March Was the Busiest Month at RDU Since the Pandemic Began

Airlines Add Flights to San Francisco and Destin, FL

More passengers flew through RDU in March than any month since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. TSA screened 77,400 departing passengers at RDU for the week ending April 4th, setting another pandemic record for passenger traffic.

“The increase in passenger traffic over Easter weekend follows the recent trend of sharp spikes over the holidays followed by decreased traffic with periods of incremental growth,” said Michael Landguth, president and CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. “As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available and federal health officials update their guidance on air travel, RDU’s next challenge will be to manage that growth while providing the world-class airport experience our guests expect.”

Total traffic was up 13% compared to the week prior and down nearly 39% versus the same week in 2019. Spring break and the long Easter holiday weekend contributed to the substantial rise in traffic. RDU expects growth to continue at a slower pace in April due to students returning to school.

For the month of March, TSA screened 251,400 passengers – down 2% from March 2020 and down 55% from March 2019. The total number of passengers for March was 495,000, a decrease of nearly 8% compared to March 2020 and a decrease of nearly 56% compared to March 2019.  The average daily air carrier departures last month was 123, down from 178 in March 2020 and 215 in March 2019.

39th Destination: Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, FL (VPS) will become the 39th nonstop route at RDU when American Airlines launches service to the Florida Panhandle in June. American also announced new service from RDU to Orlando (MCO) and Nashville (BNA), giving RDU travelers more options when flying to those destinations.

American will offer seasonal Saturday service to Destin and Orlando from June 5 through Aug. 14. Service to Nashville will be Sunday through Friday year-round beginning June 2. These three new destinations follow American’s announcement last month that it will start daily nonstop service between Austin and RDU on July 2.

Bay Area Service: JetBlue announced it will add nonstop service from RDU to San Francisco in May, marking the first direct route to the Bay Area since the onset of the pandemic. Airlines continue to invest in the RDU market, with Southwest adding four more weekly Orlando departures to their May schedule and Frontier resuming service to Cleveland, Ohio and Trenton, New Jersey.

Airport Amenities: The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board approved an agreement Thursday with Uptown Airport Group to operate Bruegger’s Bagels and Raleigh Taproom in Terminal 2. The former Wow Bao space, which closed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, will be replaced with Uptown Burger Bar. The quick serve concept will feature breakfast sandwiches, burgers, chicken tenders and sides. Separate plans to open a LaFarm Bakery in Terminal 2 are on track for a June opening date.

Airport Growth: RDU is closely monitoring passenger traffic trends as more people return to flying to help manage traffic flow. The airport consolidated all public parking options into ParkRDU Central and Premier last year to help manage limited resources during the downturn. During the Easter holiday weekend, RDU’s Central parking deck reached 81% full and Premier peaked at about 48%. With travel numbers surging during holidays and dropping during the weeks in between, the airport faces a challenge in maintaining steady parking capacity. RDU’s Parking Division is monitoring parking trends and evaluating all options to maintain ample parking spaces. RDU is developing a plan to guarantee all guests continue to have easy access to parking when they visit the airport. RDU is also encouraging guests to book their parking online in advance of their trip by making the best daily rates available at

FAA Noise Study: The Airport Authority and the FAA held an informational meeting in April with government planners from communities surrounding the airport. Planners learned about the FAA’s the recently released Neighborhood Environmental Survey, which assessed the impact of noise on people who live near airports. Current noise policy in the U.S. was developed in the 1970s, but much has changed in the industry since then. The FAA’s most recent study found that people are more annoyed by aircraft noise today than they were when the last study was conducted.  RDU is working with local governments to help them make sound decisions about how to grow responsibly, including considering the impact of aircraft noise as they develop areas around the airport.