Raleigh–Durham International Airport

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Raleigh–Durham International Airport
Raleigh–Durham International Airport Logo.jpg
Raleigh Durham International airport satellite view.png
Airport type Public
Owner/Operator Raleigh–Durham Airport Authority
Serves The Research Triangle Metropolitan Region of North Carolina
Location Cedar Fork Township, Wake County, North Carolina, U.S.
Focus city for Delta Air Lines[1]
Elevation AMSL 435 ft / 133 m
Coordinates 35°52′40″N 078°47′15″W / 35.87778°N 78.78750°W / 35.87778; -78.78750
Website rdu.com
RDU is located in North Carolina
RDU is located in the US
Location of airport in North Carolina/United States
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5L/23R 10,000 3,048 Concrete
5R/23L 7,500 2,286 Asphalt
14/32 3,570 1,088 Asphalt
Statistics (2016)
Aircraft movements 191,348
Passenger movements 11,049,103
Sources: RDU website[2]

Raleigh–Durham International Airport (IATA: RDUICAO: KRDUFAA LID: RDU) is the main airport serving Raleigh, Durham, and the surrounding Research Triangle region of North Carolina. It is located 4 12 miles (7.2 km) northeast of the town of Morrisville in Wake County. The airport covers 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) and has three runways and has passenger service to 50 destinations with 400 average daily departures, including nonstop intercontinental service to London and Paris.[3] In 2016, RDU set an all-time record for passengers, with 11,049,143 passengers traveling through the airport.[4] The RDU Airport Authority is in charge of the airport facilities and its operations and is controlled by a board of representatives from the counties of Wake and Durham and the cities of Raleigh and Durham.[5] The airport is a focus city for Delta Air Lines and is also a crew base for regional carriers Trans States Airlines and GoJet Airlines.



Early photo of Raleigh–Durham Airport

The region's first airport opened in 1929 as Raleigh's Municipal Airport, south of town at 35°44′06″N 78°39′22″W / 35.735°N 78.656°W / 35.735; -78.656. It was quickly outgrown, and in 1939 the North Carolina General Assembly chartered the Raleigh–Durham Aeronautical Authority to build and operate a larger airport between Raleigh and Durham. This was promoted by Eastern Air Lines, led by then chairman Eddie Rickenbacker who wanted to make RDU a stop on the airline's New York–Miami route.

The new Raleigh–Durham Airport opened on May 1, 1943 with flights by Eastern Airlines. The passenger terminal was built from materials remaining after the construction of four barracks for the Army Air Forces Air Technical Service Command airfield.[6] The three runways the airport had in 1951 are still visible on the southeast side of the airport: 4500-ft runway 5, 4500-ft runway 18 and 4490-ft runway 14.

After World War II Capital Airlines joined Eastern at RDU; Piedmont Airlines arrived in 1948. The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 36 departures a day: twenty Eastern, eight Capital and eight Piedmont. Nonstop flights did not reach beyond Washington, Atlanta, or the Appalachians (but Eastern started a Super Constellation nonstop to Newark in 1958). The next airline (aside from United's takeover of Capital in 1961) was Delta Air Lines in 1970. In April 1969 nonstops didn't reach beyond New York or Atlanta, and Chicago was the only nonstop west of the Appalachians.

In the 1970s, the last decade before airline deregulation, Piedmont connected RDU to Charlotte, Greensboro, New Bern, Norfolk, Richmond, Rocky Mount, Washington, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.[7] United flew to Asheville, Charlotte, Huntsville and Newark,[8] while Eastern flew to Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington,[9] and Delta flew to Chicago and Greensboro.[10]

After deregulation Allegheny Airlines arrived in 1979 and by 1985 Trans World Airlines, American Airlines, Ozark, People Express, New York Air and Pan Am had all put in appearances.

