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Charlotte-Douglas Airport (CLT) Expansion


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Just returned from seeing the new Indianapolis airport (IND). Wow! I was speechless. It's amazing and beautiful and CLT now looks even uglier to me. Here are some shots of the terminal:

Food Court

indianapolis_airport_hok070409_11.jpg

Ticketing

indianapolis_airport_hok070409_12.jpg

Concourse

indianapolis_airport_hok070409_13.jpg

Exterior

indianapolis_airport_hok070409_7.jpg

Seeing all of this leads me to have only one question on my mind regarding CLT--when does Jerry Orr retire?!!!

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I was up taking pictures at the hourly deck, which has a great vantage point of the terminal expansion!  

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From today. The crown sign and testing the lights on the signage this evening. 

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Isn't the terminal expansion supposed to start sometime soon? I agree Indy has a pretty snazzy looking terminal...

The terminal expansion in CLT is supposed to start in 2012 (I think). The preliminary renderings are as painful as the existing terminal. A box with windows and a canopy of blue aluminum. Inspiring it's not. Cheap? Absolutely.
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Closer to home the new RDU terminal is just as nice as Indianapolis.

CLT's terminal was built on the cheap from the begining back in the late 70s.

I will say that Concourses D and E are an improvement over A,B, and C.

Later this month there will be a construction contract to do a minor expansion of the Ticketing area down at the International/East end. That addition is being done by Das Architecture and the renderings show something nicer than the current box...but still very utilitarian.

The larger expansion that miesian is talking about..I have seen a massing diagram...but no architect has been hired for that part yet. Hopefully LS3P or someone like that will handle that one.

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I saw Airport folks make a presentation at a recent community meeting. From what I remember from that presentation, I think the hourly decks need to first be replaced and moved away from the present-day front of the terminal before significant design changes to the terminal can happen, but both such projects are eventually planned.

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Just returned from seeing the new Indianapolis airport (IND). Wow! I was speechless.

Exterior

indianapolis_airport_hok070409_7.jpg

Seeing all of this leads me to have only one question on my mind regarding CLT--when does Jerry Orr retire?!!!

Umm... not soon enough, imo. I understand that he is one of the reasons light rail may never make it's way to the airport, to prevent losing parking revenue. I heard this from someone who use to work there years ago. Not really sure if this is true but I have always found it strange that Charlotte wants to send the light rail everywhere EXCEPT the airport. I do look forward to the expansion and the rental cars being moved in front of the terminal. I always love flying in to Columbus, OH. It's very convenient.

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I had a long frustrating conversation with the director of maintenance for CLT on Friday. They just don't get it. When I questioned him about how terrible the carpeting looked, he blamed it on the carpeting's manufacturer, Milliken. New carpeting is being wear-tested on E concourse, but there is no time table for when or if it will actually be installed. When I commented on how dismal the arrivals/baggage area is, he told me they're very much aware of the problems and get quite a few complaints about it, but that no real changes are planned for three years. I really don't think the people who staff the aviation department in CLT have ever visited any other airport. It's mind-blowing. The only positive news I could get from him is that ticket counter space is being removed to make way for additional security screening at A and B (but oddly, not C) checkpoints. Continental, Air Canada, and United will all move to counter space beside US Airways (all Star Alliance carriers). And nearly a decade after Wilmington and Charleston (SC AND WV) installed LCD flat screen FIDS monitors in their terminals, CLT will replace SOME (not all) of its CRT tube monitors in early December.

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From a business and operational perspective, what is the benefit of making all of these upgrades if what you have works fine? Kinda makes me think of Hugh McColl driving his old pick-up truck.

They don't work fine. Traffic routinely backs up for departures and arrivals because there aren't enough travel lanes in front of the terminal. FIDS screens that are inoperative don't tell travelers at a hub airport where their connecting flights are. Filthy bathrooms, ceilings, and carpeting say Charlotte is a trashy kind of place. Having a US Airways employee yell/scream baggage carousel information in the US Customs hall (because the electronic signs don't work and haven't for quite some time) lends one to think of Charlotte as backwoods. Lines wrapping around the front of ticketing due to too few security lanes causes people to miss flights. In short, you get one chance at a first impression and the Charlotte airport falls on its face when to compared to its competition.

