Air travel at Charlotte Douglas plummeted last year

Air travel at Charlotte Douglas plummeted last year
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Passenger levels at Charlotte Douglas International Airport plummeted last year amid travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, and general unease over the pandemic.

Why it matters: Charlotte prides itself on being the sixth-busiest airport in the world, but it may be a while before air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. Over the last year, airlines have cut daily flights at even busy airports like Charlotte’s because of weak demand.

  • American Airlines, which operates 90% of daily flights at Charlotte Douglas,has had to pause several flights to Europe because of revenue drops.
  • Weak air travel demand has translated to revenue drops for major airlines like American. Last month, the airline warned it may have to furlough hundreds of workers in Charlotte this spring, CBJ reported.

Driving the news: Last week, Charlotte’s airport reported that it saw a 46% drop in passengers in 2020 from 2019. The steepest month-to-month drop was from March-April, when the number of air travelers fell from 2.3 million to just over 340,000.

Data: CLT; Chart: Axios Visuals

Data: CLT; Chart: Axios Visuals

Air travel through Charlotte has climbed steadily after the steep spring dropoff, despite a dip from October to November.

Yes, but: Charlotte’s drop apparently wasn’t as bad as it was at other airports.

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“By far, it’s definitely not where we want to be,” acting aviation director/CEO Haley Gentry said in a statement of 2020 passenger levels. “But we are faring much better than many of our counterparts who have seen passenger reductions between 60 to 70 percent.”

  • In Minneapolis, for instance, total passenger traffic was down 62% in 2020 from 2019, as Axios Twin Cities has reported.

Silver lining: For passengers who need to fly, slower air travel could mean cheaper airfare. Last summer, the average price for a one-way domestic flight dropped to $135, a two-decade low, the New York Times reported, citing numbers from aviation data firm Cirium.

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