Going The Distance For New Air Service

Recruiting new air service is like a running a marathon. It takes a long time, a steady pace and a healthy dose of patience to attract an airline to establish or expand service at your airport. And, in this marathon, I just completed a very distant leg of the race. 

A snowy shot of Edmonton, which recently played host to an airline/airport recruiting conference.

A snowy shot of Edmonton, which recently played host to an airline/airport recruiting conference.

Recently, I was in Edmonton, Canada. Edmonton is perhaps known best in our region as the home of the Edmonton Oilers, the northernmost team in the National Hockey League. Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), which is a major trade group representing airports, chose Edmonton to host one of its semi-annual Jumpstart conferences.

We’ve shared about these conferences before.  They’re akin to speed dating the airlines. Weeks in advance, we submit a list of airlines we’d like to meet with and the airlines submit a list of airports they’re interested in speaking to. ACI-NA does the matching. Over the course of a two-day period, you receive a number of guaranteed one-on-one meetings with airlines without having to travel to each company’s corporate headquarters.

There, more than 2,400 miles from RDU, in 20 minute private meetings, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of airlines. Some currently serve RDU and others don’t. I talked to them about launching new routes from our wish list and about improving service on routes they currently operate. I had some very engaging discussions and honest conversations.

While my trip didn’t “seal the deal” on additions to our route map or increases in the number of flights to our destinations, I did move all of our conversations with airlines forward. Air service recruitment is a marathon and the important thing is that we had face time with the airlines, as well as an opportunity to put RDU in the front of their minds.

Our region is strong. Our data showing the need for new and expanded flights is very strong. Our potential for future growth is strong. In today’s aviation environment, we’re competing with every other airport in the country for new and expanded service. And while our data shows the potential for profitable service, another airport may have even stronger data, which means even more profit for the airline.

One way RDU is working through this reality is by reaching out extensively to businesses throughout the region. I am meeting constantly with corporate executives and travel departments to help understand where and how often their employees travel. This information strengthens our case even more for new and expanded service from our airport.

Working together, we can continue to make strides in this marathon. Do you travel frequently for business? Is there a route that interests you? Let me know in the comments below.

About Dave Young

Dave Young is the Director of Air Service Development for RDU. In this capacity Dave acts as the advocate for RDU to the airline industry, promoting the benefits of RDU and the region. As a self-proclaimed “airline guy” Dave has a habit of referring to things in 3 letter codes.
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29 Responses to Going The Distance For New Air Service

  1. Charlie says:

    Direct flights to San Diego or Los Angeles, CA would be amazing. Would fly those 2-3 times a month. Thanks Dave for working on this.

  2. Luc says:

    Where does Montreal, QC rank on that list? Many people would love that.

    • We would love to have non-stop service to Montreal. Right now only about 22 people per day begin and end their journey in either city. Compare that to cities such as Seattle that have 130 people that begin and end their journey each day that is the number one market we’re seeking to launch service.

  3. colin says:

    I travel to Seattle from RDU several times a year for work (tech industry). I’d go more often if nonstop service were available, especially in the winter. Biggest reason? With current route options I’m often concerned I won’t make afternoon meetings in Seattle. Like earlier this year, when an ice storm caused my RDU-MSP leg (and thus my entire trip) to be canceled.

    I’m curious if you could speak to the hub-overflight consideration the RDU-SEA route entails. And what’s keeping Alaska (which doesn’t have this hangup) from swooping in to take this opportunity?

    Thanks for your hard work, Dave. SeaTac and RDU are two of the best-run airports in my book. A straight line between them just seems so right.

  4. Josh says:

    A direct flight to Paris CDG would be nice. Much like the one Delta offers from Pittsburgh PIT.

  5. colin says:

    I travel to Seattle from RDU several times a year for work (tech industry). I’d go more often if nonstop service were available, especially in the winter. Biggest reason? With current route options I’m often concerned I won’t make afternoon meetings in Seattle. Like earlier this year, when an ice storm caused my RDU-MSP leg (and thus my entire trip) to be canceled.

    I’m curious if you could speak to the hub-overflight consideration the RDU-SEA route entails. And what’s keeping Alaska (which doesn’t have this hangup) from swooping in to take this opportunity?

    Thanks for your hard work, Dave. SeaTac and RDU are two of the best-run airports in my book. A straight line between them just seems so right.

    • Thanks for the kind words. Air service development is a marathon, not a sprint. And, the longer the route, the longer the time it takes to establish service. We’re talking to a variety of carriers including those that don’t currently serve RDU about opportunities like Seattle. Trust us, we’re working on it!

  6. Sanket says:

    I travel to Austin quite often and wish that we had a direct flight to go there. Sure, Dallas is a great connection, but I think there would be takers for Austin direct flight if there was one.

