Charleston International Airport
Quick Airport Facts
With more than 2.5 million passengers traveling through Charleston International Airport (CHS) each year, it is the busiest airport in South Carolina. The airport handles about 124 flights daily, adding up to more than 21,000 flights a year. CHS operates as a joint civil-military airport; Charleston Air Force Base owns and operates the runways. In addition to passenger and military traffic, CHS handles cargo flights as well. Its diverse operations are evidenced by its usage rates: 28% of the airport’s business is air taxi service, 26% is general aviation, 23.5% is military and 21.5% is scheduled commercial use. CHS operates with total net assets of $188 million and annual revenues of $33 million.
The airport is located 10 miles northwest of Charleston, next to Charleston Air Force Base. The passenger terminal opened in its current rendition on March 30, 1985, with 270,000 square feet of space distributed among three levels. The terminal currently operates 10 gates, but will eventually grow to house 15 gates.
Just west of the passenger terminal, CHS also houses air cargo services that include a 21,000 square yard facility. The air cargo space opened in 1986.
CHS offers 1,896 parking spaces at its surface lot and a three-story parking garage with 1,267 spaces. Two distant lots offer another 1,105 spaces and the airport’s valet parking area can accommodate 195 vehicles. The cell phone lot is adjacent to the passenger terminal and has a 40-vehicle capacity.
To accommodate an ever-increasing flight schedule, the Charleston airport is undergoing a Terminal Redevelopment Improvement Program, costing roughly $150 million. The program consists of an addition of a car rental pavilion, construction of a central energy plant, expansion of the terminal apron, creation of a consolidated TSA checkpoint, a baggage carousel addition, renovation of the ticketing hall, an extension of Concourse B, renovation of Concourse A and an upgrade of the airport’s utility system.
The Charleston airport is served by six major passenger airlines and a number of regional carriers. Five rental car agencies are located at the airport as is a Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority bus stop.
For travelers requiring the assistance of service animals, the airport provides a service animal relief area.
The Charleston County Aviation Authority (CCAA), the government body that operates CHS, also operates its own police department. Established in 1990, the CCAA Police Department was one of only four airport police departments in 1999 to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The police department received re-accreditation several times and earned the prestigious “Flagship” status in 2011.
History of Charleston International Airport
CHS and two other airports in the area are operated by CCAA, which was formed in 1928. Within a year, the agency established the first private airport, Charleston Municipal Airport, at CHS’s current site. Development and expansion of Charleston Municipal Airport continued throughout the 1930s and was turned over to the US government during World War II and the Korean War. The airport was part of the military’s war-time eastern defense operations during World War II. Between the two wars, a new passenger terminal opened at the airport in 1949. Several joint use agreements were made with the US Army following the wars, and CCAA resumed its operations of Charleston Municipal Airport in 1978. At that point, the airport authority purchased 1,300 acres next to the airport from Georgia-Pacific Company. That extra land was used to make room for a new terminal complex. The new passenger terminal opened in 1985 with the addition of an international concourse. To reflect the new services, the airport changed its name to Charleston International Airport. Today, the airport authority and the US military continue its joint ventures at CHS.