Charlotte Airport Plans New Rental Car Facility

Feb. 21--Charlotte/Douglas International Airport may build a consolidated rental car facility on the site of its two hourly parking garages closest to the terminal, aviation director Jerry Orr said Tuesday.

The plan is only conceptual, but Orr said that within three years the airport could demolish the two existing garages -- one at a time -- that house 2,713 cars. In their place, the airport would build two larger garages with room for about 6,000 vehicles. Half of those spaces would be for rental cars.

Orr is also considering pushing out the ticketing area of the terminal by 25 feet toward the garages, giving the airport more room to enlarge security checkpoints.

Airports nationwide, such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Baltimore, are placing rental cars all in one place to reduce the number of shuttle buses on airport access roads. Under Orr's plan, shuttle buses wouldn't be needed. Passengers would walk from the terminal to the rental car facility by using a skywalk.

The airport's rental cars today are clustered along an airport access road, north of Concourse A. That land could be converted into surface parking for passengers. It could also be used to build a new concourse for planes.

"I think we're going to need the space quickly," Orr said about building a new concourse.

The airport is currently adding six gates to the end of Concourse E, which is home to US Airways Express carriers. Those are expected to be finished in August, bringing the number of gates at the airport to 90.

Charlotte/Douglas, which is US Airways' busiest hub, has seen its average airfares become more competitive in recent years, according to federal government statistics. Cheaper tickets, coupled with the area's population growth, has led to a 14 percent increase in the number of passengers who started a domestic flight in Charlotte from 2005 to 2006. . The airport's overall passenger traffic, which includes passengers making connections, grew about 5 percent in 2006, to 29.7 million passengers.

The airport will open a second daily parking garage, farther from the terminal than the hourly garages, in mid-March.

There is no budget yet for the rental car garage, though Orr has discussed it with rental car companies.

The expansion of the terminal's ticketing area could take place along with the parking garage work.

Today, adjacent to the security checkpoints, there are down escalators that carry arriving passengers to the baggage claim area. Orr wants to close those escalators and use the space for additional checkpoints. New escalators would be placed in the extra space at the front of the ticketing area.

(Charlotte Observer, The (NC) (KRT) -- 02/22/07)