Business

RDU looking at second nonstop international flight

Posted October 6, 2014 6:43 p.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2015 10:29 a.m. EDT

— 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.