Heads up, travelers: Traffic flow changes coming to Charlotte's airport

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A $50 million project is coming to fruition and that means major changes for the millions of people who use the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Starting Thursday at 11 p.m., airport officials are shutting down the current passenger pickup lanes in the arrival terminal closest to the lobby. Traffic will be routed to the five lanes closest to the hourly parking deck.

Uber and Lyft riders will be directed upstairs to the departures area.

On Oct. 31, airport officials are opening additional lanes in the arrivals terminal. Uber, Lyft and rideshares will then have their own zone, Zone 4.

Airport officials said the additional capacity will lead to a more efficient process for people picking up passengers.

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“The roadway itself expanding provides us with additional capacity in a way we just don't have with a terminal building that opened in 1982,” Jack Christine, Chief Operating Officer for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, said. “By providing the additional lanes, we should be able to distribute the traffic a lot better for folks coming to the curb for pick up and drop off.”

Here are some notable changes for drivers and passengers to be aware of:

  • For travelers using a ride-app service, such as Uber or Lyft, pick-up will be located on the upper level starting Friday and will relocate to the lower level of the public lanes (Zone 4) at 5 a.m. on Oct. 31.
  • Private and commercial vehicles such as shuttles and buses will share the five public lanes from Thursday to Oct. 31.
  • Commercial vehicles will shift from the five public lanes to the three new lower lanes on Oct. 31.

For frequent airport drivers, the changes are welcome. Drivers say passengers often complain about having to wait a long time to be picked up.

“I've traveled a lot to Africa and Europe and I've never seen something this ridiculous picking up people at the airport,” Mohammad Ameer said. “When you pick somebody up it is like a great achievement. I have a lot of passengers that complain about how ridiculous it is to be picked up in this terminal.”

[MAP: Elevated roadway traffic shift]

[MAP: Charlotte Douglas lower level zone]

Airport officials are rolling out the changes now so if there are any hiccups they can get them worked out ahead of the holiday rush.

“A couple weeks will be a good test to see how the operation is running and if we need to make any tweaks rolling into the holiday,” Christine said.

Construction on the project started in January 2016.

Airport officials are closing the current passenger pickup lanes due to future lobby expansion construction. Charlotte City Council will vote Monday on the $600 million project for lobby expansion that will take approximately 5.5 years.