CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The North Carolina Senate is one vote away from taking Charlotte Douglas International Airport away from the city and turning over one of the country's busiest airline hubs to a regional authority.
The Senate voted 32-16 on Wednesday to transfer management of US Airways' top hub to the appointed body. The transfer would take place after a final Senate vote, which could come as early as Thursday.
Wednesday’s vote came after a back-and-forth debate between Mecklenburg County senators on the senate floor. The bill’s sponsor gave some of the most pointed words about why an airport authority is necessary. Sen. Bob Rucho blamed former Mayor Anthony Foxx, who Rucho said meddled in the affairs of the airport after years of success operating somewhat independently.
“This administration under Mr Foxx, decided they were gonna micromanage it,” said Rucho.
During his speech, Rucho said city council’s influence was a big factor.
“None of them know anything about aviation or business for that matter.”
State Senator Malcolm Graham shot back, saying the Charlotte-Douglas’ current success as the world’s 6th busiest airport speaks for itself.
“No one can answer a very simple question; what’s wrong with the operations at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport that warrants a governance change,” he asked.
Charlotte officials are warning they may file a lawsuit to challenge the state's move.
Supporters say they want to ensure Charlotte-area businesses continue to enjoy the easy flight connections of a major airline hub. US Airways is close to merging with American Airlines and deciding where to place major operations.
Opponents say the city's management has been prudent and efficient.
Passengers say they hope the authority doesn’t have any appreciable impact on their experience.
“I hope it stays the same whether it’s run by the state or city, doesn't much matter to someone like me,” said passenger Carl Gillman, in Charlotte on business from Philadelphia.
A member of the city’s Airport Advisory Committee tells NBC Charlotte passengers shouldn’t expect visible changes at the airport once the authority takes control. The person says prices shouldn’t change and construction should continue.