Modest Uptick in Travel Expected Over the Holidays

New Survey Shows Passengers Are Gaining Confidence in Air Travel

RDU anticipates fewer passengers will travel this Thanksgiving holiday compared to years past. About 83,500 passengers are expected to depart from RDU, for a total of 167,000 passengers flying through the airport from Nov. 20 – 30. This is in stark contrast to the single-day record of 54,800 passengers set the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“RDU would usually prepare for a significant increase in passenger traffic in November, but 2020 is not a typical year,” said Michael Landguth, president & CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. “We are ready to welcome back passengers who have not traveled since the onset of the pandemic. Our survey data shows passengers are growing more confident in air travel thanks to RDU’s new health and safety measures, as well as the airport and airline mask requirements.”

The busiest holiday travel day is expected to be Sunday, Nov. 29, with about 18,200 passengers flying through RDU. Wednesday, Nov. 25 will be the second busiest with 16,800 passengers projected to travel. The forecast for the week calls for a seven percent increase in passenger traffic due to the holiday bump.

RDU anticipates less than five million total passengers in 2020. For comparison, 14.2 million passengers traveled through RDU in 2019. Over the last few months, passenger volume has settled at around 30% of 2019 levels after dropping to nearly 3% in April.

Travel Tips: Although RDU does not anticipate the usual crush of holiday traffic, passengers are still encouraged to arrive at the airport early. Due to new health and safety protocols, we recommend travelers arrive two hours before departure to check bags, get through security and arrive at their gate on time.

All remote parking lots that require shuttle buses remain closed due to the pandemic. Guests have the option to park in Central or Premier, conveniently located in the parking deck between the terminals. Rates in Central are reduced to $10/day compared to $15/day before COVID and Premier is $22/day. Guests are encouraged to book their parking online ahead of time at for a smooth and convenient travel experience. ParkRDU offers contactless technology that allows guests to enter and exit the deck without interacting with a cashier.

From your grandmother’s baked goods to your favorite homemade dish, many people will be traveling with food this time of year. The rules for getting food through security are simple. If it’s a solid item, it can be carried on with you. But if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it must travel in a checked bag.

For example, your turkey, pies, cookies, cakes and stuffing can be carried on. Your cranberry sauce, gravy, jam and beverages need to be packed carefully in your checked baggage.

You can visit and click “What Can I Bring?” for more details.

Enhanced Health and Safety Measures: The well-being of everyone who visits and works at the airport is RDU’s top priority. RDU responded to the global health crisis by taking action to protect passengers and employees. Our new health and safety measures include:

  • Increasing the frequency and intensity of our cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • New signage, seat covers and floor decals that promote social distancing practices.
  • Plexiglass shields at ticket counters and information desks to provide a barrier between guests and employees (TSA has also installed acrylic barriers at its security checkpoints).
  • Placing hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminals.

It is also important to note that planes have medical-grade HEPA filters that remove 99.9% of particles, including viruses like Covid-19.

Passenger Confidence Survey: A survey of RDU parking customers conducted in early November shows passengers feel even safer about flying during the pandemic than they did when asked in July. The survey, which had an 8.5% return rate and a 4% margin of error, indicates passenger confidence in air travel is moving in a positive direction:

  • 81% of respondents agree RDU is taking the necessary steps to keep them safe.
  • In July, 37% indicated they would feel safe flying despite concerns about COVID. In November, that number is up to 60%.
  • The number of people who reported having traveled during the pandemic has doubled since July.
  • The survey also found that two-thirds of RDU customers are traveling for leisure, with one-third traveling for business. Prior to the pandemic, 52% of the airport’s passengers were business travelers.
  • About ten percent of RDU’s customer base is traveling internationally, dominated by traffic to resort destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
  • People who have traveled during the pandemic report that their perceptions about the safety of travel improved after taking their first trip since the health crisis began.

The most important takeaway is that social distancing, the cleanliness of RDU’s facilities and the requirement that all passengers and airport employees wear a mask contribute to enhanced feelings of safety.

RDU wants to remind everyone who visits the airport during the holiday season to wear a face covering, wash your hands frequently and maintain an appropriate distance from people you are not traveling with. Visit RDU’s Fly Confident. Fly RDU. webpage for more information.