Air Service Development Is Economic Development

Last week, I was honored to speak to attendees at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Leadership Conference. One key focus of the meeting was to set the economic development priorities. 

I began to think about the impact large businesses can have on our region. The billions of dollars in overall economic impact. Thousands of jobs. The success of related businesses that provide corporate employees’ food, transportation and housing.

Being an airport director, of course, I thought: This is what an airport does for our community. In short, air service development is economic development.

An $8 Billion Impact

Air service development is economic development.

Air service development is economic development.

Each year, as outlined in a report by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation, RDU has an $8 billion impact on our community. This number encompasses not only the investment of businesses directly related to the airport, such as cargo and rental car, but also the 20,000+ employees who hold jobs that somehow support airport activities.

Also, we can’t forget the benefits the airport brings to local businesses that depend on air travel to connect  with their customers, employees and business partners.

While $8 billion makes a big impact, it grows with each new flight that departs RDU.

One of our biggest priorities at RDU is air service development. It is important, of course, because the region’s business community depends upon it for its success. But we must not forget the dollar impact on our community.

Each new flight that is recruited to RDU is similar to the recruitment or expansion of a new business. As one of my colleagues said, new service is a manufacturing plant with wings.

Air Service Development as Economic Development

So what is the economic impact of a new domestic flight? The average impact is $20 to $30 million annually. An international flight, on the other hand, can have a $55 million impact, annually, on a community, and that is being conservative.

So I must say it again. Air service development is economic development.

Our air service development team works tirelessly to identify underserved destinations that we know our passengers need to get to. While we continue to prioritize the domestic destinations on our must-have list, we are putting much of our focus on international air service.

Why international service? Don’t we already have London? Yes. But I believe, as does our team, that our region can support additional non-stop service to a transatlantic destination. Each year, one million international travelers arrive and depart RDU each year.

Our region has the demand to support additional international service, and this will be one of RDU’s primary focuses over the coming years. It will also be the focus of a series of blog posts about the pursuit of new air service and a region’s role in attracting and retaining it.

I look forward to engaging you in this conversation, through this blog and through events and meetings such as the Raleigh Chamber’s Summer Leadership Conference.

About Mike Landguth

Mike Landguth, AAE, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, which manages Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Mike joined RDU in November 2011. He and his family live in Cary along with their trusty canine sidekick, Thunder.
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18 Responses to Air Service Development Is Economic Development

  1. A direct flight to Germany would be very useful. How does one lobby the airlines for a new flight?

    • Good morning!

      One of the most effective ways for an individual to lobby is via social media. We suggest targeting airlines that have a strong German presence, i.e. American, United, Lufthansa among others. You can also contact them via their customer service channels on their web sites. We do heavy lobbying on behalf of our region’s economic interests and area corporations. If you work for a company in the area that does business with Germany, contact the chamber of commerce in your city.

      Thank you!

      • You just whet my appetite saying RDU wants another transatlantic flight! The possibility of expanding Star Alliance or Sky Team’s non-stop international capabilities would be ideal.

    • Richard H. says:

      I work for a company that requires us to travel to or through Frankfurt (onto Florence) on a frequent basis. A direct flight would be great.

  2. Anthony says:

    Growth is usually a good thing, travel is a huge part of peoples lives, and the easier it is to get from A to B is always a plus, helps to make a city great, and put it on the map !

  3. Chris R. says:

    I would be most interested in adding a direct service to Nassau. We have to go through Charlotte now and it would be much nicer to go straight from RDU.

  4. Gilberto Antunez says:

    A non-stop flight to San Juan, PR would be awesome. That way my grandparents could visit me since they have many health problems to deal with long layovers. And of course, it would be great for me and the growing Puertorican community here in North and Eastern NC.

  5. ALEXX fender says:


  6. Wade says:

    And non stop to Paris Charles De Gaulle would be great

  7. Jan says:

    I think that the buildup of Delta flights could lead to something and more non-hub flights. Really, I hope it turns into more than just somewhere to make money off of the regional jets while they decide what to do with them and add more flights. Though Atlanta’s right there, I’m sure they can create something worthwhile. At least make a copy of CVG, Delta? 😛
    I’d love to see more TATL and Caribbean routes, as that’s what everyone wants. With the new NAS announcements it may sound like they’re just adding point-to-point flights from Nassau but RDU is different, they’ve added FLL, BWI, TPA, and more…I’d love to see not only them flying routes to compete, but also becoming a viable location and lowering prices from CLT. On top of that, a few more routes wouldn’t hurt, would it? 😉

  8. Ryan says:

    I would love a non-stop to Frankfurt or CDG in Paris. It’s such a long day to go to ORD or JFK in the morning to have to “hang out” for hours to connect to the international flight. And I am amazed how many people on my originating flight are also transferring to the international flight. I am sure another transatlantic flight could be sustainable from our region.

  9. Stephen Z. says:

    I know that this route suggestion is quite “late to the party”, and since the actual air traffic numbers to these two locales are extremely meager from RDU, this is more based on a hunch than anything else. I read an article recently about the influx of immigration to central North Carolina from two provinces in Mexico: Puebla (just east of Mexico City), and Veracruz. I wonder if 2-3x weekly flights to these areas would be an intriguing business opportunity for the RDU airport authority to market to a Mexican carrier like Volaris or AeroMexico. It will take a large amount of marketing and word-of-mouth to successfully market such flights to the Mexican community here, but if done right, it could be a huge success. I hence propose these two routes for RDU to explore into marketing, based on recent immigration patterns:

    Veracruz (2x/Week)
    Puebla and/or Mexico City (3x/Week)

    I know this idea is very out-of-the-blue, and has been unlikely to have been considered by the RDUAA as these areas are likely unknown to the vast majority of Americans. However, based on immigration data from sources such as the Mexican Consulate, these two proposed routes could be incredibly successful if marketed properly.

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