Economic Impact


Air Service has long been essential to the Charlotte business community. In the mid-1930s, the city was a regular stop for Eastern Airlines and enjoyed daily air-mail service.
However, the Airport that preceded today's facility was privately owned and used only on weekends for air shows and military pilot training. In 1935, with the leadership and foresight of Mayor Ben Elbert Douglas Sr. (for whom Charlotte Douglas International Airport is named), Charlotte voters approved a bond that brought the airport under the management of municipal administrators and set the stage for the expansion that was to come.

After World War II, the Airport grew rapidly. From the first scheduled jet service (Eastern in 1962) to the first scheduled international cargo flight (to Zurich, Flying Tigers in 1978); from its status as a passenger hub (Eastern and Piedmont in the late 1970s/early 1980s and now US Airways) to the terminal and airfield construction, the Airport expanded to supply comprehensive and convenient air transportation that Charlotteans expect and rely on.

Today, Charlotte Douglas International Airport ranks as the world’s sixth busiest airport in operations. In 2012, CLT broke its passenger traffic record by welcoming 41.23 million travelers. Locally, the Airport supports the nation’s second largest banking center and serves more than 1.7 million in an area that includes 18 counties in North and South Carolina.
Last year, CLT oversaw a total of 552,093 landings and departures, a 2.7 percent increase from 2011. Charlotte Douglas provides service to 142 destinations throughout the world and averages 703 daily departures. The Airport is served by six domestic and three foreign flag carriers. US Airways operates its largest hub at CLT.

By air, more than half of the country’s population can be accessed from Charlotte within two hours, making the Airport an prime location for cargo operations. Cargo carriers serving the Charlotte region carried 137,943 tons of domestic and international cargo in 2011. The Charlotte Air Cargo Center is served by more than 15 cargo companies and more than 60 freight forwarders.

The Impact

CLT is also a major employment center. Employers who maintain staff on-site have nearly 20,000 workers. The majority – 6,637 are employed by US Airways, with nearly 8,500 additional workers employed by other airlines, tenants, other businesses and the City of Charlotte’s Aviation Department. But the Airport’s impact extends far beyond passengers, cargo and employees. Charlotte Douglas International Airport also is a valuable tool for economic development.
Since 1982, when the current terminal building opened, 7,852 new companies have invested more than $5 billion in Mecklenburg County and created 78,042 new jobs. The number of foreign-owned companies with operations in Mecklenburg County has increased from 147 in 1982 to 625 today. In many instances, these companies cite the Airport as a major reason why they chose to locate within the Charlotte Region.

The economic activity that CLT generates is a major contributor to the vitality and growth of the region’s economy. The Airport also contributes nearly $10 billion in annual total economic impact to the region, according to a report prepared in November 2005 by the Center for Transportation Policy Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), in partnership with the Charlotte Chamber.

Additionally, more than 100,000 jobs in the region are directly or indirectly related to the airport and its services. Those workers earn $5 billion in wages and salaries. To prepare this estimate, the Urban Institute used methodology developed by the Federal Aviation Administration that has become the generally accepted standard for this type of research.

For more information regarding the Airport’s economic impact, contact the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce or the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
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