May 22--Charlotte Douglas International Airport plans to start work on a new concourse next spring, with eight to 12 domestic gates -- not a separate international terminal the airport had previously considered.
Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle said the new concourse could eventually become a stand-alone international terminal, but the demand for more domestic gates is more pressing right now.
"I think it will start out as domestic," Cagle said. "We know today we need new domestic gates."
The new concourse is planned to be built on the parking lots that currently house the airport's rental cars, north of Concourse A. That space will be freed up by next spring, when the airport moves all rental cars into its new hourly parking decks. Charlotte Douglas would build the concourse in two phases, with an eventual total of 18 to 25 gates.
Airport officials had previously planned for that space to be used for a new 25-gate international facility, with a cost of $175 million funded with airport revenue bonds. The facility would have included all of the required federal inspection and passport facilities.
Instead, Cagle said Charlotte Douglas is now focused on extending the useful life of its current international arrivals area, where the airport recently added 24 automated passport kiosks meant to speed entry into the U.S. That's a more economical option than building a new terminal, Cagle said, especially when the airport doesn't know with certainty whether airlines plan to increase international service at Charlotte Douglas.
"Their plans make a difference," Cagle said. The new domestic concourse could be converted to an international terminal later, he added.
Although Charlotte Douglas is the second-busiest hub for American Airlines, much of its traffic is made up of domestic connecting passengers. Other airports in the American network, such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Los Angeles and New York's JFK have more international traffic than Charlotte Douglas.
American, which merged with US Airways in December, plans to end its nonstop flight from Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro early next year. American is launching nonstop, seasonal service to four new European destinations this summer but has trimmed the flights' schedules in response to weaker-than-expected demand.
Through March, the number of international travelers at Charlotte Douglas is up 2 percent from last year. The bulk of the airport's passengers are domestic, with about 630,000 international passengers vs. 10.1 million domestic ones through March.
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