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Raleigh–Durham International Airport

Coordinates: 35°52′40″N 078°47′15″W / 35.87778°N 78.78750°W / 35.87778; -78.78750
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Raleigh–Durham International Airport
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorRaleigh–Durham Airport Authority
ServesThe Research Triangle Metropolitan Region of North Carolina
LocationCedar Fork Township, Wake County, North Carolina, U.S.
OpenedMay 1, 1943; 81 years ago (1943-05-01)
Focus city forDelta Air Lines
Operating base forAvelo Airlines
Elevation AMSL436 ft / 133 m
Coordinates35°52′40″N 078°47′15″W / 35.87778°N 78.78750°W / 35.87778; -78.78750
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
Direction Length Surface
ft m
05L/23R 10,000 3,048 Concrete
05R/23L 7,500 2,286 Asphalt
14/32 3,570 1,088 Asphalt
05L/23R 10,639 3,243 Under Construction (Concrete)
Statistics (2023)
Total Passengers14,523,996
Aircraft movements216,081
Air Cargo (lbs.)202,642,566
Sources: RDU website[1]

Raleigh–Durham International Airport (IATA: RDU, ICAO: KRDU, FAA LID: RDU), locally known by its IATA code RDU, is an international airport that serves Raleigh, Durham, and the surrounding Research Triangle region of North Carolina as its main airport. It is located in unincorporated Wake County, but is surrounded by the city of Raleigh to the north and east, and the towns of Cary and Morrisville to the south. The airport covers 5,000 acres (20 km2) and has three runways.[2][3]

As of 2024, RDU offers nonstop passenger service to 59 domestic destinations and 10 international destinations with more than 500 average daily aircraft movements.[4] The RDU Airport Authority is in charge of the airport facilities and operations and is controlled by a board of representatives from the counties of Wake and Durham and the cities of Raleigh and Durham.[5]

Raleigh–Durham International Airport is the second-largest airport in the state of North Carolina, behind Charlotte Douglas International Airport. It is an operating base for Avelo Airlines and a focus city for Delta Air Lines.

In 2023, RDU served a record 14.5 million passengers which broke the airport's record of 14.2 million passengers set in 2019. Joining the existing international network, RDU announced nonstop service to Frankfurt, Mexico City, and Panama City to begin in 2024.



Early view 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. RDU's first scheduled jets were Eastern 727s in 1965.

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 Air Lines, People Express, New York Air and Pan Am had all put in appearances.

Hub years[edit]

American built a terminal at RDU between 1985 and 1987 to house a new hub, and flew to 38 cities when the hub started in June 1987.[11] The December 1987 timetable shows AA nonstops to 36 airports and American Eagle prop nonstops to 18 more. American later flew to London-Gatwick and Paris-Orly.[12] The RDU hub operated at a loss even during its heyday in the early 1990s, like the hub AA had at Nashville.[13] American's December 1992 timetable, around the time of the hub's peak, showed 211 daily departures to 64 destinations, almost all in the eastern United States (the westernmost destinations being American's hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago–O'Hare).[14] The hub faced intense competition from Delta and Eastern in Atlanta, Northwest in Memphis, and from USAir in Charlotte, as well as the short-lived Continental hub in Greensboro that opened in 1993.[15] American began to consider closing the hub in late 1993; operations were reduced until June 1995 when American closed the hub.[14][15]

American retained a daily nonstop flight to London, which continued to operate until the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed in 2022.[16][17][18] The RDU-London route was originally launched based on a purchasing commitment from GlaxoSmithKline, which has major offices at both ends of the route; however, the route is no longer dependent on GSK for revenue.[19]

Midway Airlines replaced AA as the airport's hub carrier from 1995 until 2003.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] Midway suspended service for some time after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and ceased operations in 2002, filing for bankruptcy in 2003.

