Local News

Pandemic grounds RDU expansion plans

Posted June 18, 2020 5:34 p.m. EDT
Updated June 19, 2020 12:06 a.m. EDT

— The board that oversees Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Thursday approved budget cuts prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, including putting expansions planned for the airport's two terminals on hold.

Traffic through the airport has been minimal since the pandemic swept across the U.S. in March. In May, just under 98,000 passengers flew into or out of RDU, down 92.5 percent from the same month a year ago.

"The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced RDU to make difficult business decisions that include making deep cuts to our operating expenses and the projects we will pursue," RDU President and Chief Executive Michael Landguth said in a statement. "The authority’s new 'survival budget' reflects our commitment to safely and responsibly recovering and maintaining RDU’s economic vitality."

The airport board slashed the $297.2 million budget by nearly 45 percent, including deferring $96.1 million in capital projects. Major capital projects being delayed include a four-gate expansion at Terminal 1, expanded security gates at Terminal 2, an expansion of the Economy 3 parking lot roadway improvements.

RDU officials noted that passenger traffic is beginning to rebound. The May numbers were up 145 percent from April, and the percentage of seats filled per flight increased from 12.1 percent in April to 37.4 percent in May.

Still, airlines have continued to adjust their schedules based on the weakened demand and are making cuts to their July schedules, officials said.

RDU has launched the Fly Confident, Fly RDU website to create consumer awareness about its health and health and safety measures during the pandemic, including new cleaning and disinfecting procedures, guidance from public health agencies and information about concessions, parking and ground transportation. It also provides phone numbers that flyers can call to learn about airline-specific health and safety requirements before coming to the airport.

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