  7. Pradeep Mohan says:

    We need a nonstop service to Frankfurt. Most people who travel to Europe, middle east or India now either connect through a stopover in one of the US cities of Boston, Dallas, Houston, Chicago O’Hare, Washington-Dulles, JFK, EWR or London Heathrow. This includes, official, tourism or vacation travel which usually happens heavily during summer (July – Aug) and Winter (Dec – Jan). During these times, stopovers in US cities gets cancelled leading to uncertainty and a lot of stress for passengers in international travel. It will be very helpful and an extremely profitable route if just one flight is added to Frankfurt. I think United already flies a direct flight from Washington-Dulles. If one can convince United to Fly from RDU to Frankfurt I think a large number of travelers will benefit from this.

  8. Christopher says:

    Do you have an international destinations wishlist?

    • Right now, the most achievable destinations are either Frankfurt or Paris. Both cities give an amazing amount of one-stop connectivity to destinations in the Middle East, India and Africa. We’re soon starting a new series on international destinations that will really detail each region of the world and how people from our area travel there.

      • martysupine says:

        Looks like I’ll need to get from FRA to RDU a bit for a new job and neither trying to connect through LHR terminal 5 nor clearing immigration in time to make a connection somewhere in the US is great for reliability. Direct FRA-RDU or through some other European hub would be great.

  9. Bob says:

    Looks like Seattle is on your list, I’d second that.

    Kansas City would be great as well.

  10. John says:

    Appreciate this post, Dave – very interesting to learn how recruiting air service works. To echo others, expanded nonstop service to the West Coast and Europe would be fantastic. I think the success of the DL/AA nonstops to LAX and the UA nonstop to SFO has shown the West Coast demand is there. I think another European destination – CDG for example – would be successful, too. As a frequent Southwest flyer, I’d love to see new routes from them – SAN or DAL come to mind. Seems like it has been a while since they have added anything.

    Thanks for all of your hard work – we are fortunate to have such a great airport. Delta’s pretty aggressive expansion here, along with the addition of new routes from other carriers, are a testament to your hard work and the region’s support of air travel.

  11. George Rhodes says:

    Great work Dave, as “slow and steady wins the race!” Initiating non stop service to either FRA or CDG would be a real boost for RDU and it would put UA or DL on a par with AA at our airport in offering such international kservice. Looking forward to your new series on international destinations.

  12. gregormc says:

    I’m also interested in seeing international destinations expanded from RDU – but please don’t lose the LHR flight while courting CDG or FRA. And while I understand that members of the other Alliances want a direct flight to their main European hubs, a OneWorld, direct Qatar flight to Doha would be really spectacular and open up Africa, India and the Far East. Domestically, how about getting Virgin America to use RDU as an East Coast hub and have Virgin Atlantic fly here direct from the UK?

    • Soon, we’ll be starting an in-depth blog series on international flights and demand from RDU, covering each of the regions of the world. You’ll see that we have more than enough demand to have London-Heathrow (which is a highly profitable route) along with a number of other destinations. As far as domestic priorities, we’re focused on new flights to Seattle, San Diego, San Juan and Kansas City among others. And, we’re in talks with a variety of carriers to facilitate that service. Thanks for your interest!

  13. Mambrose says:

    I see hat Seattle is the top of RDU’s wish list for new non-stop destinations. I wonder if there might be a new window of opportunity here. Alaska Airlines, with its hub in Seattle, has never served RDU but has had a symbiotic relationship with both Delta & AA, with many codeshares. But this year Alaska and Delta have become more like “frenemies” with significant competition in the Seattle market. Could this be the time for Alaska to start service to RDU to try to grab more of the market in the Southeast? (And there wouldn’t be any issue of overflying hubs for them.)

  14. Brett says:

    How about trying to switch some of the regional service to mainline? For example, flying on a “United” Q400 prop plane to start my around-the-world trip was disappointing.

    • That is absolutely part of our work with air carriers. Not only are we working with them to launch new routes, but also to improve the types of aircraft serving routes and the timing and frequency of routes. However, it is the airline’s decision on where and how to allocate their aircraft.

  15. Chris says:

    First off, great work Dave! Sounds like RDU Airport has picked the right person to lead the fight for additional service to RDU.

    I wanted to speak about the potential for a non-stop flight to Montreal. I know it was mentioned earlier that there are roughly 22 people per day that begin and end their journey in either city. Considering Montreal is Air Canada’s 2nd biggest hub, I was hoping to learn whether efforts have been made to lure Air Canada to serve Montreal with the CRJ-200 or some other Regional Jet…an aircraft that might be the right “size” for such a market. 22 people per day and then add in all the people connecting to/from Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and you might have a viable market, no?

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