Local News

RDU to break out of box with terminal makeover

Posted July 19, 2012

— Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials broke ground Thursday on a $68 million makeover for its aging Terminal 1, referred to by many area travelers as "the big blue box."

The renovation, which is expected to be finished in January 2014, will expand ticketing, security checkpoint and baggage claim areas and add shops, restaurants and other amenities for travelers.

Some locals and many visitors said the upgrade is long overdue, noting the dreary terminal gives people a bad first impression of the Triangle.

"The city is nice and clean. The airport needs a little work," said Michelle Wilkerson, who was at RDU to pick up her mother. "We just moved here from New Orleans, and that airport needs a facelift, but I actually think this one is in worse shape. I was surprised when I moved here to see that."

All airlines except Southwest and AirTran have moved to Terminal 2 to accommodate the renovation, and RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said airlines will have room to add gates – and flights – in the coming years after the project is done.

“What this does is position us for future growth for 10, 20, 30 years,” Hamlin said.

During the first four months of this year, 1.41 million passengers traveled through RDU, up 2.7 percent from the 1.37 million passengers in the same period last year.

RDU Terminal 1 renovation Renovation of Terminal 1 begins at RDU

"The worst thing we can do is not be in a position to accommodate that future growth, and so that's why we're taking these steps – to make sure we're in position to handle that growth in this community," RDU Director Michael Landguth said.

Crews pulled out some of the blue metal panels from the Terminal 1 walls on Thursday, and airport officials signed them.

After the makeover, the terminal will resemble the $570 million Terminal 2, which opened in January 2011 and was recently named by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the 20 coolest airport terminals in the world. The magazine said the terminal's architecture – it features long wooden beams and huge windows – reflects the history of North Carolina, and editors commended the terminal's streamlined ticketing process.

Airport officials said the renovation is being paid for with revenue from parking, restaurants and leasing fees from the airlines.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • mpheels Jul 20, 2012

    Sorry, gate fee, not landing fee. I'm not an aviation expert, just know what the SWA employee told me. SWA had the opportunity to move to Terminal 2, but opted to stay in Terminal 1 because it is less expensive. Once they move into the renovated section, their fees will go up.

  • jet2rdu Jul 19, 2012

    RDU, like most airports charge both a landing dee and terminal fees. I do not know the exact amounts today but back in '06 they were LF = $1.39 per 1000 lbs and TF = $88 sq/ft.

    Landing fees are based on weight of the aircraft while Terminal Fees on amount of terminal/gate space occupied.

    Most airports compute LFs at the beginning of each fiscal year by dividing the airlines’ share of projected "airfield" costs by the amount of landed weight the airport expects carriers to record in the coming year. By that formula, the cost per 1,000 pounds is raised if the total amount of landed weight is projected to decline. That’s what happened at RDU in 2008, when carriers made sizable service cuts in an effort to deal rising fuel prices.

  • Hill55 Jul 19, 2012

    the new terminal needs an ATM

  • seankelly15 Jul 19, 2012

    mpheels - "There is plenty of room in terminal 2, but RDU charges airlines a higher landing fee to be in terminal 2."

    What would the "landing fee" have to do with what terminal is used. There is only one set of runways. Gate fees make sense - landing fees don't.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Jul 19, 2012

    There needs to be more shops and restaurants BEFORE security so those leaving can have meals or drinks or whatever with loved ones before going through security. This is especially important in the case of military personnel whose loved ones may be seeing them off for long terms or to dangerous places.

  • mpheels Jul 19, 2012

    hp277 - the discount airlines chose to stay in terminal 1. There is plenty of room in terminal 2, but RDU charges airlines a higher landing fee to be in terminal 2. I actually asked a SWA gate agent about it, and he said SW is staying in terminal 1 to avoid the high landing fee, but they will have to pay it once the renovations are complete. Personally, I don't mind at all, and I fly SWA at least once a month.

  • jet2rdu Jul 19, 2012

    In case you might be interested in the history of aviation in Raleigh, even before the present RDU opened, you might want to read some history of Raleigh Municipal Airport and view the pictures. Raleigh Municipal Airport opened in 1929 and closed in 1972 and was Raleigh's first air transportation hub located at the present day location of the intersection of Tryon Road & U.S. 70-401. The Curtiss Wright Flying Service leased the property and built 3 runways.

    Here is the website:


    It lists abandoned and little known airports here in NC. Just scroll down a bit to get to Raleigh Municipal.

  • NCSU84 Jul 19, 2012

    Post some artists drawings/renderings of the new update.

  • NotFromHere Jul 19, 2012

    "I used to watch planes take off as a kid on the observation deck. I'm guessing security issues are why they aren't used anymore. They still have a park area that you can watch planes come in on.Don't think they are passenger planes though."

    What kind of planes you think they are you're watching? You think they have different runways for non-passenger planes? Of course they are passenger planes. The outdoor observation area overlooks the main runway behind Terminal 2. It is a great facility to take the kids on a weekend.

  • hp277 Jul 19, 2012

    tired2 - Sure, it'll look nicer. For $68 million, it should. But when you're upgrading a 30 year old mobile home, there's only so much you can do.

    It looks like it will retain the corrugated metal exterior. That's a great look...

    But Southwest is my airline of choice, so mobile-home terminal it is!