RDU looking at second nonstop international flight

Posted October 6, 2014
Updated September 24, 2015

— A recent transplant to the Triangle from Sweden, Jonatan Dainelsson still travels back home frequently for business.

From Raleigh-Durham International Airport, it's no short journey with plenty of layovers.

"Right now, it is two stops, at least," he said Monday.

Dainelsson's lengthy trips, however, could be shortened if the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority succeeds in adding a new direct international flight from RDU to either Paris or Frankfurt.

"It will probably take one flight off (the itinerary)," Dainelsson said. "So, that will be a good benefit."

The benefits don't stop there, according to Teresa Damiano, the Airport Authority's vice president of communications and community affairs.

She says within its first year, the new international flight could bring 100 new jobs to the area, pump $25 million into the local economy and save Triangle travelers between $50 million to $100 million.

Within 25 years, the flight could result in $171 million in economic spending, create 684 jobs and add $272 million in local public revenues.

"The airport has had London daily service successful to Europe for 20 years, and there is more traffic than that one flight can accommodate," Damiano said.

To make it happen, however, Damiano says the Airport Authority needs the help of community leaders.

It has pledged $2.1 million and is asking state and local governments, as well as private foundations, to match it.

"Businesses make it happen," Damiano said. "There has to be the business interest to support that nonstop daily flight."

She says that support will speak volumes to any interested airline, which would potentially have to change travel patterns and pay numerous costs associated with a new direct flight.

"The airport can do fee waivers and marketing support, and that's what we can legally do under FAA regulations," Damiano said. "We can offer some support package as an airport authority, but the community has to do something as well."

"Austin and Pittsburgh – and even bigger communities, such as Atlanta and Dallas – they do the same thing," Damiano added. "They will help the airline make that decision, if it's between here or another city."

Delta Airlines has shown interest in a nonstop Paris flight from RDU since 2008. Damiano says the company is still looking at that option.

The Triangle is well-positioned for a new international flight as job growth is three times faster than the U.S. average. Nearly 150 national companies also have a presence in the Triangle, and annual international exports total $5 billion.

Approximately 1.5 million people travel between RDU and international destinations each year.

Since 2008, travel from RDU to international destinations has grown 29 percent, and Damiano says travel to emerging markets, such as India and Asia, is also growing.

She expects that there will be another direct international flight from RDU to one of those markets within the next 20 years.

RDU, for example, is the 12th largest U.S. airport in terms of passenger demand to India with 30,000 people traveling to India each year.


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  • LetsBeFair Oct 7, 2014

    this is good news ... been to both places and dying to return for a vacation one day.

  • Rodney Hill Oct 7, 2014
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    Hate to go all Captain obvious but Toronto, Cancun, Nassau and the Caymans are also international.

    But to be honest no "scheduled" intl service is required to have an Intl airport. ILM is an int airport with no skd intl flights.

  • Kevin Oliver Oct 7, 2014
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    Hopefully this news will "encourage" American Airlines to upgrade that horrible plane they schlep back and forth to England every day. The one with no wifi, limited overhead storage that doesn't fit modern suitcases, broken seats with zero padding, and 1990s video monitors hanging from the ceiling. It's a dinosaur and an embarrassing introduction to Raleigh-Durham for international passengers.

  • silvfx Oct 7, 2014

    Love the direct flight to LHR, incredibly easy to get to the London office however the plane itself is dreadful an old 767, bring back the 777 they used to use.

  • Ian Jones Oct 7, 2014
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    Nice. The A380 was never intended for a mid-sized airport.
    From the NY Times 2 months ago, speaking of the A380:
    “It’s a commercial disaster,” Mr. Aboulafia says. “Every conceivably bad idea that anyone’s ever had about the aviation industry is embodied in this airplane.”

    If RDU has to be expanded or upgraded in some way to accommodate more direct international flights, that seems like an investment worthy of consideration by government (i.e., taxes). But if it's just a matter of adding a flight, no thanks. Airlines will add flights when it makes economic sense and government incentives will only unbalance the market.

  • Big Mike Oct 7, 2014

    One destination overseas is really cheating the name "International"...!

  • rbaff79 Oct 7, 2014

  • rbaff79 Oct 7, 2014

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    Don't we have to pay a whole bunch in taxes and fees to go thru London Heathrow Airport?
    Hopefully Paris/Frankfurt would be much cheaper.


    I like how they have an Airbus A380 (the largest passenger airplane in the world) in the photo when RDU can't even accommodate it.

  • Ishitonthewralcorncobdesk Oct 7, 2014

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    Every other city does this. It is costly for an airline to relocate resources for such a flight, but like anything else, the return on investment is worth the small amount of money to assist an airline to do this. Frankfurt and Paris CDG are excellent choices for quick connections to other European cities.