CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - If you feel like Charlotte's airport has never been busier, you're right.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport saw just under 46 million travelers pass through its gates last year (45,909,899, to be exact), after traffic dipped slightly in 2016. The number of passengers was up 3 percent last year, and a million more than the previous record of 44.9 million, set in 2015.
"This is a great achievement," said aviation director Brent Cagle. "We remain focused on continued growth and accomplishing more milestones in 2018."
One of the biggest areas of growth wasn't human passengers, however, but cargo. Driven by e-commerce, especially Amazon's expanded Prime Air flights to Charlotte Douglas, cargo shipments at the airport rose 28 percent, to 191,612 tons.
Charlotte Douglas is in the midst of a $2.5 billion expansion plan, which includes a bigger terminal lobby, new eight-lane road in front of the terminal, a taller and relocated control tower, and a new Concourse A North with nine gates opening this summer.
Cagle attributed the growth in passenger numbers to strong demand and American Airlines' growth at the hub, its second-busiest behind Dallas/Fort Worth. About 80 percent of Charlotte Douglas passengers are transferring from one plane to another, not starting or ending their flights in Charlotte, and American accounts for about 90 percent of daily flights.