Recent history[edit]

RDU Airport structure

RDU's post-hub years have brought the addition of new carriers and destinations, notably discount carriers such as Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines. Because of the economic downturn and high fuel prices in 2008, American ended most point to point flights it operated out of the airport. Several mainline flights were also dropped and service to other cities was reduced or downgraded. Other airlines also cut flights and destinations including United Airlines and US Airways. Also in 2008, the airport was modernized; the current rebuilt Terminal 2 opened, on the site of the old Terminal C that was built in 1987. The rebuilt was completed in 2011, and was designed by Fentress Architects.[23][24]

By 2010, RDU's traffic began to recover. In the first few months of the year, passenger numbers stabilized at RDU, ending the decrease the airport experienced in 2008 and 2009. In the first four months of 2010, 2.7 million passengers traveled through RDU.[25] Growth was flat compared to the same period a year before, but these signs were positive indicating that the decline was over. Airlines at RDU began to add new services to the schedule with both legacy and low-cost carriers significantly increasing service since the early 2010s.

Delta Air Lines maintains a focus city operation at RDU, which it decided to maintain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the area's strong economy and lack of a dominant network carrier.[26]

In November 2022, Avelo Airlines announced the opening of an operating base at Raleigh-Durham. The airline anticipates to have as many as 7 aircraft in the first 2 years and 50 crew members in the first year based at RDU. In a route announcement in March 2023, the airline announced a second aircraft was coming to RDU, as well as 35 additional jobs.


The Vision 2040 Master Plan details several major improvements that are aimed to be made by 2040. Proposed in 2017 by the RDU Airport Authority, the plan calls for major additions and renovations of current facilities at the airport. This includes the construction of a consolidated rental car facility, an on-site hotel, expansion of parking lots, expansion of both terminals, improvements to the taxiway layout, and the replacement of both runways. The proposal included lengthening runway 5R/23L to 9,000 feet (2,700 m) and rebuilding runway 5L/23R to a length of 11,500 feet (3,500 m) just northwest of its current position. The existing runway 5L/23R will become a taxiway for the new runway. After modifying the planned runway length multiple times, the FAA authorized the construction of the new runway on September 5, 2023.[27] The construction of RDU's new 5L/23R runway began on October 11, 2023. The new runway will be built at a length of 10,639 feet (3,243 m) and is anticipated to be finished in 5 years.[28]

In June 2023, the Airport Authority Board approved an agreement to advance the planning process for terminal 1 expansion to allow for future growth as RDU reached new passenger traffic records and destinations served. RDU is also planning on expanding their customs and border patrol center to accommodate for the increase of international flights at RDU.[29]


RDU Airport interior


The airport contains two terminals with a total of 45 gates.[30] 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. All non-pre–cleared international flights are processed in Terminal 2. All arriving international flights arrive from gates C22, C23, C24 and C25. They then walk up the escalator in the international gate area and walk on the walkway passing the C gates to the US Customs and Border Patrol facility. Here, they go through Passport Control, grab their bags, and head through Customs. International arrivals exit the Customs and Border Patrol facility at baggage claim 1 and connecting passengers must go back through security. Both terminals are additionally served by GoTriangle's 100 and RDU Shuttle routes.

  • Terminal 1 contains 9 gates, A1–A9. The Vision2040 plan proposes the addition of 4, 7, 12 or 15 gates. The terminal is used by Alaska Airlines, Avelo, Breeze Airways, Southwest, Spirit, and Sun Country. In 2024, RDU moved 3 airlines in Terminal 2 to maximize check-in, gate space, and overall terminal space for airlines at Terminal 2. All International flights depart terminal 2.
  • Terminal 2 Contains 36 gates, with concourses C and D. This is the only terminal at RDU that hosts international arrivals, utilizing gates C22–C25. Aeroméxico Connect, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Bahamasair, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Icelandair, JetBlue, Lufthansa and United fly from Terminal 2.[30]

Cargo areas[edit]

