COVID-19: Previous Updates
The number of nonstop flights and daily departures at RDU are expected to increase in July after a recent uptick in passenger traffic. RDU had 23 nonstop routes and an average of 43 daily departures in June. The current July schedule includes 27 nonstop markets and an average of 68 daily departures.
Airlines continue to make cuts to their schedules, with 66% fewer available seats in July and 25% fewer in August compared to the same months in 2019. July did see a small uptick as Southwest added once-daily service to Tampa back to its schedule.
The number of passengers flying through RDU continued its growth trend last week, marking eight straight weeks of year-over-year traffic improvements.
For the week ending June 14, the TSA reported exactly 26,000 screened passengers – down 84.9% year-over-year, but up 28.9% from the previous week – the largest week-over-week increase since the pandemic hit. TSA screened 4,713 total passengers on June 14, down 81.5% from the same day in 2019, marking the third Sunday in a row with the highest number of passengers screened since mid-March.
Leisure travel continues to fuel the incremental growth observed over the previous eight weeks. Passenger growth at RDU is expected to continue slowly rising as businesses resume corporate travel and travel restrictions are relaxed. The passenger growth trend could be stunted if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, or if new government orders discourage or prevent discretionary travel.
Passenger traffic continued to make modest gains during the week ending June 7, with TSA screening 19,392 departing passengers at RDU. That was an increase of 20% from the previous week but a decrease of 87% from the same week in 2019. TSA screened 3,712 screened passengers on Sunday – the highest traffic count RDU has experienced since March 18, 2020.
Airlines continued to adjust their schedules based on the weakened demand for air travel and make cuts to their July schedules.
RDU’s passenger levels are consistent with airports in similar markets, where traffic is also growing incrementally. RDU staff will continue to monitor passenger screening data and report weekly on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel. The May passenger traffic report will be presented at the June 18 board meeting.
For the week ending Sunday, May 31st, TSA reported screening 16,188 departing passengers at RDU – up 14.5% from the previous week and down 88.6% from the same week in 2019. This data continues a positive passenger growth trend after declines of nearly 97% in mid-April.
Airlines continue to make adjustments to their schedules, with the number of available seats down 80% compared to June 2019 and nearly 50% for July. RDU’s airline partners have not made significant adjustments to their August and beyond schedules.
RDU staff will continue to monitor airline schedules and passenger trends, and will release the May 2020 passenger traffic total at the June 18 board meeting.
RDU experienced its busiest week since the global pandemic devastated air travel in March, with the largest number of passengers traveling through the airport on Memorial Day.
TSA reported screening 14,921 passengers at RDU for the week ending May 26th, a 30% increase over the previous week and a 90% decline versus the same week in 2019. TSA screened 2,778 departing passengers on Memorial Day, which was the highest screened passenger count at RDU since March 24th.
Although RDU’s passenger counts remain significantly below 2019 levels, the airport continues to see incremental growth on a weekly basis. Traffic at RDU bottomed out in mid-April at 96.5% below 2019 levels. Since then, RDU traffic has steadily increased to 90% below pre-COVID levels.
In June, airlines are scheduled to fly 21% of the capacity flown in June 2019 and July schedules call for 62% of 2019 capacity. August remains comparable to 2019, but airlines continue to make adjustments to their short terms schedules.
Airlines added 431 additional domestic departures to the June schedule last week, suggesting that more people are booking flights than previously expected. RDU staff will continue to monitor these and other trends to determine their overall impact to RDU’s 2020 passenger forecast.
TSA screened nearly 11,000 departing passengers at RDU during the seven-day period ending May 15, a 93% decline compared to the same time period in 2019.
Although passenger traffic at RDU remains more than 90% below 2019 levels, it has increased slightly over the last month. The small but gradual increase in travel demand is consistent with what has been reported by other U.S. airports.
