MORRISVILLE, N.C. — More and possibly cheaper flights could soon land at
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
American Eagle is increasing its presence at the airport, which could help turn around a three-year slide.
In 1996, RDU International served 6.4 million passengers. That number rose steadily during the next four years, topping out at more than 10 million passengers in 2000. Since then, the numbers have slipped. The airport served almost 8 million passengers in 2003.
The airport is already seeing those numbers turn around -- especially in the past six months. More and more people are flying these days and airlines are more than happy to meet the demand.
"People are getting back to traveling," airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.
The number of flights is going up, too. There are 20 more daily departures this month than in April 2003.
That includes four new American Eagle flights to Columbus, Boston, Hartford and New York. Next month, American Eagle will add three more flights to Boston and New York.
Later this summer, the airline will start offering five more daily flights to Providence, R.I. and Austin, Texas. American Eagle is the only airline to fly to those cities from Raleigh.
Southwest is adding flights this summer, too.
"We have a lot of business travelers, we have a lot of leisure travelers and we have a lot of college students. So the demand is there, and when the demand is there, the airlines are going to put the service in," Hamlin said.
Another reason airlines are adding more flights is they are using smaller planes. Airline officials say the smaller planes are more cost efficient for certain markets and routes and allow the airlines to offer travelers more choices.
To handle the increasing numbers, RDU International is on a fast track to expand. With Terminal A bursting at the seams, the reconstruction of Terminal C will soon begin.
Terminal C was built as a hub for American Airlines in the late 1980s and is currently big enough for one airline.
The ticketing, baggage claim and security areas will be expanded in a $350 million renovation.
"We are building a terminal that will help us meet that future growth," Hamlin said.
This fall, demolition begins on the north concourse, ticketing and baggage claim areas. By summer 2005, rebuilding begins. The expansion is scheduled to be complete by 2009.