We’ve arrived. In more ways than one, we have indeed arrived at RDU. Right now, passengers are enjoying a beautiful new terminal as Terminal 1 is now open. But, we’ve also arrived after 15+ years of construction of world class facilities. We’ve also arrived at the start of a new journey for the airport and our region.
Terminal 1 was long called the blue box for its original appearance. Its transformation, however, reminds us that going forward we should think “out of the box” about the role of RDU in the community. Our new journey is about going out-of-the-box to seize new opportunities… but maybe not those just with bricks and mortar.
The word building in our future has a different meaning.
It means building the customer experience. RDU no doubt has world-class terminals and facilities. The question we ask ourselves is: do we provide a world-class travel experience? We do, but we can do more. What can we do that would take the travel experience at RDU to the next level? We’re ready to explore the possibilities.
It means that we must build our reach. Did you know that 2 million people travel between RDU and international destinations each year? That’s a phenomenal amount of international travel, especially given that we have one daily, yet highly successful, non-stop transatlantic route. As a region, we must build our support for more global destinations. After all, one international flight has a $60 million impact on our region.
It means that we must build partnerships. To develop that reach, we must pursue new ventures with regional and state economic developers. Why? Air service development is economic development and as an airport, air service development is a core part of our business. In 2012, a N.C. Department of Transportation report found that RDU has an $8 billion annual economic impact on our region and is responsible for more than 20,000 jobs. That success only comes by each of us working together.
It means that we must build new ideas. Recently, we completed a land use study with the Urban Land Institute to explore new ideas for the land surrounding RDU. We understand that much of RDU’s 5,000 acres will never be needed for aeronautical purposes. So, what we do with that land to improve the economic health of the airport and our region? This is a question we will be answering in the future.
It’s in our mutual best interest that we rethink what RDU does and how we move forward on a new journey together. We’re heading toward takeoff on a new era of travel for RDU and our region.