Hub years[edit]

American Airlines built a terminal at RDU between 1985 and 1987 to house a new hub operation,[11] and flew to 38 cities when the hub started in June 1987.[12] The December 1987 timetable shows AA nonstops to 36 airports and Eagle prop nonstops to 18 more. In addition to flying nonstop to many cities in the U.S. and Canada, American also operated transatlantic flights from RDU to London and Paris. The RDU hub operated at a loss even during its heyday in the early 1990s, like the north–south hubs AA then had at Nashville and San Jose.[13]

The hub's traffic peaked in 1991. Although the Raleigh–Durham area had growing local traffic, the connecting hub faced competition from Delta and Eastern in Atlanta and from USAir in Charlotte, as well as the short-lived Continental Airlines hub in Greensboro that opened in 1993. American began to consider closing the hub in late 1993; operations were reduced until June 1995 when American closed the hub, retaining flights to three AA hubs and London.[14]

Midway Airlines replaced AA as the airport's hub carrier from 1995 until 2003.[15] In 1995, Midway had flights to Boston, Hartford, Long Island, Newark, Newburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Washington in the Northeast, and to Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach in Florida.[16] American subleased its gates at RDU to Midway in order to repay $113 million in American-guaranteed bonds which had been used to construct the hub facilities.[17] Midway suspended service for some time after the September 11, 2001 attacks, ceased operations in 2002 and filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

An American Airlines Boeing 777-200 from London–Gatwick landing at RDU in 2005

American Airlines retained the daily nonstop flight from RDU to London, originally launched to Gatwick Airport in May 1994 with a Boeing 767-200ER. On March 29, 2008, American shifted the RDU-London flight to Heathrow Airport. The RDU-London flight uses two-class Boeing 777-200ERs.[18]

Post-hub years[edit]

RDU's post-hub years have brought the addition of several new carriers (notably Southwest Airlines and new destinations). Because of the economic downturn and high fuel prices in 2008, American ended the flights to Jacksonville, Kansas City, Newark and Louisville. Mainline flights to Austin, Columbus (OH), New York–La Guardia and St. Louis were also dropped and service to other cities was reduced or downgraded. Other airlines cut flights and destinations also, including United's service to Denver, US Airways' services to Las Vegas and Phoenix–Sky Harbor. ExpressJet ended its independent flights to Kansas City and New Orleans (ExpressJet now only operates as United Express and Delta Connection). In 2008 RDU lost over 30 flights from the March 2008 schedule.

In 2010 RDU's traffic began to recover. In the first few months of the year passenger numbers stabilized at RDU, ending the decrease in 2008/2009. In the first four months of 2010, 2.7 million passengers traveled through RDU.[19] Growth was flat, compared to the same period a year before, but these signs were positive, indicating that the decline was over. Also, after cutting service, carriers at RDU began to add (or re-add) new service to the schedule. In April 2010 Midwest Airlines resumed service from RDU, adding service to Milwaukee.[20] This route ended when Midwest was acquired by Frontier Airlines. Southwest Airlines, which began service to RDU in June 1999,[21] had also aggressively expanded at RDU, adding service to St. Louis in May, and replacing American Airlines as the largest carrier at RDU.[22][23] JetBlue Airways also increased service to Boston in May 2010.[24]

Delta Air Lines has increased operations since 2010, with resumed nonstop service to Los Angeles in June 2010,[25] followed by new nonstop service to Columbus (OH), Fort Myers, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, Baltimore, St. Louis and Tampa, and additional frequencies to Boston, Minneapolis–St. Paul and New York (JFK), in November 2010, and new services to Albany (NY) and Providence in April 2011.

