Local News

RDU could shutter terminal

Posted January 30, 2009 12:46 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials have floated the idea of closing its older terminal once the second phase of its new terminal opens up.

Closing the blue-walled Terminal 1 would save RDU money at a time when air traffic is down, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

The airport opened the $570 million first phase of Terminal 2 last fall, replacing the 21-year-old red-roofed terminal that was originally built as a hub for American Airlines. The second phase of the project is scheduled to open in 2011.

Once complete, Terminal 2 will have 32 gates, and Hamlin said all of the airlines serving the region could be moved there. Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and AirTran were the only airlines projected to stay in the old terminal after Terminal 2 was completed.

"We have talked about what are we going to do when that (second part of) Terminal 2 opens in the winter of 2011," she said. "It is not out of the question for us to close Terminal 1 when phase two of Terminal 2 opens."

The recession has caused air travel to fall in recent months as airlines cut the number of daily flights. RDU reported 9.7 million passengers last year, a 3.1 percent drop from 2007, and Hamlin said the numbers aren't expected to top the 10-million mark again until the economy improves.

"We understand the aviation industry is cyclical. There have been a lot of changes made to schedules here at RDU and airports across the country," she said. "As we approach that (2011) opening, we will re-evaluate where we are as far as air service, demand, airlines (and) schedules, and we'll make a decision."

RDU also closed part of Terminal 1 – it was known as Terminal A at the time – in 1989 when Eastern Airlines went bankrupt and ceased operations. The terminal remained closed for five years until traffic through the airport picked up enough to warrant reopening the gates.

Another temporary shutdown of Terminal 1 also would give the airport the opportunity to start – and possibly complete – a planned overhaul of the facility to avoid disrupting traffic whenever it reopens, Hamlin said.