RDU and the Mystery of Mexico City

As far as we know, there aren’t any ghosts lurking on the concourse of Terminal 2. We’ve had no reported sightings of phantom planes heading toward our runway in the wee hours of the night. But there is a mystery at the airport, and it’s found in our data. It has to do with Mexico City. 

There's an unexplained rise in travel to Mexico City. Can you help us explain it?

There’s an unexplained rise in travel to Mexico City. Can you help us explain it?

There’s no non-stop service from RDU to Mexico City. Yet travel to Mexico’s capital has increased dramatically in the past few years, and our air service analysts are stumped as to why.  Perhaps you can help solve the mystery.

What we know

In air service terminology, the phrase passengers per day each way, abbreviated PDEW, tells us how many people travel between two cities.  You expect that number to be high for cities that have non-stop connections and a little lower for those that don’t.

In 2009, the PDEW for Mexico City was 20. Today, it’s 34. That’s close to double in just four years. That means each day, an average of 34 people begins their travels at RDU and end at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. Not connecting, but ending their trip there. And the same average is on the return.

At first glance, that seems like a tiny increase, but trust us, that’s quite a jump in passenger volume.

There’s a wealth of data available to airline and airport planners. In that data we can see how those 34 people daily connect to Mexico City. It generally happens three ways:

  • Atlanta, a Delta hub
  • Houston, an United hub
  • Dallas, an American hub 

The increase is so huge that it’s caused the growth of traffic to Mexico City to outpace traffic to cities like Albuquerque, Dayton, Tulsa and Honolulu. The city is also now on our list of top five international markets passengers travel to from RDU.

  1. London
  2. Cancun
  3. Mexico City
  4. Toronto
  5. Paris 

The Unknown

What we’re missing is why. Why do so many people travel between RDU and Mexico City each day? What is the purpose of their travel? What’s the connection between our cities? The answer isn’t easily found, even as we work closely with our chambers of commerce and economic development partners.

Having Answers

So why is this important? We want to know what the ties are to Mexico City so that we can work with airlines on improving air service.  At 34 people per day, we aren’t expecting new non-stop service in the near future, but we could see more convenient connections and our air service staff could begin lobbying for one-stop, same plane service.

The bottom line: There’s a mystery in the data regarding Mexico City, and we’d like your help to understand what is drawing people to that particular destination each day.  Is there a business or industry connection from that area? Is it a popular vacation spot?  Once we solve the mystery, we’ll be working to make the trip from RDU easier.

Can you solve this mystery? Tell me in the comments below!

About Andrew Sawyer

Marketing Communications Specialist Andrew is the main writer for RDU’s website, electronic communication and airport publications. He’s also the primary face behind RDU’s social media channels. Andrew also helps with other things, from media relations to ordering office supplies. Just don’t ask him to get coffee.
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10 Responses to RDU and the Mystery of Mexico City

  1. Ed says:

    How is the Mexico City PDEW higher than Toronto which has multiple daily non-stops? The vast majority of people are connecting via Toronto and hot finishing their travel there?

  2. Chris says:

    Maybe going to Cuba under the radar? We’re going there legally next year, but I know numerous travel agencies that book trips with other non-US tourists and send them through Mexico City or Toronto. Just a thought.

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    No idea why but your data is really fascinating! I love hearing your priorities and potential non-stop options in the future!

  4. Sanket says:

    I am surprised the Top 5 list does not include Mumbai or Delhi ,since the AA flight to London has more passengers India bound than for London city itself. Maybe that’s a phenomenon which only I have noticed,

    • Jan says:

      Well, no one would serve it profitably. It’s a long trip from any US city to India and even if it was easy, there are other cities with more demand than RDU that would get more attention.

  5. Jim Halpert says:

    I work for a Telecom Hardware company in the Park, and a lot of my colleagues travel down there to meet with customers such as Telmex and Telefonica. There is a lot of spending from Carlos Slim and company.

  6. Stephen Z. says:

    I was just going to talk about this with Dave Young, the airport director that you guys sent me an e-mail to, when I had the time to do so. Indeed, there are many things that are driving the huge growth in traffic between Raleigh and not just Mexico City, but cities throughout the country. My theory is that this started initially with a large influx of immigrants into Central North Carolina for jobs in the agricultural field, with many of them from the area around the cities of Puebla (a short distance away from Mexico City) and Veracruz (a port city on the Gulf). Though this doesn’t really translate fully into long-term growth of travel between the two cities on its own, there is likely now a developing trail of business and industry between Central North Carolina and Mexico thanks to this growing spot of Mexican settlement. Any potential flight addition to Mexico City probably should not be marketed just for travelers to the city itself, but for well-timed connections to other, lesser-known cities in Mexico. And if that, I would only start marketing it 20 years from now, when the market gets a little larger. I hope this information helps you guys in the near-future.

  7. Raymond Voigt says:

    The economy in Mexico has been picking up considerably. I’ve been to Guadalajara four times in the past year due to technology project work. The cities are booming and many US and international companies are expanding their operations throughout Mexico. I would surmise that there are many pharma company employees that are traveling to Mexico, in addition to tech employees like myself.
    I’m not traveling through MEX, since there are connections through ATL and IAH to GDL, but every flight I’ve been on to Mexico has been full. (CRJ-700s and BRJ-145s) Mexico is a modern country with developed infrastructure and a well-educated middle class. Since China is losing its low-wage advantage, has large language barriers, and is distant from N. American markets, Mexico is becoming the location of choice for international companies.

  8. Alan says:

    One additional thought that I do not see reflected in the comments: People flying to Mexico to visit family and friends may fly to MEX and then transfer to an intercity bus. Long distance bus service is much more prevalent in Mexico than in the United States.

    • Alan says:

      Two other thoughts: there’s a lot of work going on between the US and Mexico on environmental protection, and the Research Triangle is a center for such planning and research (EPA, RTI, Abt, Duke, etc).

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