The Inaugural Flight of Delta Air Lines' service from Raleigh–Durham to Paris

In February 2011 Continental Airlines commenced its first international flight from RDU, to Cancún. Delta added three daily flights to Baltimore in September 2011. In November Vision Airlines began operations at RDU and added a twice weekly flight to Freeport.[26] This service was taken over by Bahamasair in May 2012. United Airlines started the airport's first non-stop flight to San Francisco in August 2012. In December 2012 American Airlines announced the airport's first daily non-stop flight to Los Angeles, beginning in April 2013. April 2013 marked the return of Frontier Airlines with nonstop service to Trenton, New Jersey. Since then, Frontier has added non-stop service to Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland and Denver. Allegiant Air began their first non-stop services out of RDU to Orlando–Sanford, Punta Gorda/Fort Myers and St. Petersburg/Clearwater in May 2015. In September 2015, United resumed service to Denver at twice a day using 76-seat Embraer 175 jets. In April 2015, Alaska Airlines announced RDU's first daily non-stop flight to Seattle, beginning in October 2015.

In September 2015, RDU announced its second transatlantic flight, to Paris, which began in May 2016 and is operated by Delta using Boeing 767-300ER aircraft in the summer season and Boeing 757-200 aircraft during the winter season. In a Triangle Business Journal Article, published on March 2, 2016, Delta explicitly referred to Raleigh–Durham as a focus city. Since then Delta has added several new flights out of Raleigh–Durham including Austin, Nashville, Newark, Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington DC, and Seattle.


Raleigh–Durham has finished most of its construction with the completion of the Terminal 1 renovation, leading the airport to have the proper infrastructure until 2040. Nevertheless, the airport still owns nearly 2000 acres of unused land around the airport that it wants to develop. Some ideas for developing that land include an airport hotel or warehouse facilities.[27] For air service, the airport is looking at several domestic destinations including Portland and San Diego for new non-stop air service.[28] With the addition of the Paris flight, Raleigh is now looking into a transpacific flight, possibly to somewhere in India, the Middle East or China where companies such as Lenovo have frequent business flights.[29][30]

Non-Stop destination wishlist[31][32][edit]

Rank City (Domestic) Daily Passengers
1 San Diego, California 144
2 San Juan, Puerto Rico 86
3 Portland, Oregon 86
4 San Jose, California 82
5 San Antonio, Texas 82
6 Sacramento, California 63
7 Buffalo, New York 61
8 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 59
9 Santa Ana, California 56
10 Memphis, Tennessee 56
Rank City (International)
1 Mexico City, Mexico
2 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
3 Montego Bay, Jamaica
4 Beijing, China
5 Shanghai, China
6 Frankfurt, Germany

Airport facilities[edit]

Raleigh–Durham International Airport has terminals 1 (Concourse A gates A1–A9, though only A5–A8 are in use;[33] there is no Concourse B) and 2 (Concourse C gates C1–C25, Concourse D gates D1–D20). Gates C23, C24, and C25 are international gates and can accommodate aircraft up to the Boeing 747.The airport has implemented the most ambitious expansion in its history, begun in 2006 and completed in January 2011. Terminal 1 was re-opened after extensive renovation in 2014; and Terminal 2 was opened in 2008. The two terminals do not have an airside connection. Passengers moving between the terminals may ride a shuttle bus or take the moving walkway through the covered parking decks between the terminals.

Southwest Airlines is currently the only airline operating out of Terminal 1; all other airlines operate out of Terminal 2.[34]

Terminal 1[edit]

Terminal 1

The first terminal at RDU opened in 1955. Expanded in 1972 and again in 1976,[35] the building was named Terminal B in 1982 when the then-new Terminal A opened. The two terminals were connected by a landside interior walkway. Terminal B was closed in 1989. In 1994, Terminal B lost its identity when it was renovated into an extension of Terminal A; an airside walkway was added to link all gates. In 2001 the south end of Terminal A was extended to include five temporary gates; these gates were closed in 2009, as the airlines using them moved to other gates.

Terminal A was renamed Terminal 1 on October 26, 2008 to bring RDU in line with terminal naming conventions and to end years of confusion.