RDU will report April 2020 total passenger numbers at the board meeting next Thursday. Airlines have cut their May and June flight schedules by 82.9% and 75.7%, respectively when compared to 2019, with more cuts anticipated. These lower levels of service are likely to continue until passenger demand requires an increase in the number of daily scheduled flights.
RDU will continue to monitor airline schedules and passenger traffic. The next air service update will be posted Tuesday, May 26.
TSA at RDU screened 8,168 passengers during the week ending May 7 – down 94.5 percent from the same week last year. Thursday, May 7 represented the highest screened passenger traffic level for the week, at 1,391 screened passengers. That day also marked RDU’s highest screened passenger total since March 29th.
Consistent with airports across the country, RDU experienced a slight uptick in traffic during the past two weeks, though passenger levels remain around 95 percent down year over year.
For the week, RDU averaged 38 daily departures – down from an average of 218 for the same week a year ago. Airlines reduced capacity, or the number of total seats, by 84 percent year-over-year by limiting the number of flights and downsizing aircraft. The schedule and capacity reductions allow RDU’s airline partners to temporarily right-size their operations for current demand levels. As a result, cancellations of scheduled departures from RDU were dramatically reduced – from a peak level of approximately 180 cancelled arrivals and departures in late March to zero as of May 7.
RDU staff will continue to monitor passenger and airline schedule data, and will provide weekly updates on this page as COVID-19 impacts to airline passenger traffic continue.
The number of passengers screened by TSA in April averaged 95.8% below April 2019. For the seven day period ending April 30, RDU averaged a year-over-year screened passenger decline of 95.5%, down slightly from 96.3% the week before.
RDU’s airline partners continue to make week-to-week adjustments to their near-term schedules in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on consumer demand for airline travel. The number of airplane seats available is scheduled to be down 80% for the month of May versus the same month last year. Airlines are also beginning to make cuts to their June schedules. RDU’s June capacity is 22% below June 2019 and airlines are expected to make additional reductions this week.
RDU staff will continue to monitor a variety of information sources to track the progress of passenger levels at the airport and provide updates to this page on a weekly basis.
Airlines Take New Steps to Protect Passengers’ Health
Airlines at RDU are taking steps to keep passengers healthy when they fly, including enhancing their cleaning procedures on planes and in airports and encouraging social distancing. A few airlines have recently announced additional safety measures such as requiring flights crews to wear masks and distributing masks to passengers. New safety measures recently announced by the airlines include:
- Beginning May 1, American Airlines will require flight attendants to wear masks and will offer personal protective equipment to customers.
- Starting May 11, the airline will also require passengers to wear face coverings.
- The airline also announced it will begin enhanced cleaning procedures in areas such as tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades, seatback screens, doors and overhead bin handles.
- In early May, American will begin distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers.
- Beginning this week, Delta is requiring all of its employees and partners to wear masks or face coverings when they are unable to maintain a distance of least six feet between others.
- Effective May 4, Delta will require all customers to wear a face mask or appropriate face covering when traveling. Face coverings will be required starting in the check-in lobby and across Delta touchpoints including Delta Sky Clubs, boarding gate areas, jet bridges and on board the aircraft for the duration of the flight – except during meal service. The airline encourages customers to bring their own face covering, but will make them available for customers who need them. People unable to keep a face covering in place, including children, are exempt.
- Beginning May 8, the airline will require all passengers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at the airline’s ticket counters, gate areas and onboard Frontier aircraft. Frontier has required face coverings for flight crews since April 13.
- Earlier this month, Frontier implemented a health acknowledgement program that passengers must complete via the company’s website or mobile app prior to check-in.
- Frontier also introduced a fogging disinfectant to its aircraft cleaning and sanitation protocols. The fogging includes virtually every surface in the passenger cabin. Planes are wiped down every night with additional disinfectant, as well.
- Beginning June 1, Frontier will implement temperature screenings for all passengers and team members prior to boarding flights. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be denied boarding.
