4 Largest Airports in North Carolina

Written by Jaydee Williams
Published: September 18, 2023
© motive56/Shutterstock.com
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North Carolina has 10 passenger service airports, 4 of those being international airports. A passenger service airport is an airport that has service agents available to assist passengers with their needs. Not all public airports are passenger service airports. 

Because international airports see more traffic, they are usually larger than regional airports. This rings true with the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which is the busiest airport in the state. It moves around 50 million passengers each year and it’s the largest airport in the state in terms of land area. 

Commercical white airplane fly up over take-off runway the (ice) snow-covered airport- Norway
North Carolina has more than 100 airports with 10 of them being passenger service airports and four offering international travel.


#1 Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charlotte

The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is the largest airport in North Carolina by land area. It’s 5,558 acres or approximately 8 ½ miles of bustling aeronautic activity. The airport is operated by the city of Charlotte’s aviation department.

It was established in 1935 under the name ‘Charlotte Municipal Airport’ but then renamed ‘Douglas Municipal Airport’ in 1954. It was renamed again in 1982 for the final time, at least so far, to its current name.

An average of 1,600 aircraft arrive and depart from Charlotte Douglas every day. If you’re thinking that’s a high number, you’d certainly be right. Charlotte Douglas sees so much traffic that in 2021 it was the 6th-busiest airport in the United States. That could be because it offers 178 nonstop destinations across the world. 

Another reason that Charlotte Douglas is so large in terms of land area is that it’s a civil-military airport. This means that not only is it used for civilian flight, it’s also used by the military. The United States Army Air Forces established Charlotte Air Base on the premises in 1941. The base was renamed ‘Morris Field’ a bit later.

Traveling From Charlotte Douglas

There are four runways and 115 gates at Charlotte Douglas. The gates are on five concourses, which are connected to the central terminal. The first concourse is Concourse A. It has 21 gates and serves American, Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, and Air Canada. Concourse B has 16 gates and serves American. Concourse C has 18 gates and serves American. The next concourse, Concourse D, has 13 gates and serves American, Lufthansa, and Volaris. The last concourse, Concourse E, has 46 gates and serves American Eagle’s express flight operation as well as Contour. 

Something that undeniably sets Charlotte Douglas apart is its viewing area. The free overlook is just a fence and 250 feet of grass away from the nearest runway. It’s a perfect spot for families, couples, photographers, and anyone who wants an up-close look at the planes.

Runway at Charlotte Douglas International Airporte, North Carolina, United States
One of the four runways at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, North Carolina, located near the public viewing area.

©ValerijaP/iStock via Getty Images

#2 Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Morrisville

Raleigh-Durham falls just behind Charlotte Douglas in terms of size. The airport stands on 5,000 acres, so there’s plenty of room for check-ins, maintenance, and runways. 

The airport first opened in 1929 as Raleigh’s Municipal Airport. As the area grew and the airport saw more passengers, a project was set in place to expand the airport and its area. In 1943, the new Raleigh-Durham Airport opened.

Since the 1940s, Raleigh-Durham has continued to see more traffic and serve millions of travelers. As of 2023, the airport offers nonstop flights to 64 destinations with 7 of those being international. Around 500 aircraft arrive and depart from Raleigh-Durham each day. The number one domestic route for this airport runs between Raleigh and Atlanta, Georgia.

The airport has two terminals and 45 gates. Terminal 1 has 9 gates and serves Avelo, Southwest, and Spirit. Terminal 2 has 36 gates and is used by Air Canada, Air France, Alaska, American, Bahamasair, Breeze, Icelandair, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Sun Country, Delta, Frontier, and United. 

Raleigh-Durham International Airport Highway Sign
The Raleigh-Durham International Airport is located just off Interstate 40 in Raleigh, NC.

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#3 Piedmont Triad International Airport, Greensboro 

The Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro is a smaller airport, at 3,770 acres, but it stays pretty busy. It’s just west of Greensboro in unincorporated Guilford County. 

Piedmont Triad has a unique history. It all started with Maynard Field, a small airport that opened in 1919. It was purchased in 1927 by Greensboro and was selected to be one of the stopping points for the airmail route that ran from New York to New Orleans. When the property was dedicated that year it was just a field — with no lights, runways, or any buildings. It was originally called Lindley Field in honor of the original owners of the property. 

Construction happened quickly and the second official airmail route in the United States began operating at Friendship just one year later. As time went on the airport grew and more buildings popped up including a hotel as well as extra gates and runways. It was renamed to its current name in 1987. There was a proposal to rename the airport “Central North Carolina International Airport” that passed in 2017. However, there were many public objections that put the name change on an indefinite hold. 

Today, Piedmont Triad sees around 280 planes arrive and depart each day. It offers nonstop flights to 14 destinations. The airport has one main terminal and two concourses with 26 gates. It serves Allegiant, American, American Eagle, Delta, Silver, and United.

Beautiful aerial view of Greensboro with forests and buildings on a sunny day in Piedmont Triad, NC
Piedmont Triad International Airport is just outside the gorgeous city of Greensboro.

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#4 Wilmington International Airport, Wilmington 

Wilmington International Airport is the unquestionably the smallest of North Carolina’s international airports. It’s just outside of Wilmington in an area called Wrightsboro. The airport is situated on a 1,800-acre campus. Compared to larger airports like Charlotte Douglas and Raleigh-Durhman, which see 50 and 14 million passengers per year, respectively, Wilmington International only sees around one million travelers annually. 

The airport was dedicated in 1928 as Bluethenthal Field in honor of Arthur Bluethenthal, who was formerly a football player and World War I pilot. It was renamed in the 1950s to the New Hanover County Airport and then the New Hanover County International Airport in 1988. In 1997, the name was finally changed for the last time to what it is currently. 

Wilmington International has two runways with one terminal and 8 gates. It operates only a few daily flights and serves American, Delta, and United. The airport offers nonstop flights to eight destinations. 

One thing that is unique about Wilmington is that it has a 24-hour U.S. Customs and Border Protection ramp. In such a small airport, you wouldn’t normally find a customs area. This makes Wilmington International a great choice for people entering the U.S. because it’s rarely busy compared to larger hubs. The top flight route from Wilmington International is to Charlotte. 

Green Leaves Out Springtime Aerial View Downtown City Center Wilmington North Carolina
The buildings, homes, and architecture of the North Carolina city of Wilmington.

©ChrisBoswell/iStock via Getty Images

North Carolina has 10 airports that serve passengers, however only four of those airports support international travel. The four largest airports in North Carolina in order are Charlotte Douglas, Raleigh-Durham, Piedmont Triad, and Wilmington International. You can find a complete list of the ten largest airports in the state by land area below. 

The Largest Airports in North Carolina by Land Area

RankAirportSize by Land Area
#1Charlotte/Douglas International Airport5,558 acres
#2Raleigh-Durham International Airport5,000 acres
#3Piedmont Triad International Airport3,770 acres
#4Wilmington International Airport1,800 acres
#5Fayetteville Regional Airport1,343 acres
#6Asheville Regional Airport900 acres
#7Coastal Carolina Regional Airport785 acres
#8Albert J. Ellis Airport775 acres
#9Concord Regional Airport750 acres
#10Martin County Airport110 acres

The Featured Image

Airplane taking off from the airport.
© motive56/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Jaydee, and I love all things animals! I run a pet sitting business in my hometown, and have sat pets for over 5 years now. I also have experience teaching about animals as an elementary librarian. My husband and I have a golden retriever named Butter, and a tabby cat named Beans.

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