American Airlines jets pull into the terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Robert Lahser rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
American Airlines jets pull into the terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Robert Lahser rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Mark Washburn

What drives Charlotte airport’s zeal toward gouging locals?

September 10, 2016 03:35 PM

UPDATED September 10, 2016 09:55 PM

Let us prey.

Three mighty pillars underpin Charlotte’s dynamic economy: finance, energy and gouging visitors.

In the third category, we stand alone in our weight class. Only a few superior world-class cities can compete.

We get you coming, going and standing idle. We adopt only the best practices of pilferage, those modeled after Caribbean pirates and Orlando theme parks.

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Fly into our sleek, modern airport – and about 100,000 pilgrims do each day – and we begin the shakedown with $11 burgers and $13 cocktails.

Rent a car there and get whomped with a 26 percent surcharge in taxes and fees. Rent a hotel room and we glom on 6 percent above the sales tax. When you get hungry, there’s an additional 1 percent tax on grub and suds.

“Charlotte’s Got A Lot” is our tourism slogan. A lot of what? A lot of hidden, sucker-punch taxes for visitors, that’s what.

We absolutely love pillaging tourists because:

▪  They don’t seem to mind paying a wee hotel surcharge for the spectacular NASCAR Hall of Fame, even if they don’t go.

▪  Even if they do mind, we don’t care.

▪  Because they don’t vote.

You might think such a well-oiled skimming scheme would be fail-safe, given its value to the city and its inhabitants – meaning the people who do vote. But you’d be wrong.

Our greed overfloweth. On Friday, Charlotte Douglas International Airport jacked up long-term parking fees 40 percent. To the people who vote.

Only about 20 percent of the airport’s passengers are from here – the rest are getting shuffled at the American hub to their destinations.

But that doesn’t mean the locals – the people who vote – are immune from a good skinning, too. They already pay fares 20 percent above the national average because of the airport’s cozy snuggle with its main and nearly monopolistic tenant, American Airlines.

If you wonder where the money is going for your suddenly inflated airport parking, you may be pleased to learn that some is going right into the pocket of our partner in plunder – American.

Our airport is so good at gouging that it splits some of the booty with the airlines that deliver our victims. Last year, American got a cut of nearly $15 million.

Under the airport’s latest contract with the carrier, that includes a slice of what Charlotte Douglas reaps from hilariously overpriced burgers and brew – and parking.

Parking, for people who vote.

For people who vote, and who ought to be asking right now why the airport’s predatory practices haven’t at last earned sharp oversight by the Charlotte City Council.