After years of proposals,[36][37] the 1981 part of Terminal 1 was closed in 2012 for a complete renovation. During this time, Southwest and AirTran continued to operate out of the pre-1981 part of Terminal 1. The building reopened on April 13, 2014 with nine gates; Southwest and AirTran occupied the rebuilt terminal.[38] The terminal achieved LEED certification in December 2014.[39] In 2016 the pre-1981 parts of Terminal 1 and the 2001 south-end extension were demolished due to expenses and lack of practical use of these ends of the building.[40][41]

Terminal 2[edit]

Terminal 2

Terminal 2 occupies the site of the former Terminal C, built between 1985 and 1987 for the American Airlines hub. In planning the terminal, American assumed that only around 20% of passengers would originate or terminate their trips in Raleigh–Durham; rather, Terminal C was optimized for the exchange of passengers between connecting flights, with a relatively small check-in and baggage claim area. In reality, connecting passengers only accounted for around two-thirds of the terminal's passengers. After the American and Midway hubs closed, the airport faced a decision about the future of Terminal C and how to eliminate the inconveniences it imposed on local passengers.[11]

In December 2003, the Airport Authority announced plans to expand and renovate the 300,000 sq ft (28,000 m2) building, transforming it into a new 900,000 sq ft (84,000 m2) facility. In January 2006, the airport instead decided to replace the building entirely.

Terminal 2 was designed by Fentress Architects under a philosophy of contextual regionalism, related to Critical regionalism. The terminal, invoking the flowing hills and culture of North Carolina's Piedmont region,[42] consisted of two phases of construction. The first, larger Phase 1 opened on October 26, 2008 while Phase 2 opened on January 23, 2011 in time for the 2011 NHL All Star Game.[19] Terminal 2 has 36 gates; three configured for international flights. All gates feature adjustable jetbridges that can accommodate aircraft from regional jets to Boeing 747s. The federal inspection area has 16 stations.

Airport lounges[edit]

The following Airport lounges are located in Terminal 2:

Cargo Terminal[edit]

North Cargo Terminal

The airport incorporates two cargo areas, North Cargo and South Cargo. The North Cargo terminal area is used by cargo airlines. The largest cargo operators are FedEx and UPS. The South Cargo terminal area is used by commercial airlines for cargo operations.

Fixed-base operators[edit]

The airport has two, full service fixed-base operators (FBOs) on the airfield:

Both FBOs offer:

  • 24 hour fuel services
  • heated hangars
  • internet cafe
  • maintenance services
  • sleep rooms
  • Catering
  • rental cars
  • US Customs
  • complimentary coffee
  • conference room
  • crew showers
  • hotel/dinner reservations
  • taxi/limousine services
  • flight training on site
  • tie-downs

General Aviation Terminal[edit]

General Aviation Terminal

RDU's General Aviation Terminal serves as:

  • Terminal for charter flights (sports, military and leisure)
  • Pilot's resource center
  • Private-event facility
  • Office for several local aviation-related companies
  • Indoor/outdoor observation deck (outdoor deck closed since 2016 for repairs), overlooking runway 5R/23L
  • Raleigh–Wake squadron of the North Carolina wing of the Civil Air Patrol Meeting Location
  • Rental Car Facility (military personnel and charter flight passengers)


RDU has three runways. Two parallel runways are designated 5L/23R and 5R/23L, and a cross-wind runway designated 14/32. Both parallel runways have been equipped with LED lights.

  • Runway 5L/23R: 10,000 by 150 feet (3,048 m × 46 m) (concrete)
  • Runway 5R/23L: 7,500 by 150 feet (2,286 m × 46 m) (asphalt)
  • Runway 14/32: 3,570 by 100 feet (1,088 m × 30 m) (asphalt)

Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, the RDU Airport Authority and Federal Aviation Administration planned a fourth runway at the airport, but with the demise of the Midway Airlines hub and the airline industry downturn following the terrorist attacks, this plan was placed on hold. During the period between May 27, 2008 and June 24, 2008, and between May 19, 2010 and June 17, 2010, runway 5R/23L was closed for renovation.[43]


Parking garage

In addition to standard hourly and daily parking garages, RDU operates four park-and-ride lots served by shuttle bus.