As for Hugh McColl, he knew that a building and its architecture can make a profound statement to the outside world--he built a 60 story Cesar Pelli-designed skyscraper with the world's largest secular frescoes in its lobby. Enough said.

Edited by Miesian Corners
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I can understand that some of these things can perceived negatively. I would agree that your list of improvements would be nice. I just don't see a drastic financial benefit to doing any of these things except maybe getting new FIDS screens. Plus, I don't feel that any of these issues are extreme. I have traveled through many airports and have spent far longer in security lines elsewhere, gone to the bathroom in much filthier conditions, had lost baggage...

Thankfully a large portion of the travelers are just passing through the airport, catching connections. Plus, I don't feel that any of these issues are extreme. I have traveled through many airports and have spent far longer in security lines elsewhere.

In the short run, the airport has to make money to stay viable and afford long term renovations. Upgrading carpet throughout would be nice, but easily be considered an unnecessary expenditure.

In the long run, I can't wait to see the proposed renovations completed. I think an expanded, reformatted, check-in area could do a lot for the aesthetics. I hope they go through with the plans to bring the rental cars into a deck right next to the baggage claim, that is a preference of mine when traveling.

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I can understand that some of these things can perceived negatively. I would agree that your list of improvements would be nice. I just don't see a drastic financial benefit to doing any of these things except maybe getting new FIDS screens. Plus, I don't feel that any of these issues are extreme. I have traveled through many airports and have spent far longer in security lines elsewhere, gone to the bathroom in much filthier conditions, had lost baggage...

Thankfully a large portion of the travelers are just passing through the airport, catching connections. Plus, I don't feel that any of these issues are extreme. I have traveled through many airports and have spent far longer in security lines elsewhere.

In the short run, the airport has to make money to stay viable and afford long term renovations. Upgrading carpet throughout would be nice, but easily be considered an unnecessary expenditure.

In the long run, I can't wait to see the proposed renovations completed. I think an expanded, reformatted, check-in area could do a lot for the aesthetics. I hope they go through with the plans to bring the rental cars into a deck right next to the baggage claim, that is a preference of mine when traveling.

I'm guessing you don't put much stock into first impressions. The airport is Charlotte's calling card to 30 million people a year. If it looks like crap, that's the impression people take away with them about the city.
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I travel through the airport quite frequently -- it may not be the Taj Mahal of airports, but for me it works fine. It definitely isn't the worst airport out there by any means. I can get in and out without too much trouble. At the end of the day that is what counts. To pump a pile of money into revamping the airport would be a total waste of money.

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^ I dunno, a stunning airport doesn't really help Detroit

That's true, to people who already know about Detroit, but if you didn't know anything about Detroit and you were just passing through the airport, I think the awesomeness of the design would make you more interested in perhaps making a stop. Bottom line is we need significant upgrades to attract people at first glance. First impressions certainly matter, and we don't want to be written off just because our airport is stuck in the 80s.

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That's true, to people who already know about Detroit, but if you didn't know anything about Detroit and you were just passing through the airport, I think the awesomeness of the design would make you more interested in perhaps making a stop. Bottom line is we need significant upgrades to attract people at first glance. First impressions certainly matter, and we don't want to be written off just because our airport is stuck in the 80s.

Spending a pile of money on aesthetic upgrades does not pass the cost/benefit test. If you're building from scratch, different story, it doesn't cost that much more to make it look really good. But to go back and spend a ton of money just for aesthetics. . . .

Meaningful improvements are definitely needed, especially in the ticketing (incl. vehicle) and baggage areas.

I can't believe any C-level executive looking at a relocation or expansion is going to base their decision on the aesthetics of the airport. They did not get to that level by that kind of decision making. Rather, the functionality of the airport, number of flights, cost, etc. are much more important.

I've been in great cities with crappy airports (hello. . Chicago>>old Midway) and crappy cities with really nice airports. My opinion of one does not affect my opinion of the other.

And as far as CLT expansion being some kind of striking architecture, let's not forget that it is one of the lowest cost airports in the country to fly in and out of (for the airlines) and also park at. I'd rather have $6/day parking than $10 or more, and the low cost to airlines is to CLT advantage.

Jerry does need to do a better job maintaining it though. Seems like every time I go through, something is broken.

