Nov. 16, 2023 - This Thanksgiving travel season is expected to be the busiest one yet at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. An estimated 900,000 passengers will travel to, from and through the Airport between Thursday, Nov. 16 and Monday, Nov. 27, which is up 9% from 2019 pre-pandemic numbers and 14% higher than last year.
Not only are more people traveling, but the travel season will be longer. The busiest days for Thanksgiving travel will likely be Sunday, Nov. 26 and Monday, Nov. 27. But the third busiest day is expected to be Friday, Nov. 16, nearly a full week before the holiday.
The bottom line: passengers flying any time in the last two weeks of November can expect a busy terminal with longer than usual lines at ticket counters, security checkpoints and restaurants. If traveling during the holidays, Don’t Fly by the Seat of Your Pants.
Before Leaving Home
Pack your patience. Airport employees are working hard to make your travel experience safe and enjoyable.
Download the CLT Airport app from the App Store or Google Play. There, you can book parking, check flight arrival and departure times, view security wait times, check shuttle bus wait times, get turn-by-turn navigation in the Airport, find a restaurant and order food in advance.
The Transportation Security Administration and airlines advise travelers to be inside the Airport at least two hours before their departure time for domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
Forty percent of people traveling out of CLT book their parking online, and for good reason. It’s the best way to ensure a parking spot during this high demand time at the lowest available price.
You can reserve parking on the CLT Airport app and the Airport website. Drive-up parking may be available in the following lots depending on availability: Express Deck Preferred, Valet, Hourly, Long Term 1 and Long Term 2. On cltairport.com you can view a real-time parking map that shows you which lots have space and the cost.
On Nov. 6, CLT increased drive-up parking rates at all lots and decks due to substantial local passenger growth and the significant investment in the passenger parking program. Online booking customers will have access to the best available rates, with additional discounts offered to CLT Airport parking email subscribers.
Only credit cards are accepted for all Airport parking. Passengers who wish to pay for parking in cash must use a ReadyStation to convert that cash into a cash card before exiting a CLT lot or deck. Three machines are in Departures/Ticketing lobby (near the United Airlines counter, across from Checkpoint C and across from American Airlines international check-in). There is a $6 charge for this service. Cash continues to be accepted for Valet and the Express Deck services with no service charge.
Pick-up and Drop-off
If picking up travelers from CLT, plan on arriving 20 to 30 minutes after the plane has landed. Drivers are encouraged to take advantage of CLT’s free Cell Phone Lot located on Josh Birmingham Parkway.
Passengers can be dropped off and picked up from either the lower Baggage Claim level or the upper Ticketing level. If one area is busy, use the other.
Inside the terminal
Charlotte Douglas will have extra staff in Departures, Ticketing and curbside to assist customers, including finding the security checkpoint with the shortest wait time. They will be wearing yellow vests to spot them easily. The recent opening of Checkpoint 1 will help expedite the screening process with its six Automated Screening Lanes.
Once you clear security, there are so many things you can do until your flight begins the boarding process.
Services and Amenities
On the CLT Airport app, under Airport Info > Services & Amenities you’ll find detailed information on Mother’s Rooms, Pet Relief Areas, ATMs, free Wi-Fi access and more.
New to CLT are the Be Relax Spas located on D/E Connector and just inside security after Checkpoint A. Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, pedicure, hair styling or facial.
Drink and Dine
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, a cup of coffee, microbrew, sweet treat or hearty meal, CLT has got you covered. Under the Shop & Dine section of the CLT Airport app and website, you can sort the options by category and by concourse.
Be sure to check out the new restaurants that recently opened: Midwood Smokehouse (Concourse B), PDQ (Concourse E) and SAMBAZON Acai Bowls (Concourse D).
If you are traveling on Thanksgiving Day, Brookwood Farms in the Atrium will offer a traditional holiday meal with turkey, ham, gravy, cornbread dressing, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and desserts. Barbecue also will be on the menu.
Why not arrive to your holiday destination with a unique gift for your host? Look for the CLT Local logo to find businesses and products from the Carolinas.
If you forgot to pack a tie, make up, workout clothes or sweater, check out the list of shops on the CLT Airport app or website to find just what you’re looking for.
Sunflower Program Available
For passengers who have hidden disabilities, such as autism, chronic pain, anxiety, visual/hearing impairment and dementia, they can discretely get additional support whether it's additional time, help or understanding by wearing a Hidden Disabilities sunflower accessory, like a ribbon, lanyard or bracelet.
Hidden Disabilities sunflower accessories are located at the Airport Services Desk (Ticketing), Visitor Info Center (Baggage Claim), USO Lounge (Atrium - Mezzanine Level), the Airport Chapel (Atrium – Mezzanine Level) and The Club CLT on the Concourse A Connector.
Aira On-Demand Visual Interpreting
Passengers who are blind or have low vision can access Aira, the visual interpreting service for free. The Aira app connects passengers with a live Aira agent who can visually interpret their surroundings via the user’s smartphone camera.
Stay Connected with CLT
During this busy travel season, stay connected with the Airport, follow @CLTairport on Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and LinkedIn. Get the latest Airport news at cltairport.mediaroom.com.