Going International: The Road To World Routes

It’s no secret that the Research Triangle Region is growing.  People are moving to our area because of our excellent quality of life, well-paying jobs and moderate cost-of-living.  And as the population grows, so does air travel, particularly to international destinations from RDU.

Frankfurt is one of two viable European nonstop destinations we're currently pursuing.

Frankfurt is one of two viable European nonstop destinations we’re currently pursuing.

About 1.5 million people each year travel to and from RDU and foreign destinations. Currently, we have one daily transatlantic flight to London, three daily flights to Toronto and a handful of seasonal international flights to vacation destinations like Cancun and The Bahamas. 

Looking Ahead

We’re on a mission to add more international nonstop service from RDU. We know we have the passenger traffic right now to add a successful daily flight to either Paris or Frankfurt. These are airports with rich connection opportunities to smaller European cities, the Middle East, India and beyond.

But, we are also looking into the future. As we’ve discussed before, the path to securing new air service, particularly international service is a long one. For our successful San Francisco service, a domestic route, it took nearly a decade and international service takes that long, if not longer to acquire.  Beyond Paris or Frankfurt, we also see potential in other regions of the world in the not-so-distant future.

World Routes

From September 20-23, our air service development team will travel to Chicago to attend World Routes. It’s an annual gathering of airlines and airports from all over the world. The event is set-up similar to the ones we’ve attended in the past, with a series of short 20-minute “speed-dating” meetings with airlines that we request and are matched with.

New international service could include improved codeshares, one-stop connections, charter flights and perhaps nonstop service.

New international service could include improved codeshares, one-stop connections, charter flights and perhaps nonstop service.

Our goal is, of course, to move conversations forward with carriers and destinations we are already working on. (Sorry, we can’t share exactly who we’re speaking with.)  However, we also want to introduce ourselves and meet with a number of airlines that we’ve never spoken to before in an official capacity.

Our desire is to start laying the groundwork to put RDU on the airlines’ minds and route planning maps. We want them to keep an eye on us, particularly for new international service opportunities. Those could be improved code sharing opportunities and better one-stop connections. Down the road it could turn into weekly charter flights and one day perhaps new nonstop service.

Whatever the possibilities are, we need to start the conversation. And, we want you to join us as we prepare for World Routes in Chicago. Over the next 6 weeks, we’ll share more about our international goals, how our community is connected internationally and what the possibilities for growth are in various regions of the world.

Our Series Continues

Here’s what’s ahead in our series over the next few weeks:

Week 2: Our Connected Community

Week 3: Europe

Week 4: Asia

Week 5: The Middle East and India

Week 6: Other Regions of the World

We’d love to know your questions about international air service from RDU. Ask me in the comments below, and look for next week’s post about our connected community.

About Andrew Sawyer

Andrew Sawyer is the External Communication Specialist for the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority and is the main writer for RDU’s website, electronic communication and airport publications. He’s also the primary face behind RDU’s social media channels. Andrew also assists with many other things, from media relations to event planning. In fact, he has an advanced degree in "other duties as assigned."
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34 Responses to Going International: The Road To World Routes

  1. Glenn says:

    I’d love to see an effot made to beef up domestic service to JFK, EWR and IAD with larger equipment on that route. Often times getting an International connection is easy, but finding space on regional jets to these airports is very difficult and expensive.

  2. Just Crew says:

    Frankfurt would be a great gateway to Europe.

    • We agree! We have the traffic/business case to justify to either Frankfurt or Paris. Working hard on getting that service!

      • braazil says:

        No you don’t! There is a wonderful little airport called Charlotte Douglas! We have double daily service to London and Frankfurt. We have service to Dublin, Manchester, Paris, Brusels, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Lufthansa have service to Munich. I am afraid there is only room for one major international airport in NC, and I am afraid it is Charlotte.

