On April 25, 1982, at 11 a.m., the doors officially opened to the new $64.2 million Charlotte Douglas International Airport terminal. Although the building would not become operational until May 2, Piedmont Airlines hosted a Community Day for more than 50,000 guests. I'd say that's a warm reception! People stood in long lines to receive pilot wings, Piedmont bumper stickers, postcards, buttons and over 35,000 cans of Piedmont Punch - [side note: I wonder where I can get some of THIS!!!]. (See article below) As noted in the article, one of the biggest attractions was that Piedmont gave away eight free trips for two during the day.
To celebrate this milestone, American Airlines held a celebration of the anniversary on the day — exactly 40 years from when Piedmont launched its hub operations in Charlotte. On April 25, they welcomed special guests, customers and team members to recognize the hub's important history. The event included remarks from elected officials and included special displays of memorabilia and heritage uniforms.
Thanks to American's hub at CLT, the Airport contributes $23 billion annually to Charlotte and the 16-county region and supports 224,210 jobs in the regional economy. Today, American accounts for approximately 90% of all traffic through CLT, operating a total of 91 gates, as it undergoes more construction to support more expansion. The first phase, named Destination CLT, of the overall CLT Master Plan Update, a $2.5-3.1 billion capital investment will include:
- Larger and reconfigured ticketing and baggage claim areas, as well as consolidated new security checkpoints
Expansion work to add more gates on Concourse A and Concourse E.
New arrival and departure roadways, making it easier for local customers to access the airport.
Terminal renovations that provide new restrooms, seating and wayfinding for customers—as well as more shopping and dining options.
- Taxiway and airfield improvements to enhance operational efficiencies.
Here's a link to previous articles we've posted highlighting one of our region's most important assets, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, as well as some milestones in its history:
- 1936 - Charlotte Municipal Airport opens, with Eastern Air Lines beginning scheduled passenger service in 1937.
- 1948 - Piedmont Airlines starts operations in Charlotte.
- 1954 - The airport was renamed Douglas Municipal Airport in honor of former Charlotte Mayor Ben Elbert Douglas Sr., who had overseen the airport's opening 20 years earlier.
- 1957 - A total of 57 daily departures operated from CLT on Eastern, Piedmont, Capital, Delta, and Southern Airlines. Nonstop flights included Newark, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Louisville, Birmingham, and Jacksonville.
- 1975 - Traffic at CLT grew to 97 daily departures to 32 destinations on seven airlines.
- 1979 - Leaders broke ground on a new terminal across the airfield from the original terminal building.
- 1982 - The new 325,000 sq. foot terminal building opens for commercial traffic and the airport is renamed Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Piedmont Airlines would operate 78 flights per day to 34 domestic destinations. New markets included: LGA, ATL, DEN, and CHS.
- 1982 - Piedmont partners with Richard Childress, becoming the first airline to sponsor a NASCAR team.
- 1984 - Piedmont Airlines, headquartered in Winston-Salem, was named “Airline of the Year” by Air Transport World. Concourse C at CLT was expanded to accommodate increasing flight activity. Construction began on 4 new gates, with Piedmont's operation representing 70% of all customers at CLT.
- 1986 - The Airport launches a $27 million expansion project to support Piedmiont's growing hub. When complete, the project will provide Piedmont with a total of 31 gates.
- 1987 - Piedmont launches its direct flight from Charlotte to London on a Boeing 767, named the "Pride of Piedmont." Concourse B was expanded to support growth in air traffic.
- 1989 - In August, Piedmont merged with USAir (formerly Allegheny Airlines), which had previously focused its route network in the Northeastern U.S. At the time of the merger, Piedmont had 22,000 team members and was the ninth largest carrier in the country.
- 1990 - USAir establishes a flight training operation, as well as a hangar and maintenance base at CLT. Concourse D at CLT opens to support international flights. The now famous bronze statue of Queen Charlotte was installed in front of the main terminal building.
- 1993 - USAir renamed its regional affiliate, Henson Aviation, to "Piedmont Airlines" to protect the Piedmont brand name.
- 1997 - USAir underwent a name change, becoming US Airways. Piedmont and Allegheny were likewise re-branded as US Airways Express carriers. US Airways merged Allegheny Airlines into Piedmont in 2004.
- 2002 - US Airways Express begins service out of the new 95,000 sq. foot, 32-gate Concourse E.
- 2003 - The ticketing lobby and Concourse D were expanded, adding 13 additional ticket counter positions and nine new gates.
- 2007 - Construction begins on CLT’s third parallel runway.
- 2013 - US Airways merges with American Airlines, becoming the world’s largest airline and making CLT the new airline’s second-largest hub.
- 2019 - A record 50.2 million customers travel through CLT, with American Airlines accounting for 45.4 million customers.
- 2021 - CLT climbs to 6th busiest airport by passenger traffic globally, up from 34th place in 2019.
- 2022 - New FAA Air Traffic Control Tower opens at CLT, becoming the second tallest in the U.S.
Huge "Thank You!" to our friends over at American Airlines, especially my good friend Tracy Montross, for sharing this information and allowing us to leverage their content in our Fact Friday to not only inform our audience about such an important asset to us all, but also help them celebrate this milestone!
Co-owner, 704 Shop
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The Charlotte Museum of History exists to save and share the Charlotte region’s history, helping create a better understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future. The museum is the steward of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander Rock House and homesite, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Visit charlottemuseum.org and follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The museum is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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