Airlines Reduce Schedules as Passenger Traffic Remains Flat:
The Airport Authority has announced two air service incentive programs designed to maintain RDU as a competitive option for airlines looking to grow their networks and to secure resumption of service to the markets most critical to the region’s economic health.
“We anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a considerably smaller airline industry with fierce competition among airports,” said Michael Landguth, president and CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. “Our new recruitment strategy positions RDU at the front of the line when airlines resume service on routes they dropped during the health crisis. Our goal is to restore all 57 nonstop routes RDU served pre-pandemic and expand from there.”
RDU’s first incentive program is designed to attract new airlines and new service on previously unserved routes. The second focuses on recovery and is designed to incentivize a return to service of RDU’s previously served year-round international markets, including London (LHR) – American Airlines; Montreal (YUL), Air Canada; Paris (CDG) – Delta Air Lines; and Toronto (YYZ), Air Canada. Both programs offer a 12-month waiver of airport landing fees for qualifying service, with a cap of $1,000,000 per fiscal year for the standard program and a $700,000 per fiscal year cap for the recovery program.
Prior to the pandemic RDU had 57 nonstop flights, including five international destinations. Today RDU has 39 nonstops and no international flights. The new incentive program will be implemented Nov. 1. JetBlue will begin daily nonstop service to Cancun (CUN) and Montego Bay (MBJ) Nov. 19, the first international routes at RDU since mid-March.
Passenger Traffic Holds Steady: TSA screened nearly 310,000 departing passengers at RDU in September – down 72% from September 2019 and down 3% from August 2020. The number of average daily departures in September was 89, down from 227 in 2019 and 102 in August 2020.
Airlines have made several notable changes to their November schedules at RDU. Southwest cut the number of available seats by 60% for November and 65% for December. This is the most pronounced cut Southwest has made since the onset of the global health crisis.
American Airlines reduced its available seats by 71% for November, while United made a 65% reduction compared to 2019. RDU’s current capacity for November is scheduled to be 11% above October levels, but the airlines could continue to make changes to their schedules. Delta added seats to its November schedule, taking Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO) and Tampa (TPA) from five times a week to once a day service.
Town of Morrisville Noise Concerns: The Airport Authority’s Board of Directors sent a letter to the Town of Morrisville Thursday expressing its strong objections to proposed changes to the town’s Land Use Plan.
A draft amendment to the plan would allow residential development, including affordable housing, in the Airport Overlay District (AOD). The AOD was created in the 1990s after homeowners sued RDU over noise complaints and the Airport Authority had to pay damages. The Town of Morrisville has prohibited residential development in that area ever since because of elevated noise levels and frequent overflights.
The Authority received an invitation from the Town Manager Thursday to discuss these concerns and will work staff to schedule a meeting and work towards a resolution.
You can read the letter here.
Amazon Parking: The Board of Directors approved an agreement with Amazon to lease 100 more unused parking stalls for their delivery vans. The agreement will generate $72,000 a year for RDU. The Authority executed a similar agreement in August, with Amazon paying RDU $176,400 a year to license 245 parking stalls in a vacant airport lot.
Runway Preservation Complete: RDU completed an important capital project at the end of September when it finished repairs on its secondary runway, 5R/23L. Due to favorable weather, the $600,000 project was completed early.
The airport closed 5R/23L in July to allow crews to begin making pavement repairs. Although the runway was safe for flying, deteriorating pavement needed to be replaced to maintain its integrity. All commercial flights used RDU’s primary runway, 5L/23R, while the work was underway.
Runway preservation is one of the few capital projects included in RDU’s FY2020-2021 survival budget. The Airport Authority deferred $96 million in other construction projects as a result of dramatic declines in passenger traffic during the global health crisis.
Podcast Launched: RDU became one of the first airports in the country to launch an official podcast when “The Fly Angle” debuted in September. The podcast – hosted by the Airport Authority’s Communications, Government & Community Affairs team – will go behind-the-scenes at RDU each month, featuring special guest interviews and answering questions about little-known aspects of airport life. You can listen at rdu.com or subscribe on your favorite podcast app.