Airline Highlights: American Airlines

This is the second part of an occasional series that focuses on the airlines serving RDU. 

When American Airlines first began service out of Terminal A in 1985, it was hard to know the influence the airline would have on the airport and our region. 

The Early Years

American Airline planes line Terminal C as an Antonov cargo plane approaches for landing.

American Airline planes line Terminal C as an Antonov cargo plane approaches for landing.

When the first American Airlines plane landed in 1985 as the seventh commercial carrier at RDU, the airport was an entirely different world. The main section of Terminal A had just opened a few years prior. The storied Triangle Inn stood across from the terminal, and construction of a new 10,000-foot runway was underway.

American Airlines began serving RDU with 11 daily flights. Shortly after arriving here, though, the airline announced plans that would increase that number tremendously. RDU was set to become the airline’s north-south hub, which would dramatically change the airport landscape and the traveler experience.

The Hub Years

The announcement of American Airlines’ plans to locate at hub at RDU launched a flurry of construction. Terminal C, the low-rise parking garages across from Terminal 2, the fuel farm, flight kitchen and several cargo buildings were designed and built by the airline to support hub operations. As construction progressed, work was nearing completion on a new 10,000-foot runway and the control tower in use today.

Terminal C, here under construction in the late 1980s, housed AA's hub in the late 80s and early 90s.

Terminal C, here under construction in the mid 1980s, housed AA’s hub in the late 80s and early 90s.

According to a commemorative publication for the airport’s 50th anniversary, American Airlines at one point had 95 daily flights and an additional 166 daily flights via its commuter partner, American Eagle. The list of non-stop destinations included international cities such as London, Paris, Bermuda, Cancun and Cozumel, along with stops in the Caribbean.

A New Relationship

In 1994, American made a business decision to move its hub away from RDU. However, it kept a sizeable presence at RDU, including a popular daily flight to London that has been operating daily for nearly 20 years. The relationship with American Airlines remained strong, as the airport gained use of many of the airline’s hub support facilities.

Today via American Airlines

Today, RDU and AA continue to enjoy a strong relationship.

Today, RDU and AA continue to enjoy a strong relationship.

American Airlines is still one of the larger airlines at RDU in terms of passengers served. We are connected to the airline’s hubs in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and Miami, as well as New York’s JFK and LaGuardia along with Washington-Reagan via American Eagle.

Earlier this year, we wrote about the upcoming merger of American’s upcoming merger with U.S. Airways and the potential impact at RDU. While the deal is not yet final, change is likely on the horizon, and we have no doubt that the strong relationship we’ve enjoyed over the years will continue for many more to come.

Do you have a memory of American Airlines at RDU? Please share 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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3 Responses to Airline Highlights: American Airlines

  1. I’m fairly new to the area. But I remember flying AA to Gatwick before the switch to Heathrow. I think it’s great that RDU has London on its non-stop list!

  2. Lee Storrow says:

    I’m thankful for the multiple direct routes on American from RDU to Dallas every day. My work takes me to the American Heart Association’s national headquarters in Dallas frequently, and I frequently find myself flying out early for a day long meeting, and I can still make it back home that same day without a lot of trouble.

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