- Beginning May 4, all Jet Blue customers will be required to wear a face covering during travel. The airline already requires all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working.
- The new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and when exiting the plane.
- Since late March, JetBlue has limited the number of seats available for sale on most flights, allowing the airline to provide additional space between individuals who are not traveling together.
- Beginning May 4, United will make face masks available to customers. United was the first major U.S. airline to require that all flight attendants wear a face covering or mask to help protect themselves and customers on board the aircraft.
- Through May 31, United and United Express is limiting seat selections in all cabins, so customers won’t be able to select seats next to each other or middle seats where available. They are also alternating window and aisle seats when seats are in pairs.
- Starting May 11, all passengers will be required to wear masks. The airline encourages passengers to bring their own hand sanitizer and masks, and to wear your mask while traveling. Passengers who don’t have a mask will be provided with one.
- Through June, Southwest is limiting the number of people on board each flight so there will be no need for the middle seat to be occupied.
- The airline is changing its boarding process. Passengers will board in groups of 10 and only on one side of the boarding poles to help customers spread out.
- Effective May 11, all passengers will be required to wear masks or face coverings over the nose and mouth to align with CDC recommendations about cloth face coverings in public settings. The airline will also require customer-facing employees to wear face coverings.
- Customers will be expected to bring their own face coverings and will be required to wear them at the airport and throughout the flight. Children who are not able to maintain a face covering are exempt from this requirement. The policy is temporary and updates will be issued as the situation evolves.
The number of passengers screened by TSA at RDU each day continues to hover around 96% below 2019 levels, with the airport averaging a 96.2% decline for the seven-day period ending on April 24. Based on TSA-screened passenger levels, RDU projects 45,600 passengers will fly through the airport this month, compared to 1.1 million passengers in April 2019.
Airlines at RDU continue to make cuts to their summer schedules as the impact of COVID-19 results in a weakened demand for air travel. May is projected to be down 70% year-over-year and June is expected to be down 17%. Other U.S. airports are seeing similar declines.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) requires U.S. airlines that receive funding to maintain minimum service at the airports they served prior to March 1. In order to meet this requirement, airlines are increasingly adding stops to routes that used to be nonstop. For example, Spirit Airlines will continue to fly to Fort Lauderdale from RDU, but instead of a direct flight, there will be a stop in Charlotte along the way.
RDU expects the lower passenger traffic levels to continue through the end of April. Some airline industry observers predict a small rise in traffic volume in May due to the lifting of “stay at home” orders. RDU staff will continue to monitor air service trends.
More than 535,000 passengers traveled through RDU in March 2020, a 52% decrease compared to March 2019. RDU experienced a decline in passenger traffic that began in the second week of the month and continued into April. The number of passengers screened by TSA each day is approximately 96% lower than the same time period last year and is expected to remain at that level through the remainder of April.
Airlines at RDU are reducing their flight schedules in response to the coronavirus-related decrease in travel demand. The number of non-stop destinations served by RDU has dropped from 57 at the beginning of March to 27 today with no international flights. Airlines have reduced flights by 63% this month and by 65% for the month of May. The airlines have also started to pull down June flights, yet the summer schedule and beyond remains at, or slightly below, 2019 levels.
Because the industry is uncertain how long flight demand will be down, airlines are making week-to-week adjustments to their schedules. Airlines have indicated they intend to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, but are not certain when recovery will begin or how long it will take. Incremental schedule changes are expected to continue until reliable longer-term passenger forecasts are available.
Passenger traffic at RDU has settled at approximately 96% below the same time period in 2019, a level that is consistent with passenger counts at airports around the country. You can find national TSA checkpoint travel numbers for 2020 and 2019 here.
During the month of March, airlines at RDU adjusted their schedules by cancelling flights, often on the day the flight was scheduled to depart. By the end of March, airlines were cancelling more than 70% of their total flights at RDU. In April, airlines began to downsize the number of daily scheduled flights. For example, RDU’s flight schedule for April 8 showed 144 total flights – down 66% from a year ago.
