Despite COVID-19, RDU Expects Busy Weekend for Labor Day
It’ll be a bit like the good old days at Raleigh-Durham International Airport this weekend as a surprisingly busy summer travel season draws to a close.
RDU expects 120,000 passengers to pass through the airport from Friday to Monday. That’s only about 6,000 less than expected over the Labor Day weekend of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic decimates air travel.
Friday is expected to be the busiest day, with 34,000 passengers coming and going at RDU. Labor Day will likely be the second busiest weekend at the airport so far this year, after July 4.
Passenger traffic has increased at RDU every month since February, in large part thanks to leisure travelers taking vacations or visiting families after a year of pandemic captivity. So many people were coming to the airport that RDU reopened its Economy 3 remote parking lot just before Memorial Day weekend, which it didn’t expect to have until 2024.
But RDU doesn’t expect it to be so crowded again until the end of December. While summer is the airport’s busiest season, business travelers generally make up for the loss of leisure travel in the fall. With COVID-19 still rampant in the country, that is not expected to happen this year.
“As students return to school and leisure travel declines, RDU’s seven-month growth streak may be on hold until December vacation,” the airport spokeswoman said Tuesday. , Crystal Feldman.
Airlines delay plans to restore some flights
The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer has curtailed some airline plans to resume service from the Triangle.
Delta Air Lines, RDU’s busiest carrier in terms of passenger traffic, had planned to resume non-stop flights to nine cities in September, all traditional business destinations such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Newark and Cincinnati. The airline either delayed the start of these flights or simply took them off the schedule.
And Air Canada had planned to resume three daily non-stop RDU flights to Toronto and one to Montreal on September 7. It now provides for a single daily non-stop to Toronto in September, followed by a second in October and the resumption of service to Montreal in January 2022..
Still, the return of non-stop flights to Toronto will be an important step in RDU’s recovery from the pandemic. An Air Canada arrival from Toronto on March 31, 2020 was the last international flight to RDU as air travel collapsed in the first weeks of the pandemic. Toronto will now become RDU’s third international destination, after JetBlue flights to Cancun, Mexico, and Montego Bay, Jamaica, which began late last year.
And in another sign of normalcy at RDU, United Airlines has reopened its passenger lounge in Terminal 2, joining Delta and American Airlines to restore that benefit to frequent flyers.
According to RDU, an August survey of people who passed through the airport shows growing confidence in the safety of air travel. The survey found that 79% of those polled said they would feel safe traveling to the airport in August, up from 54% in a similar survey in March.
Additionally, 90% of passengers surveyed said they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That compares with 60% of North Carolina residents aged 18 or older, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.