CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Douglas International Airport, just like the city of Charlotte, continues to get busier and busier. In fact, Charlotte Douglas is the fifth busiest airport in the world for air traffic.
City leaders say renovating and expanding the airport is needed to accommodate the growth.
“When I first arrived here it was a very small airport," Lisa Williamson, a traveler, said. "It was easy to navigate, to get in and to get out."
The airport has gone through plenty of changes throughout the years.
“It is a little confusing at times but it is good to see the city grow and indeed it is huge compared to what it was 20 years ago,” she continued.
The Destination CLT project is about updating the airport for the future; that means it’s getting a major facelift.
“It really adds to the experience and it keeps us competitive," At-Large City Council Member Dimple Ajmera said. "It modernizes our facility as we continue to grow."
The airport getting into its next phase of construction. Contractors will start installing a canopy that is all part of the $608 million terminal lobby expansion project.
Airport officials say when it is all done, it will completely change the front door experience of the airport for travelers.
“They are going to make a bigger and better airport for us to use and that is wonderful,” Claire Griffith, a Greenwood, South Carolina, resident said.
Construction to install a 146,000 square foot canopy system over the departures- ticketing roadway begins Tuesday.
"It provides coverage for those picking up and dropping up customers but also it will provide coverage for the two sky bridges that will be built as part of the project as well over the next two years,” Charlotte Douglas International Airport COO Jack Christine said.
He said the upper level will be closed to travelers starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday through early morning Wednesday to add in the first set of white steel beams pictured in the rendering below.
“Setting those eight pieces will give us the structural support for the canopy system so that we can install the next set of trusses in the next few months,” Christine said.
During that time, traffic will be directed to the lower level and all airline curbside ticket counters will be closed. So you will have to go inside to use the ticket lobby.
“Pay attention to the signage,” Christine said. “Pay attention to things on the roadway -- that is going to help direct you to where you need to go.”
It will take two years to complete the entire structure, add the glass, and enclose the canopy.
Ajmera said the upgrades will enhance the traveler's experience.
“There is pedestrian safety, ensuring that our retail concessions are in the front, ensuring that we have arts and culture and parts of our cities being embraced into the airport,” Ajmera said.
For those wondering about the Queen of Charlotte statue, airport officials say it will be unveiled next year. It is located in the middle of the new terminal lobby.
While the upper level is closed, you can expect more congestion on the lower level. So if you are flying out or picking someone up from Charlotte Douglas. Make sure to come early and give yourself plenty of time to get in and out of the airport.
MORE NEWS ON WCNC CHARLOTTE: 'Driver behavior has changed significantly' | Traffic fatalities in North Carolina stabilizing compared to 2021
“Construction is always hard," Williamson said. "There are no pros, it’s difficult and confusing but in the end, it’s worth it."
Travelers are seeing the upside to the updates.
“It’s newer, it has more space, the changes I like them,” Brian Galeas said.
“It looks like they are doing a lot of technical advancements, helping make it a smoother and quicker transition to the airport and through security,” Griffith added.
The entire lobby expansion will wrap up in 2025.