Airlines have also reduced scheduled flights through the month of May, but their summer schedules are consistent with 2019 levels. RDU expects the airlines to continue to make day–to-day schedule adjustments in response to the pandemic’s impact on travel demand.
We’ve fielded questions regarding the airport’s role in conducting health screenings in our facilities, as well as potential travel restrictions from areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal, state and local entities have the authority to issue directives regarding health screenings at airports and travel restrictions from specific areas. The Federal Aviation Administration has provided guidance for public entities to consider all essential aeronautical services, such as scheduled or unscheduled passenger and cargo operations.
Public health experts determine where screenings are necessary, define the screening protocols and require that public health officials, not airport personnel, conduct the screenings. There is no directive at this time for health screenings to be conducted at RDU.
*This post has been redacted to remove TSA passenger screening data, which is considered sensitive security information.
Passenger traffic at RDU remains low as airlines cancel flights and adjust schedules amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Airline schedule changes have decreased the number of non-stop destinations RDU serves. Prior to April 2020, RDU had service to 57 non-stop destinations, including five international markets. RDU now offers non-stop service to 36 destinations with no international flights. We anticipate further cuts in the coming weeks as airlines continue to focus on service to major airport hubs or large urban centers.
It is difficult to predict when the industry will recover and what lasting impacts coronavirus will have on air travel. RDU will continue to monitor air service trends and work to ensure RDU’s service map meets the region’s aviation needs.
Global Health Crisis Continues to Impact Air Travel
*This post has been redacted to remove TSA passenger screening data, which is considered sensitive security information.
RDU continues to track numerous business metrics in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its global impact on commercial air traffic.
Given the dramatic reduction in passenger traffic, the likelihood that passenger levels will continue to drop is limited unless there is a complete stop of domestic air service, which is not anticipated at this time.
RDU Considered Essential Business, Remains Open
More than a dozen stay-at-home orders have been issued in North Carolina with more expected as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. These orders place restrictions on movement by the public, limit public gatherings and require many businesses to close.
Stay-at-home orders exempt businesses that provide “essential services” and critical infrastructure, including airports. This means RDU will remain open and ready to assist customers and the community-at-large throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has determined that the operation and maintenance of airports is so vital that ceasing operations would have a debilitating effect on security, economic security, public health or safety. Airports are part of the national infrastructure that allows for the movement of emergency supplies and personnel, as well as other cargo.
While the airport remains open, some flights have been canceled or delayed. Travelers should check with their airline for the latest flight status before coming to the airport. You can find airline info on this page in the sidebar. RDU has consolidated its parking operations, and guests planning to park at the airport should proceed directly to the parking garage.
You can continue to find the latest information on the airport’s response to COVID-19 at RDU.com and by following RDU on Facebook and Twitter.
RDU is installing hand sanitizing stations in the terminal ticketing areas to help keep travelers healthy and safe. The airport ordered more than 100 sanitizing stations in early March and is receiving the order in installments due to high demand. We encourage travelers to follow the advice of public health experts and practice good personal hygiene.
American, Delta and United have closed their airline clubs at RDU. We will keep you updated about any future changes in operating hours.
The Authority is taking measures to consolidate operations in response to decreased traffic at the airport. Many business partners have modified operations due to the impact of COVID-19. RDU’s Observation Park is currently closed until further notice.
Parking at RDU
RDU is temporarily consolidating its parking operations beginning Monday, March 23, in response to COVID-19 impacts. These changes will be in effect for the next 30 days, at which time we will re-evaluate parking demand to determine lot availability. All airport guests will be redirected to park in their choice of either ParkRDU Central or Premier, conveniently located between Terminals 1 and 2. We also are discounting our daily maximum Central rate to $10/day. Existing online bookings have been upgraded at no additional cost and are valid for entry to Central. All ParkRDU fee collection will be automated beginning March 23. Cash will only be accepted at pay-on-foot stations located at entry points to the deck. These precautions are intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.