The airport incorporates two cargo areas, North Cargo and South Cargo.[31] 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.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Aeroméxico Connect Mexico City (begins July 1, 2024)[32][33]
Air Canada Express Toronto–Pearson
Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle [35]
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma [36]
American Airlines Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami, New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Washington–National
Seasonal: Cancún
American Eagle Austin, Chicago–O'Hare, Cincinnati, Nashville, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Pittsburgh, Washington–National
Seasonal: Miami
Avelo Airlines Albany, Fort Myers, Manchester (NH), New Haven (CT), Rochester (NY)
Seasonal: West Palm Beach
Bahamasair Freeport [39]
Breeze Airways Akron/Canton, Columbus–Glenn, Hartford, Long Island/Islip, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Providence, San Diego, Tampa, West Palm Beach (begins June 21, 2024)[40]
Seasonal: Burlington (VT),[41] Fort Myers, Jacksonville (FL), Portland (ME),[41] Syracuse,[41] White Plains[42]
Copa Airlines Panama City–Tocumen (begins June 21, 2024)[44] [45]
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa
Seasonal: Cancún
Delta Connection Austin, Cincinnati, Nashville, Newark, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Washington–National [46]
Frontier Airlines Atlanta, Boston, Chicago–O'Hare,[47] Denver, Miami, New York–LaGuardia, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Juan, Tampa
Seasonal: Buffalo, Chicago–Midway, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Hartford, Houston–Intercontinental, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Milwaukee,[47][48] Pittsburgh,[49] Portland (ME), Syracuse, Trenton
Icelandair Reykjavík–Keflavík [51]
JetBlue Boston, Cancún, Fort Lauderdale, New York–JFK, Orlando, San Juan [52]
Lufthansa Frankfurt[53] [54]
Southwest Airlines Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby, Nashville, Orlando, St. Louis, Tampa
Seasonal: Kansas City, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale, Miami [56]
Sun Country Airlines Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul [57]
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark, San Francisco, Washington–Dulles [58]
United Express Houston–Intercontinental, Newark, Washington–Dulles
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare


FedEx Express Indianapolis, Memphis
Seasonal: Atlanta, Greensboro, Harrisburg, Newark
FedEx Feeder New Bern, Wilmington (NC)
Quest Diagnostics Charter: Concord, Reading [59][60]
UPS Airlines Louisville, Manteo/Dare County, New Bern, Ontario, Wilmington (NC)
Seasonal: Atlanta, Charlotte, Edenton, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Jacksonville (NC), Orlando


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from RDU (March 2023 – February 2024)[62]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Georgia (U.S. state) Atlanta, Georgia 697,400 Delta, Frontier, Southwest
2 North Carolina Charlotte, North Carolina 487,280 American
3 Florida Orlando, Florida 401,440 Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest
4 New York (state) New York–JFK, New York 316,720 American, Delta, JetBlue
5 Colorado Denver, Colorado 308,780 Frontier, Southwest, United
6 Texas Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 303,390 American, Frontier
7 New York (state) New York–LaGuardia, New York 291,220 American, Delta, Frontier
8 Illinois Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 283,040 American, Frontier, United
9 Massachusetts Boston, Massachusetts 272,360 Delta, Frontier, JetBlue
10 New Jersey Newark, New Jersey 266,680 Delta, United
Busiest international routes from RDU (January – December 2023)[63]
Rank Airport Passengers % Change from Oct '22 - Sep '23 Ranking Carriers
1 United Kingdom London–Heathrow, United Kingdom 122,974 Increase 6.54% Steady American
2 France Paris-Charles de Gaulle, France 117,415 Increase 3.96% Steady Air France, Delta
3 Canada Toronto–Pearson, Canada 90,792 Decrease 0.46% Steady Air Canada
4 Iceland Reykjavík–Keflavík, Iceland 52,312 Increase 6.51% Steady Icelandair
5 Mexico Cancún, Mexico 25,613 Decrease 8.65% ` Increase 1 American, Delta, JetBlue
6 Canada Montréal–Trudeau, Canada 22,164 Decrease 26.46% Decrease 1 Air Canada
7 The Bahamas Freeport, Bahamas 6,306 Increase 2.77% Steady Bahamasair
8 Germany Frankfurt, Germany Began June 2024 N/A Steady Lufthansa
9 Mexico Mexico City, Mexico Begins July 2024 N/A Steady Aeromexico
10 Panama Panama City-Tocumen, Panama Begins June 2024 N/A Steady Copa Airlines

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at RDU airport. See Wikidata query.

