Travel Updates: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Information for travelers about Coronavirus
An outbreak of a respiratory disease caused by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first detected in China and has now been detected in more than 125 countries, including the United States. The federal government has declared a public health emergency for the U.S. and established a task force dedicated to addressing this rapidly evolving situation. At this time, most people in the United States have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily in airplanes and the risk of infection while traveling by air is low. CDC suggests that travelers avoid contact with sick passengers and wash their hands often. Symptoms may appear 2 – 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. CDC recently recommended that individuals wear a cloth mask in public settings, particularly where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
How you can stay healthy
Public health experts recommend good personal hygiene as the best way to prevent illness, including:
- Washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throwing the tissue in the trash and washing your hands.
- Avoiding contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are sick.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
RDU is working with public health officials at the local, state and federal levels, along with Airports Council International, the trade association for airports around the country, on best practices associated with the coronavirus. We are tracking the latest information from public health experts and continue to stay apprised of the latest developments regarding the spread of the virus.
Travel advisories are in place for countries experiencing outbreaks of the coronavirus. If you are planning to travel, check with your airline with any questions about your itinerary. Airline contact information and travel alerts can be found via the “Resources” section of this page.
TSA at RDU screened 41,250 total departing passengers during the week ending Sunday, Sept. 6 – an 11.5 percent increase over the preceding week, due in part to the Labor Day holiday.
The airport’s departing passenger tally for the week reflects a 66.1% decline versus the same week a year prior – the smallest decline in total weekly screened traffic year-over-year since airport officials began observing COVID-19 impacts to passenger volume in late March.
NOTE: As Labor Day occurred a week earlier in 2019 than in 2020, the year-over-year comparison data is not a comparison of holiday weeks. Comparing Labor Day holiday weekends, RDU traffic was down 70.7 percent, still representing an improvement in year-over-year trends.
The number of available seats is down 64 percent in September compared to the same month last year, while the current October capacity level is down 60 percent versus October 2019. While all airlines at RDU have added more seats to the schedule in October, fall airline demand typically is more dependent upon business traffic versus summer months. Corporate bookings at RDU remain 90 percent below 2019 levels.
The number of passengers screened by TSA at RDU during the week ending August 23 was down 3.6% from the previous week and down 73% compared to the same week in 2019. RDU’s 73% year-over-year traffic decline was on par with the previous week’s 72.9% decline. Total passenger levels for all U.S. commercial airports was down 71.6% year-over-year. The week-to-week decline in travel is typical for the beginning of the school year, when the summer leisure travel season traditionally comes to a close.
The number of available flights at RDU for the month of September is currently scheduled to be approximately 65% of September 2019 levels. This is a larger drop than was experienced in August, when RDU saw a 60% year-over-year decline, but is comparable what airports across the country are experiencing.
Delta recently announced a list of international flights it plans to bring back during the winter and summer months, including nonstop service between RDU and Paris, which Delta intends to resume in March of 2021. While this is an encouraging sign for the eventual return of international routes to RDU, travel restrictions and international demand will also factor into when Delta relaunches the Paris service.
RDU had its busiest week since passenger traffic hit its lowest point in mid-April due to the global health pandemic. TSA screened 41,670 departing passengers the week ending Sunday, Aug. 10, a 74.2% decline over the same week in 2019, but a 6.4% increase over the week before. Airports across the U.S. reported a similar uptick in the number of screened passengers.
Consistent with national trends, the number of people flying through RDU peaked over the 4th of July holiday weekend at approximately 26% of 2019 passenger traffic and then leveled off for four weeks until beginning of August, when traffic saw a modest bump. Reduced air fares may be responsible for more people flying during the summer months. Experts predict leisure travel demand will decline with the start of the school year.
Airlines continue to make near-term adjustments to their schedules, with Southwest cutting an additional 40% of its September flights at RDU and dropping its nonstop routes to Las Vegas (LAS) and Houston (HOU).
RDU will continue to monitor airline data and trends, and report meaningful findings and insights on this page as pandemic related travel impacts continue.
Nonstop destinations continue to return to RDU despite a flattening of passenger traffic. Four nonstop destinations will return to RDU in August:
Austin (AUS) – daily service on Southwest beginning Aug. 11
Cleveland (CLE) – Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays on Frontier beginning Aug. 1
Houston (HOU) – daily service on Southwest beginning Aug. 11
Salt Lake City (SLC) – daily Delta service beginning Aug. 1
The return of nonstop service to these destinations brings the number of nonstop flights at RDU to 31, up from 27 in July 2020. RDU had 57 nonstop destinations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TSA screened 39,622 total passengers for the week ending July 19, down 76% compared to the same week in 2019. The number of screened passengers was down 3% from the previous week. Airlines continue to make adjustments to their schedules at RDU based on near-term customer demand. The number of seats available in July was down 65% compared to July 2019. Traffic is expected to remain flat or decline slightly as leisure travel drops off in August and September.
*Edited Aug.3 to provide updated nonstop destinations.
RDU experienced a spike in traffic over Independence Day weekend, consistent with national trends. TSA screened a total of 36,267 passengers for the week ending July 4, which was 74.0% below the same period in 2019. This was the busiest week at the airport since mid-March and the 11th straight week of passenger growth for RDU.
Industry experts predict passenger growth may level off as we approach the end of summer. Government mandated quarantine for travelers from states with rising COVID-19 cases could reduce passenger travel. The number of people traveling may continue to decline into the fall based on U.S. polices and inbound international travel restrictions.
Airlines continue to make near-term adjustments to their schedules based on travel demand. RDU will release the total passenger traffic for June at the July 16 board meeting.
All employees, travelers and other visitors to Raleigh-Durham International Airport are required to wear a face covering or mask in accordance with the state of North Carolina’s recent executive order. The face covering requirement takes effect Friday, June 26.
The executive order includes all public spaces at RDU. Travelers should also check with their airline prior to coming to the airport, as airlines may require face coverings during flight.
Did you leave your mask at home? Don’t worry. You may visit Guest Services at the information desk in either terminal and they will issue you a mask (available while supplies last).
Travelers also can find masks at several of the Shops of RDU, including ink by Hudson (Gate D1), WRAL Travel Store (Gate D5), City Market News (Gate C8) and TripAdvisor (Gate C16).
Learn more about the executive order and Face Coverings at RDU.