Happy First Anniversary RDU-SFO!

August marks one year since the beginning of non-stop service between RDU and San Francisco International Airport via United Airlines.  And we couldn’t be happier with the flight’s success. 

Happy First Anniversary RDU-SFO!

Happy First Anniversary RDU-SFO!

Last year, we watched the first departure roll out to a water cannon salute and heard speeches by local and state dignitaries. There was much fanfare from our business community celebrating a non-stop link between the tech center in the Bay Area and our own Research Triangle Region.

So how’s the flight doing now?

In a word – outstanding.

With an extremely high load factor, it’s safe to say that the RDU-SFO route has been the best performing route at RDU, in terms of filled seats, over this past year. To the best of our calculations, nearly 90,000 people have traveled between our two cities on this single route since that very first flight.

That’s impressive. Want to know what’s more impressive?

$30 million annually.

That’s the conservative, direct economic impact to our region produced by visitors from this flight who purchase food, hotel rooms and buy other goods and services when staying in our region.  Air service has the same impact as a bricks-and-mortar plant located here in our region. But this plant has wings and comes and goes every day.

It’s very exciting to see so many people using this flight. It took a lot of persistence to land this route.  In fact, did you know:

  • We started working on an RDU- Bay Area flight more than 10 years ago.
  • Midway Airlines offered a non-stop flight to San Jose in 2000 prior to ceasing operations in 2001.
  • American Airlines later planned to fly the San Jose route in 2003, but never began service due to escalating fuel prices.
  • For years, we saw the feasibility of this flight in the numbers, business connections and desire of the people in both cities. But given various economic and industry issues, it was difficult for an airline to dedicate an aircraft to this route.
  • Our team has worked on this flight through many highs and lows from the dot-com bubble to the aftermath of 9/11 and through high oil prices and airline economic issues.
  • United was interested in launching the flight in 2008, with the opening of Terminal 2 but then came the economic downturn of late 2008 and 2009.
  • Now we’re seeing old habits change. People are starting to use SFO as a jumping off point to Asia versus Chicago and other cities. And, it makes a lot of sense.
  • During the decade of service pursuit, we have grown as a region, becoming more robust in terms of popularity and business connections to the Bay Area and to Asia. 

So, congratulations United Airlines on one year of successful service between RDU and San Francisco! And to residents of the Research Triangle Region and the Bay Area, thank you for using this route. Keep it up and we might just see a second daily flight.

I’d love to hear what this non-stop flight has meant to you or your business.  Please tell me in the comments below.

About Teresa Damiano

Teresa Damiano is the Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. She directs air service development, guest services, communications and customer service. And, she's not afraid to bribe an airline with her famous homemade lasagna.
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5 Responses to Happy First Anniversary RDU-SFO!

  1. CTravlr says:

    I’m a college student in the Bay Area, but I’m from NC. I love this route because its the only nonstop flight that works well for me as CLT is too far out. I flew it when I came home for summer and I see myself flying it at least 3 or 4x a year for the foreseeable future

  2. Farid. Muti says:

    Congratulation , it very good for all of us. Direct flight from RDU to. San francisco congratulation for. RDU personal and united air lines and people of North Carolina

  3. Farid. Muti says:

    Congrtulation for North Carolina people and. Sanfrancisco people and united air lines and RDU. Personal thanks great neews for all of us Farid Muti

  4. Eddie says:

    Providing better air service access to San Francisco from RDU has been in the “gunsights” of the airlines for many years. As the timeline above suggests there has been various issues that have prevented nonstop service until last year. This service was overdue for our community and now provides another gateway to the Asia-Pacific region. It is interesting to note that way back in 1984, Piedmont Airlines offered direct (one stop service) to San Francisco via Charlotte, which at the time was a big deal. Although not a nonstop flight, it shaved about 2 hours off the elasped travel time to San Francisco when compared other airline routings.

  5. Glad to hear that the n/s has been working well for RDU! I flew both inaugurals (SFO-RDU & RDU-SFO) and though both were full, worried a bit that it would be tough to maintain a high load factor.. Perhaps a 2nd daily flight to SFO will be in RDUs future!

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