*Note: ParkRDU customers wishing to cancel their reservation may now do so up to the same day of their arrival. If you wish to cancel your parking reservation, please log into your reservation at ParkRDU.com and click on “Manage my Booking” in the upper right corner.
Airport Rental Car Facilities
Rental Car facilities are temporarily modifying operating hours, sharing shuttle services and consolidating customer facilities to better utilize resources. The companies will accommodate customers whose flights are delayed. Click here to review Rental Car contact information, modified hours and shuttle service status.
Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 118 today in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order closes bars and restaurants for dine-in customers effective 5 p.m. today through March 30. Takeout and grab-and-go are still permitted.
The Authority is working with airport concessionaires to comply with the governor’s executive order. Click here for the list of RDU’s terminal concessionaires and their operating status. The Authority values its airport business partners and will continue to work collaboratively to respond to the impacts of COVID-19.
ParkRDU customers wishing to cancel their reservation may now do so up to the same day of their arrival. If you wish to cancel your parking reservation, please log into your reservation at ParkRDU.com and click on “Manage my Booking” in the upper right corner.
Due to newly imposed federal travel restrictions and reduced transatlantic travel demand, RDU’s two transatlantic non-stop routes will be temporarily suspended. Delta will suspend its non-stop route between RDU and Paris beginning Saturday, March 14 through Thursday, May 21. American will suspend its non-stop route between RDU and London beginning Thursday, March 19 through Thursday, May 7. Travelers booked on either of these routes are encouraged to review their airline’s coronavirus travel information webpage for rebooking instructions.
The Authority values its partnerships with Delta and American Airlines. We understand the need for a momentary pause of these transatlantic flights and look forward to their return. Delta and American continue to operate at RDU as the airport and airlines take proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of all travelers.
The federal government continues to issue guidance regarding air travel, including new temporary restrictions on travel from Europe (with the exception of the United Kingdom) beginning March 13.
We advise passengers to contact Delta Airlines immediately if you have booked travel on the RDU-Paris nonstop route. It is also advisable that passengers traveling between Europe and the United States contact their airline for the latest information.
RDU is operating normally as we monitor COVID-19 developments. The Authority and its business partners continue to implement measures to protect our employees, guests, business partners and contractors from potential exposure to COVID-19.
RDU’s airline partners are sharing additional information with travelers about their response to coronavirus. Click the links below for guidance from each of the 10 airlines serving RDU. You can also find airline contact info and travel alerts via the sidebar.
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
We encourage all guests, employees and business partners to follow the CDC’s recommended hygiene practices (see “How You Can Stay Healthy,” above).
Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency for North Carolina today, which activates and mobilizes additional emergency response efforts, allows supplies to arrive more quickly, expands the number of health professionals working on coronavirus and protects consumers from price gouging.
The State of Emergency has no impact on airport operations and RDU is operating as normal. We continue to take proactive measures to make guests feel safe and comfortable in our terminals, including increased disinfection and cleaning of bathrooms and shuttle buses, along with frequently touched surfaces such as ticket counters and kiosks, gate areas, handrails and doorknobs. Health experts recommend good personal hygiene – including washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth – as the best way to prevent illness.
North Carolina health officials announced that five more Wake County residents tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). All five individuals recently attended a Biogen Conference in Boston, MA. and health officials have stated that all five residents are currently in isolation.
The affected individuals started showing symptoms of COVID-19 between Feb. 29 and March 3. Officials state that the five individuals traveled through RDU between March 2-6. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is most likely to be transmitted when affected people are symptomatic. You will be contacted by a public health official if you were on a flight and determined to be at risk during your travel period according to contact tracing protocols.
RDU remains close communication with local, state and federal public health experts who recommend good personal hygiene as the best way to prevent illness. North Carolinians with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call the COVID-19 phone line toll-free at (866) 462-3821 or their local county health department.