Annual traffic at RDU[edit]

Annual Passengers at RDU Enplaned and Deplaned 1985-Present[64]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers
1985 2,771,009 1995 5,937,135 2005 9,303,904 2015 10,015,244
1986 3,100,002 1996 6,417,871 2006 9,432,925 2016 11,049,143
1987 4,854,073 1997 6,724,874 2007 10,037,424 2017 11,653,693
1988 7,352,007 1998 7,228,653 2008 9,715,928 2018 12,801,697
1989 8,594,671 1999 8,941,775 2009 8,973,398 2019 14,218,621
1990 9,265,665 2000 10,438,585 2010 9,101,920 2020 4,883,913
1991 9,381,586 2001 9,584,087 2011 9,161,279 2021 8,795,128
1992 9,925,364 2002 8,241,253 2012 9,220,391 2022 11,842,330
1993 9,695,886 2003 7,912,547 2013 9,186,748 2023 14,523,996
1994 8,999,491 2004 8,637,606 2014 9,545,360 2024

Airline market share[edit]

Largest airlines at RDU (March 2023 – February 2024)[65]
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 Delta Air Lines 2,931,000 21.08%
2 American Airlines 2,899,000 20.85%
3 Southwest Airlines 2,101,000 15.11%
4 United Airlines 1,557,000 11.20%
5 Frontier Airlines 1,109,000 7.98%
Other 3,305,000 23.77%

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On January 2, 1953, a USAF Douglas C-47 crashed near RDU attempting to land with rain and low visibility after diverting from Pope AFB in Fayetteville. The aircraft crashed nearly two miles south of the airport in Crabtree Park. Three out of the four occupants died.[66]
  • On Wednesday, November 12, 1975, Eastern Air Lines Flight 576, a Boeing 727-225, crashed while attempting to land on runway 23 (now runway 23 Left). The aircraft hit the ground 282 feet (86 m) short of the runway and bounced back into the air before coming down on the runway and sliding 4,150 feet (1,260 m) down the runway, stopping where the south end of Terminal 1 is today. Of the 139 persons on the flight, eight were injured, one seriously. The NTSB investigation initially blamed the crash on "the pilot's failure to execute a missed approach when he lost sight of the runway environment in heavy rain below decision height." The accident report and probable cause were later revised to include the influence of undetected wind shear.[67] The aircraft (Boeing 727-225, N8838E) sustained major damage and was moved to an area on the north end of closed runway 18. A temporary structure was built around the aircraft which was eventually repaired and returned to service.
  • On December 31, 1986, a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 1502 was wounded after a local hunter fired his rifle from the ground into the airframe of the landing aircraft. Robert Raymond Proulx, fired a bullet through the fuselage wounding a passenger (Barry Rollins) in the thigh and the cheek as the projectile ricocheted inside the cabin.[68][69][70]
  • On February 19, 1988, AVAir Flight 3378, a Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner was on a regularly scheduled flight between Raleigh and Richmond operating for American Eagle when it crashed into a reservoir about a mile from the airport in the vicinity of Cary. The aircraft had 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,[71] 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. Of the 20 onboard (18 passengers and two crewmembers) 15 were killed while the five 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.[72]
  • On July 31, 2000, a Win Win Aviation de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed on approach nearly two miles SSW of RDU on a positioning flight due to fog and darkness. The pilot was not instrument rated to fly in bad weather. One crewmember out of the three occupants died.[73]
  • On October 20, 2019, a Piper PA-32 crashed in a wooded area of Umstead State Park on approach to runway 32. Both occupants of the plane died.[74]
  • On July 29, 2022, a CASA C-212 Aviocar from Raeford West Airport made an emergency landing and subsequently slid off runway 23L due to its lack of right landing gear. On approach, the 23-year old co-pilot, Charles Hew Crooks, exited the plane over Fuquay-Varina and subsequently died. The pilot was transported to the hospital with minor injuries as the result of a rough landing.[75][76]
  • On April 25, 2024, a Socata TBM 850 from Wilmington operated by UNC Air Operations crashed during landing on runway 32. The pilot and one passenger were both injured.[77]

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency

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  75. ^ Johnson, Kristen. "27-year-old man who 'exited' plane found dead in Fuquay-Varina after massive search". newsobserver.com. News & Observer. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  76. ^ Burnside, Tina (July 30, 2022). "Federal officials are investigating the death of a co-pilot who exited a plane in mid-air in North Carolina". cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  77. ^ "Medical plane crash at RDU: UNC doctor sent home from hospital, pilot still undergoing treatment". ABC 11. Retrieved April 25, 2024.

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