  • Lot 1 is a "cellphone waiting" lot
  • Lots 2 and 5 are used primarily for seasonal overflow and holiday traffic.
  • Lots 3 and 4 are traditional park-and-ride facilities.

There are 11,021 parking spaces available to passengers[44]


Observation areas[edit]

RDU maintains two public observation decks.

  • One deck overlooks runway 5L/23R near the air traffic control tower and park-and-ride lot 2. It has a playground with a simplistic model of RDU's runways for kids and air traffic communications are broadcast via a loudspeaker for the curious public.
  • The second deck is located at the General Aviation Terminal. This observation deck allows for both inside and outside viewing, but the outside deck has been closed for repairs since 2016. Crosswinds Cafe used to operate at this location, but has since closed.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations Refs
Air Canada Express Toronto–Pearson [47]
Alaska Airlines Seattle–Tacoma [48]
Allegiant Air Cincinnati, New Orleans, Orlando–Sanford, Punta Gorda (FL), St. Petersburg/Clearwater [49]
American Airlines Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami, New York–La Guardia, Philadelphia
Seasonal: Cancún
American Eagle New York–JFK, New York–La Guardia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington–National
Seasonal: Charlotte
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Boston (begins March 2, 2018), Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–La Guardia (begins October 1, 2018), Orlando (resumes December 23, 2017), Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Salt Lake City, Seattle–Tacoma
Seasonal: Cancún
Delta Connection Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus–Glenn, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New York–JFK, New York–La Guardia, Newark, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington–National
Seasonal: Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando
Frontier Airlines Austin, Cincinnati (begins April 9, 2018),[52] Kansas City (begins April 9, 2018),[52] Las Vegas, Orlando, Providence (begins April 8, 2018)[52]
Seasonal: Cleveland, Denver, Trenton
JetBlue Airways Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York–JFK [54]
OneJet Buffalo (Start Date TBD) [55]
Southwest Airlines Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby, Las Vegas, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, St. Louis, Tampa
Seasonal: Cancún (begins June 9, 2018)[56]
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Newark, San Francisco, Washington–Dulles
Seasonal: Houston–Intercontinental
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark, Washington–Dulles [58]
Virgin America San Francisco [59]


Airlines Destinations
Bankair Charlotte
Business Airfreight New Bern
FedEx Express Indianapolis, Memphis
Seasonal: Columbus (OH), Norfolk
UPS Airlines Louisville
Seasonal: Charlotte, Columbia, Greenville/Spartanburg, Norfolk, Philadelphia
UPS Airlines
operated by Centurion Air Cargo
Seasonal: Louisville
UPS Airlines
operated by Martinaire
Edenton, Jacksonville (NC), Manteo/Dare County, New Bern, Wilmington (NC)


An Air Canada Express (formerly Air Canada Jazz) Bombardier CRJ-900 taxiing at RDU
A JetBlue Embraer ERJ-190 taking off from RDU
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 taking off from RDU

Top destinations[edit]

Busiest Domestic Routes from RDU (Sep 2016 – Aug 2017)[60]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Georgia (U.S. state) Atlanta, Georgia 701,000 Delta, Southwest
2 North Carolina Charlotte, North Carolina 341,000 American
3 New York (state) New York–La Guardia, New York 262,000 American, Delta
4 Illinois Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 262,000 American, United
5 Massachusetts Boston, Massachusetts 255,000 Delta, JetBlue
6 New Jersey Newark, New Jersey 250,000 Delta, United
7 New York (state) New York–JFK, New York 244,000 American, Delta, JetBlue
8 Maryland Baltimore, Maryland 240,000 Delta, Southwest
9 Texas Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 229,000 American
10 Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 223,000 American, Delta, Frontier
* All New York Airports 756,000 American, Delta, JetBlue, United

