At today’s Airport Authority board meeting, I shared our passenger numbers for 2012. The number of travelers passing through RDU rose just under one percent. Several years ago, this may have been surprising, particularly in our region, but today, flat growth is the new normal.
The economic downturn has had an impact on almost every industry, aviation included. In the past several years, we have seen airlines change their business models, merge with other airlines and/or declare bankruptcy in response to the economy and high fuel costs. Even today, airlines continue to test new strategies to help them maximize their profits.
The result has been fewer seats available for purchase, which means fewer passengers. However, the load factors, or percentage of seats filled on the planes flying out of RDU continues to rise. This tells us there is demand for service.
At RDU, we are adapting to this new environment in many ways. Not the least of which is strengthening our community partnerships. In the past month, we have announced new, expanded or additional service to four cities. So you may ask, doesn’t this mean our region is still strong enough to attract new service?
Yes, but there’s more to the story. The Research Triangle Region is a strong market and attractive to airlines, but, today, it takes more than that. RDU and the business community must work together to attract and retain new service.
And that is what we are doing. We are reaching out to our economic development and business leaders to explore ways that we, as a community, can attract the air service our region needs to help it do business.
You depend on RDU to get you where you need to go. We will work hard to ensure we provide the service that will bring great things to our region.