Let’s Get Real About Summer Travel

Let’s get real about summer travel. It’s a bit of a mess. You know it. We know it.

The fix is as complicated as the way we got here. First some background, then we want to share some things our customers should do when traveling now and in the future.

How we got here: CLT is operated by a department of the City of Charlotte. We work with countless businesses that make leisure and business travel possible. Think airlines, concessions, bag handlers, security screeners, air traffic controllers and so many others. You can also think of us this way – the Aviation Department is like the mall operator renting to the businesses, such as the airlines, that are here. While the staff who help operate the Airport don’t schedule (or cancel) your flights or handle your luggage, we all recognize we have a role, and we recognize it’s a tough time to travel.

Recovering from the pandemic has been a challenge. Thousands in the aviation industry and supporting businesses were laid off or furloughed while travelers were hunkered down in quarantine. Some workers left the busy, people-filled Airport environment like an airport because of COVID concerns. Some found other jobs and moved on. That created staffing shortages that many in the travel business are still scrambling to fix today. We’ve all heard about the nationwide shortage of workers. The pandemic did a number on our workforce too, and we still feel its effects months after a new normal. Meanwhile, our customers were emerging from lockdowns and eager to travel, anywhere.

Pilots are retiring at the mandatory age 65 in record numbers. During the pandemic, the training and licensing of new pilots slowed. Airlines offered early retirement packages to pilots and crew to help offset sudden unemployment and cut costs while planes sat empty. At the same time, rental car and ride-share services like Uber and Lyft have not recovered as quickly as some would like thanks to COVID.

As people are emerging from two-plus years of laying low because of COVID, supply and demand disconnects are wreaking havoc on travel. Holidays compound this because more people travel during the summer and holidays than at any other time of the year.

This July 4 weekend it's predicted record numbers of people will be flying to, from and through CLT. Ours has been one of a few airports in the nation to recover quickly from the pandemic thanks to its close relationship with American Airlines and our position as its second-largest hub.

So, yes, we’re busy here at CLT. You must plan for your travel. There will be more cars on our roads, longer lines, longer wait times for shuttle buses and the parking facilities, including the cell phone waiting lot, will fill up fast.

We know our customers are adapting. We appreciate it, but now more than ever, planning ahead of coming to the Airport is essential.

PARKING: When you book your flight, reserve your parking at the same time at parkCLT.com. Demand for parking is high at CLT and has been for months. Rental car and ride-share services like Uber and Lyft have not recovered as quickly as some would like thanks to COVID. If you are coming to the Airport, a reservation made at least six hours in advance (but we recommend much more advance booking because of high demand) is a way to guarantee you have a parking place. And don’t forget, you can always have someone drop you off at the airport or you can catch a bus or a taxi instead.

EXPECT LINES: Get here early. There are going to be crowds and lines. Plan on it. Arriving an hour before your flight is scheduled to leave is not enough time anymore.

You need to be in the terminal in line with your airline or at the security checkpoint two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before international flights. This is the minimum. Anything less and you risk missing your flight. Don’t take that chance.

AIRLINES: Eight major airlines operate at CLT with American Airlines being the largest and accounting for nearly 90 percent of all arrivals and departures. It’s important that if you are told your flight is delayed, or worse canceled, that you get in touch with your airline as quickly as possible. Some airlines are already offering travel waivers ahead of the July 4 holiday. Download the airline’s app on your mobile device. Save their numbers on your cell phone. Have their contact information readily available.

PATIENCE: Thank you for your business. As we all work to recover from the pandemic and as you take to the skies this weekend and in the days ahead, please follow signs or ask an Airport worker for help when needed.  We recognize it’s tough out there for everyone – from the people who check you in for your flight to those who make your coffee to the men and women who pilot and crew the planes that fly you to your travel destination.

Don’t take chances with your travel, especially right now when so much can go awry.