

  • "It's an upgrade to aging infrastructure that's much, much needed in that fast-growing city," he adds.

The intrigue: CLT isn't the biggest grant recipient (Fort Lauderdale's airport was awarded $50 million), so it's unclear why Buttigieg chose Charlotte to boast this infrastructure win.

  • It could be a testament to the airport's growth. A record 53.4 million passengers traveled through CLT last year, up 12% from 2022.

Zoom out: Raleigh-Durham International Airport is getting $12 million for the security checkpoint, baggage claim and inspection station expansion.

  • Wilmington's airport was awarded $4 million.
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