by Michael Lowrey
Earlier this week, the Charlotte Observer ran a lengthy piece (1,500 word +) on negotiations between American Airlines and the city about terms for a new lease for the airline out at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The article provides two bits of information that we didn’t have before:
• American Airlines’ current 30-year lease, inherited from US Airways, expires in June. Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle expects the new lease agreement with American to be for a much shorter term, something more like five to ten years.
• The city, meanwhile, is aiming at no longer having American have an effective veto on future airport expansions. This is being billed as allowing the airport to expand, thus allowing for more access for low-cost carriers.
Analysis: A significantly shorter lease term shifts a lot of risk to the city, and that should be a major concern for an airport that plans to invest a lot of money in infrastructure upgrades in the coming years. So, yes, be a bit scared.
And, to put it bluntly, gate availability absolutely isn’t the reason low-dare carriers don’t do well in Charlotte. JetBlue came to Charlotte in July 2006 with four flights a day; just short of a decade later, they are still at four flights a day from the Queen City. Southwest Airlines came to Charlotte in April 2013 with six flights a day; three years later they will be offering… six flights a day from CLT (seven in the summer). Both JetBlue and Southwest are very strong in Florida; neither airline could make Charlotte – Florida flights work.