Is Raleigh-Durham the next battleground for airlines?

Michael Garko, Fly Guys Blog

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) announced this week that the month of May was its busiest month in airport history, with over 500,000 travelers flying through the North Carolina airport.

rdu aa hub

American Airlines opened its Raleigh-Durham hub nearly 30 years ago. The hub was subsequently closed in the early 1990s. Photo courtesy Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority.

“We are fortunate to live in a growing region, with a very healthy economy and with residents who travel frequently. Our focus is on providing a world-class experience while meeting the growing air service needs of our region for decades to come,” said RDUAA President and C.E.O. Michael Landguth at a monthly airport board meeting.

May’s passenger count represents a 15.3% growth over May 2015.

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May also signified another milestone when Delta Air Lines began daily nonstop service to Paris’ Charles De Gaulle, making RDU the only non-hub airport with two daily transatlantic flights. American Airlines also offers daily service to London Heathrow.

The recent spike in growth has singled that a fight among three of the nation’s largest carriers for market share is on the horizon.

Last month, Delta also announced it would begin three times daily service to Newark Liberty International Airport this fall. Newark will be the 23rd destination Delta will serve from Raleigh-Durham according to the airline. Since 2010, Delta has grown by 60 percent at RDU, making it the busiest carrier at the airport with nearly 70 daily departures.

The addition of Newark service was seen as a direct attack aimed at rival United Airlines, who has a major hub at Newark.

In response to Delta’s encroachment onto its turf, United will soon announce it will begin its own service to Delta’s hub at New York LaGuardia in October. Delta has also responded by upgrading some of their LaGuardia flights to mainline service in August.

Another legacy carrier, American Airlines, will also upgrade its service to LaGuardia next month by upgrading some flights to mainline service.

American has seen its market share dwindle at RDU over recent years after eliminating service to many cities and downgrading several remaining destinations to regional carriers.

Delta has been on the offensive since American made significant cuts, adding service to many of the cities American once served. Delta has also taken on American head-on with seasonal service to Miami and Philadelphia, major hubs for American. In August, Delta will also begin daily service to another American hub, Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

“The Triangle is a key market for Delta, and we are committed to supporting this growing community’s demand for service,” Victoria Forbes-Roberts, Delta’s VP – Pricing and Revenue Management, said in a statement announcing the carrier’s Newark service. “With our investments in new service, the airport, and surrounding cities, Delta’s goal is to become the global carrier of choice for the region.”

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