American Airlines will open three new gates at Charlotte Douglas International Airport by the end of the year, company officials said in an earnings call Thursday morning.
And American’s expansion plans don’t stop there — the airline plans to hire hundreds of new employees this year and next.
Passengers are returning to air travel in crowds after a steep dive in early 2020.
In the second quarter of 2021, American served 44 million passengers. That’s more than five times the number of passengers carried in the same quarter of 2020 in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said on the call.
Still, the airline reported a net loss of $1.1 billion for the second quarter. But air travel is recovering significantly, officials said.
“We’re still in the early stages of the rebound,” American Airlines President Robert Isom told reporters and analysts on the call.
The airlines has brought back more than 3,000 employees from leave during the coronavirus pandemic, and has already hired nearly 3,500 new employees so far this year.
And American plans to hire an additional 350 pilots this year, and more than 1,000 pilots and 800 flight attendants in 2022, Isom said.
American Airlines adds gates at Charlotte airport
The new gates at CLT will be regional ones in Concourse E, American spokesman Andrew Trull told the Observer. The gates are part of the airport’s ongoing capital improvement plan, he said.
American Airlines, the dominant carrier at CLT, will have 94 gates at the Charlotte airport with the addition of the three new gates, Trull said.
The airport plans to expand Concourse E, adding 34,000 square feet on the north end of the concourse. The $50.5 million project is expected to be complete by next spring.
The addition of new gates typically gives airlines the ability to add new flights to an airport’s schedule.
American last added gates in February 2020 with four in Concourse A, just before the coronavirus pandemic hit North Carolina. At the time, the addition meant American was operating just over 700 daily flights out of the Charlotte airport — out of nearly 800 total flights operating out of CLT daily.
Passengers returning to CLT
The Charlotte airport saw a big drop in passenger traffic in March and April of last year, as COVID-19 began to impact North Carolinians.
In May, the most recent month of passenger data available, more than 2 million people boarded planes at CLT — a big increase from 499,000 people in May 2020, according to CLT numbers.
That also marks the first time the airport has reported more than 2 million passengers boarding planes in a single month since January 2020. Still, May’s 2021 numbers are down from that month in 2019, when 2.2 million people boarded planes at CLT.