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Officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport said Friday that while some flights have been canceled, the airport plans to remain open during Hurricane Florence, which is expected to bring high winds and torrential rain to Charlotte this weekend.
Workers have been preparing Charlotte Douglas for the possibility of severe weather. The airport has one runway, 5/23, that can be used to take off and land during strong crosswinds.
“We’ve removed anything that has the potential to blow around,” said deputy aviation director Jack Christine. “We’ve spent a lot of time cleaning storm drains … We don’t anticipate anything that will close the terminal facility itself.”
Charlotte has a crosswinds runway it can use, if conditions warrant, Christine said.
While the airport will be open, it does not want anyone to visit unless they intend to fly.
The safest place for the passengers to be if they are not going to fly is at home, Christine said.
Some airports closer to the center of the storm have closed, such as those at Wilmington and Charleston. American Airlines has canceled about 100 flights at Charlotte Douglas, mostly those to coastal destinations where the airports are closed.
The airline has waived change fees for passengers who need to rebook travel during the storm, and that’s cut down on the number of passengers at Charlotte Douglas, American spokeswoman Crystal Byrd said. The airline’s Charlotte flights were just 27 percent full Friday, Byrd said. That’s well below the airline’s average domestic load factor of about 86 percent.
Fees have also been waived for checked bags and cabin pet fees, Byrd said. Any resumption of flights to affected airports will be based on roadway and airport conditions, factoring in the ability for American Airlines employees to get to work, she said.
Southwest Airlines said on Twitter that the airline would suspend its operations at Charlotte as of midday Thursday and had “canceled all flights in and out of the airport through Friday night.” Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines followed suit Wednesday and canceled its scheduled flights throughout the Southeast.
Safety officials from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Transportation Security Administration urged travelers to double check that their bags do not include prohibited items.
On Thursday, TSA found two firearms, bringing this year’s total to 54 guns in bags, said TSA’s N.C. Federal Security Director Kevin Frederick. All of last year TSA found 68 guns at Charlotte and Frederick expects to exceed that this year.
Nathan King, of CMPD, predicted a surge in travelers immediately before and after the storm.
“It will be inconvenient,” King said, adding “the hurricane is going to disrupt lots of plans.”
Cassie Cope: 704-358-5926, @cassielcope.