State health officials have confirmed a presumptive positive case of coronavirus in a passenger who traveled from Indianapolis to RDU on March 1. The person is reported to have been symptomatic beginning March 2. Health officials say the passenger spent time in Wake and Durham counties before driving back to Indianapolis on March 6.
According to health officials, COVID-19 is most likely to be transmitted when the patient is symptomatic. Therefore, according to public health officials in Durham and Wake Counties, “…there is little risk to anyone who came into contact with the patient prior to March 2, because the person was not showing symptoms.” County health departments will work to identify anyone who came into close contact with the person.
- N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Press Release: Indiana Individual with Confirmed COVID-19 Traveled to North Carolina
- Wake and Durham Counties Press Release: Durham, Wake Counties Investigate Possible Exposure to New COVID-19 Case
State health officials have confirmed a second presumptive positive case of coronavirus in a man from Chatham County who flew through RDU in late February. The passenger traveled from an area in Northern Italy that now has a COVID-19 outbreak. He had two days of mild flu-like symptoms while in Italy and flew back to the United States after his fever resolved and his symptoms improved. The passenger is in isolation at home and is doing well. Public health officials say this case in unrelated to presumptive positive case in a Wake County man who traveled to RDU from Seattle.
People who were in the airport in late February are not considered to be at risk. A person must have sustained close contact with a person with coronavirus (i.e., less than 6 feet away) for 10 minutes or longer to be considered at risk. Briefly walking by a person or being in the same room is not an identifiable risk.
RDU’s cleaning crews use products approved to eliminate viruses including COVID-19. Cleanings are focused on disinfecting bathrooms and frequently touched areas in our terminals and shuttle buses such as handrails, doorknobs, elevators, escalators, security checkpoints, ticket counters, kiosks and areas around the gates. More than 100 hand sanitizing stations will be placed in frequently touched areas throughout the terminals and cleaning crews will use specialized hand-held sprayers to disinfect shuttle buses and large areas inside the terminals.
RDU is in close communication with local, state and federal public health experts, who recommend good personal hygiene as the best way to prevent illness. North Carolinians with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call the COVID-19 phone line toll-free at (866) 462-3821 or their local county health department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the risk of getting a contagious disease on an airplane is low, but there are times when public health experts need to find and alert travelers who may have been exposed to a sick passenger on a flight. Airports do not play a role in these “contact investigations.”
In most cases, CDC is notified when a sick traveler seeks treatment at a medical facility. These notifications can be made days, weeks, or even months after the passenger traveled. The passengers who were exposed to the patient are called “contacts.” A critical part of this process is to identify close contacts of a case. A close contact is considered those individuals who were within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes of the presumptive positive individual at the time they were having symptoms.
CDC asks the airline for the flight manifest, which contains passengers’ names, seat numbers and contact information for passengers who were seated near the patient. Public health officials will call the contacts and educate them about how to watch for and report symptoms of the illness that is being investigated. CDC does not release any information about the patient or the contacts to anyone other than public health staff working on the investigation.
If you have questions about a CDC contact investigation or a person under investigation, please contact your local health department or the N.C. Department of Human Health and Services at (866) 462-3821.
Wake County public health officials have confirmed a presumptive positive case of coronavirus in a passenger who traveled through RDU on Feb. 22. According to the state health department in consultation with the CDC, the passenger “was not experiencing symptoms when they traveled through Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Based on CDC guidance, there was no identifiable risk from this case to other travelers.”
RDU is in close contact with public health experts and Airports Council International about best practices for airports related to coronavirus. RDU regularly disinfects bathrooms in the terminals with products that meet criteria for helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus and is consulting with public health officials about any additional steps the airport should take as a preventative measure. Airports, including RDU, follow the direction of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency that decides which airports should screen passengers, determines protocols and conducts screenings. CDC is not conducting screenings at RDU at this time.