American Airlines Plans Huge Charlotte Capacity Increase

American Airlines’ ‘Charlotte 700 plus’ expansion project is nearly complete. From 18 December, the airline will commence operation of a number of new flights out of its North Carolina hub.

Airbus A319-112 ‘N705UW’ American Airlines
American Airlines is upgrading its three major hubs. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

American Airlines has recently constructed a number of new gates at Charlotte Douglas International Airport which it hopes will significantly increase capacity at the important regional hub. The ‘Charlotte 700 plus’ expansion project aims to bring the airport’s peak daily capacity up to 700 flights.

As reported by The Points Guy, the Charlotte 700 plus project is the second of three American Airlines hub expansions. The first, which was completed last year, was known as the DFW 900 project. Similar to the project at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, DFW 900 aimed to increase Dallas/Forth Worth’s peak daily capacity from 809 to 905 flights.

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Reports suggest that American Airlines is requesting a further extension of two additional gates at Dallas/Fort Worth in preparation for the summer 2020 peak. Alongside DFW 900 and Charlotte 700 plus, there will also be a third hub expansion project at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in 2021.

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Why has American Airlines chosen to expand these hubs?

The three airports American Airlines has chosen to expand – Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport – are its three largest hubs in the US.

They are also by far the most profitable. Financial results for the second quarter of 2018 reveal just how much more profitable these big three are in comparison with American Airlines’ other airports. For DFW, CLT and DCA, American Airlines’ pre-tax margin was 13.1%, whilst the average for the rest of its hubs was 7.5%.

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Charlotte Airport
Charlotte Airport is one of American Airlines’ most profitable airports. Photo: Nicola via Flickr

Discussing the decision with investors earlier this month, American Airlines’ CEO, Doug Parker, is reported by TPG as saying:

“The best hubs we have are Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte and Washington National in terms of profitability.”

Over the past few years, American Airlines has focused heavily on adding capacity at its major hubs. Following the completion of the main DFW 900 project, American Airlines reported a Q3 2019 year over year domestic capacity increase of 9% at the airport. Alongside this, it also reported a year over year passenger unit revenue increase of 3.5%.

What has the Charlotte 700 plus project covered?

The Charlotte 700 plus project is now almost complete and should start accepting additional flights in mid-December.

The project has seen four new gates added to the airport’s Concourse A. These new gates will be able to accept aircraft as large as the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A321, which will give Charlotte a considerable increase in cross-country capacity.

N714US American Airlines Airbus A319-112 s/n 1046
American Airlines is planning to upgauge its flights at Charlotte. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

The airline also plans to increase the gauge of aircraft operating out of Charlotte over the course of the next year. It plans to move away from aircraft like the Airbus A320 to the larger Boeing 737.

Considering American Airlines is banking on the return of the Boeing 737 MAX later next year, the decision to move towards higher gauge aircraft at hubs like Charlotte may pay off.

American Airlines has not been able to respond to Simple Flying’s request for comment on the Charlotte expansion project.

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Mark Thompson

How much larger is the 737 than the A320?

Bryce

I also find that passage from the text confusing.
Which 737…the MAX-9/10?
And what about the huge number of A321s that AA has?

Joanna Bailey

AA only has the MAX 8 and the -800, so either or both of those. The A320 is 22 pax lighter than the 737. I’m guessing they are not planning to fly the 321 to this destination.

Richard Johnson

American’s 737 holds 172 passengers and the 320 holds 150. So not much bigger.

Chrs

Most common American’s 737-800 holds 160. Still more than 150.

anwalborn

Washington National is actually on of American’s smallest hubs in terms of departures and passengers carried. Only their JFK and LaGuardia hubs carry less people, but even if you combine those two New York hubs, they would still end up carrying more passengers than DCA. DCA is just a small but extremely profitable hub.