And I do agree about the screens. The are horrible. I hope they don't just plop new flat screens in place of the old ones.

Edited by JayGee
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And as far as CLT expansion being some kind of striking architecture, let's not forget that it is one of the lowest cost airports in the country to fly in and out of (for the airlines) and also park at. I'd rather have $6/day parking than $10 or more, and the low cost to airlines is to CLT advantage.

You are spot on!!!! Why do you think PIT was dehubbed after the BK's, because it was just to expensive to move all that traffic through that beautiful airport....CLT may not be the prettiest, but it is cost effect for US...I do not know the numbers right now, but two years ago it cost the airlines 1.29 per pax to move them thru CLT..As for the maintenance or lack of, there is a reason for that, the airport does a bad job funding and manning the maintenance department, all they are doing is putting lipstick on a pig...

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Does anyone know if an actual date has been set for the opening of the new runway? I've got to imagine it's getting close as I remember they thought it would be open for visual flight rules in November, and fully operative by February.

1/6/10...Flightcheck starts this week for the localizer, glideslope and papi's, then there will be a 6 month navaid burn-in...

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I went to CLT Douglas Airport in May of this year and from what I saw I don't think it looks that bad. Someone I knew was going on a week long trip to California and she chose to fly from CLT because of the cost. I didn't go on the trip to California but I decided to go see the CLT airport since I've never been to it before.

I've been to PTIA when I was younger but I don't remember it well enough and I've never been to RDIA.

Let me ask, how does CLT compare to PTIA and RDIA "aesthetics" wise?

Has anyone been to those airports and are they any better than CLT?

Edited by NCMike1990
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Yeah, I work for US Airways and am very much aware of what transpires at my employer and its hubs. That said, dirt, poor maintenance, lackluster architecture, and a general disdain for anything the least bit current is inexcusable. I mean, shouldn't customers be able to find their flights on a television monitor that works? Flying to Ft Lauderdale and want to find your gate? Sorry, the monitor that contains the "Fs" is burned out and has been since last year.

Miesian....Your dislike for the CLT airport and Jerry seems very strong and you do have some legitimate concerns, but you have heard "he who lives in a glass house". Yes I do work for the AD and at any given time when driving across the ramp I see many of the Thugs on Tugs acting like fools...Just look out the terminal windows and see how many rampers are walking around with their pants have way down their butts and hats on sideways, breakrooms that are trashed everyday....There is plenty of blame to go around, I just thinks it's not fair that all of it is pointed at the managment of the airport...Poor maintenance, is that the same as an overhead bin that been sealed off with duct tape, I've seen a few of those in my travels...Believe it or not, but Jerry had a lot to do with keeping this hub here...I wont argue that he has his strange ways of doing things, but his ultimate goal is keeping the cost as low as possible for the hub to survive....Airlines and airports must work together more now than ever.....

Edited by MikeNC
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I am not the biggest fan of Jerry Orr, but considering that US Airways has a history of dumping hubs with good architecture (Pittsburgh) I do think the main reason US Airways has kept Charlotte through the multiple bankruptcies is the low cost of doing business here.

That being said the "land side" of the terminal (Baggage Claim & Ticketing) has basically been ignored since it opened nearly 30 years ago. The expansion and reconfiguring of Baggage Claim and Ticketing should have happened years ago. Also the points that Miesien has made have been legitimate...he isnt asking for a Taj Mahal of an airport...just to get the damn FIDS montiors working. Basically the "locals" have been ignored at the expense of the people making connections.

I think the "air side" of the terminal...the gate and atrium areas they have done a decent job of keeping up to date and modern. Councourse B and C could probably be widened by about 10 ft. During the peak times at the hub those hallways are really overcrowded and are causing connections to be slower than they could be. But I think anything like that happening would be complicated to do for a couple of reasons. I could see a renovation of B and C happening when/if the new International Terminal opens...that way allowing Concourse D to releive Concourse B and C during a renovation.

Looking at the current World Airport Passenger rankings Charlotte's peer airports are Singapore, Guangzhou, Miami, and Jarkarta. How does Charlotte stack up against those airports? Out of those 4 I have only been to Miami...and that was a long time ago...back then I felt the experience at Miami was about the same as Charlotte from a connecting standpoint.

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