Top International Destinations[edit]

Top International Destinations by Weekly Departures
Rank City Departures Carriers
1 Canada Toronto, Canada 21–28 Air Canada
2 United Kingdom London, United Kingdom 7 American
3 France Paris, France 6–7 Delta
4 Mexico Cancún, Mexico 3 American, Delta, Southwest (June 2018)

RDU Terminal Information[edit]

Terminals Airlines
Terminal 1 Southwest Airlines (all departures)
Terminal 2C American Airlines (international and domestic), American Eagle, Delta Air Lines (international and domestic), Delta Connection, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines (international arrivals only)
Terminal 2D Air Canada Express, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Eagle, Delta Air Lines (domestic only), Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, United Express, Virgin America

Annual Traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at RDU, 1985 through 2017[61]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers
2010 9,101,920 2000 10,438,585 1990 9,265,665
2009 8,973,398 1999 8,941,775 1989 8,594,671
2008 9,715,928 1998 7,228,653 1988 7,352,007
2017 9,641,110 (Jan–Oct) 2007 10,037,424 1997 6,724,874 1987 4,854,073
2016 11,049,143 2006 9,432,925 1996 6,417,871 1986 3,100,002
2015 9,943,331 2005 9,303,904 1995 5,937,135 1985 2,771,009
2014 9,545,360 2004 8,637,606 1994 8,999,491
2013 9,186,748 2003 7,912,547 1993 9,695,886
2012 9,220,391 2002 8,241,253 1992 9,925,364
2011 9,161,279 2001 9,584,087 1991 9,381,586

Airline market share[edit]

Largest Airlines at RDU (Sep 2016 – Aug 2017)[62]
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 Delta Air Lines 2,355,000 29.9%
2 American Airlines 2,045,000 27.2%
3 Southwest Airlines 1,683,000 21.0%
4 United Airlines 768,000 12.4%

Ground transportation[edit]

Public transit[edit]

Public transportation to and from RDU is provided by GoTriangle, which offers scheduled, fixed-route regional and commuter bus service between the airport, Amtrak and the principal cities of Raleigh, Durham and town of Chapel Hill (where GoTriangle connects with the respective local urban transit systems), as well as to and from Research Triangle Park and several of the region's larger suburban communities.

  • GoTriangle Route 100
  • Taxicab service at RDU is operated by RDU Taxi Inc.
  • Shuttle services: As in most regions, numerous hotels throughout the area offer guest shuttles to and from the airport. Service varies by location, however most are available from approximately 6 a.m. daily through the final arrival/departure of the evening.
  • Major rental car providers operate from the airport.
  • Rideshare companies Uber, Lyft and Wingz operate at the airport and pickup/dropoff riders at the "Pre-arranged Zones" outside baggage claim at both terminals.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On February 19, 1988, AVAir Flight 3378, a Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner was on a regularly scheduled flight between Raleigh and Richmond when it crashed into a reservoir about a mile from the airport, where it had departed in the vicinity of Cary, North Carolina: The aircraft departed during low ceiling, low visibility and night conditions. Analysis of radar data indicated the aircraft was in a 45-degree descending turn. Both crew members and all 10 passengers were killed. It was revealed during the investigation that the pilot had complained of illness but decided to continue the flight.
  • On December 13, 1994, American Eagle Flight 3379 operated by AMR's regional airline Flagship Airlines,[63] a Jetstream 31 was on a regularly scheduled service of Raleigh-Greensboro-Raleigh when it crashed into a wooded area about 4 miles (6.4 km) SW of the airport, in the vicinity of Morrisville, NC. Of the 20 onboard (18 passengers and 2 crewmembers) 15 were killed while the 5 survivors received serious injuries. The probable cause of the crash was the pilot not following proper procedure when it came to an engine failure situation.[64]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

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  64. ^ American Eagle Flight 3379 NTSB Brief Report

External links[edit]