      • Pradeep Mohan says:

        I think this is by far the wierdest/craziest response that I have ever seen. RTP clearly has a larger international population than Charlotte. There are four major areas Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Chapel Hill and Durham (not including are others like Fuqua Varina, Wake Forest etc.). The student community in our area is way higher than the third grade universities that Charlotte has. The companies in RTP area are bigger in the sense they have a large number of international employees in our area (e.g., Cisco, Qualcomm, SAS, IBM, GSK, RTI etc.). I think serving that young and growing population is more important than playing politics on which airport should have more international connections. I think all the international routes in Charlotte should be squeezed out eventually by the definitely superior service that RDU has. If a state like Texas can afford to have 2 major international Airports (at Dallas and Houston), why can’t North Carolina ? If there can be two major international airports in a matter of 2 hours of travel (e.g., BWI and IAD Dulles) why can’t North Carolina have ? When there is a huge population students , universities and companies are concentrated in one area, that area deserves a superior international service.

      • DeeBo says:

        Umm yeah braazil, AA has already axed more than half of those destinations from CLT… Current events much? But fear not, they’ll cut more when they move the feed to MIA or JFK/PHL which provide much more profitable local demand which CLT doesn’t have. Don’t be such a hater. Without the *A feed on the CLT-MUC trip, I wouldn’t be surprised to see LH drop it in a few months.

        The route from NC to Europe with the most O&D demand is RDU-LON by far.

        That being said DL or AF to CDG are the best options. Personally, I’d much rather have AMS, but that’s not bloody likely.

      • braazil says:

        Ahhh! Good try, but none of the routes I menitioned in my orignal post have been cancelled, find me ANY news reports that shows AA has cancelled the routes I mentioned. Yes American Airlines cancelled both CLT-Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but the flights I mentioned in my post have not. I AA flight attendant based in Charlotte and I can say that most if not all of the current routes we fly to Europe from Charlotte will be staying. Also Lufthansa has come out many times during the past year to say they are keeping their flight to Munich, look it up. In addition, Lufthansa has appointed a new CLT station manager on a five-year renewable contract. So Lufthansa is not going anywhere fast.

        Yes RDU-LHR has the most O&D but that is ONLY due to GlaxoSmith Kline. CLT-LHR has many more connections and IS ALOT MORE PROFITABLE, that is why US is starting a second daily flight starting tomorrow (September 13th)! Explain to me how RDU can only support one daily flight to London with more O&D whiilst CLT can support at least two? It is because CLT-LHR is much more profitable. Think it like this:

        RDU-LHR- 200 passengers with 35O&D passengers
        CLT-LHR- 530 daily passengers with 20O&D passengers

        Which flight would be more profitable? CLT-LHR because they are more peple flying between Charlotte and London. Yeah, RDU-LHR having more O&D makes the flight more profitabe or better!

        Don’t get me wrong, it is good for RDU is you get a seasonal 757 flight to Paris on Delta. Just remember you can fly between Charlotte and Paris on a MUCH bigger A330-300 which carries more passengers and has personal inflight entertainment!

        P.S. Raleigh-Durham MAY get a seasonal flight to Paris, but you will NEVER have international service to Asia or the Middle East before Charlotte!

  3. Allen says:

    Where exactly do you plan on putting this new international flight? The American Airlines flight on C23 blocks C25 so that only leaves you with one international gate to use. Which would be C24 I work on a particular ramp staff and pushing from that gate is very difficult with a 757. Not to mention bigger and your jet bridge limitations will not support a 767 on that gate. Not to mention then the airport loses two more gates to the left of C24. Also not sure if much will be able to pass behind this aircraft into the alley. The airport is not setup for additional international service. Expand your international corridor to the D gates and then start your discussions. An international airport with only 2 gates to FIS is not very lucrative to any airline.

  4. Pradeep Mohan says:

    An international service by a star alliance member airline or a oneworld alliance member airline would be the best addition. This is because, these two alliances have the best transfer services to a large number of destinations in Europe, Middle East, India and Asia all the way to Singapore, Korea and Japan. A star alliance member airline (e.g., United) flying to Frankfurt or a one world Alliance member (e.g., Qatar Airways) flying to Doha will be an excellent addition. Of the two, the former is a lot more feasible and given the reach of star alliance opens up access to a wide variety of routes. For instance, the whole of India, Singapore and some parts of China are covered by star alliance alone. I think, of all the routes, Frankfurt served by a Star alliance member would be the best thing that can ever happen to RDU as it connects us with almost every part of the world.

    As far as the latter is concerned, I know it is going to take some traffic / business case to justify the middle east route. However, middle eastern airline like Qatar airways has multiple flights to several destinations in entire Asia via Doha. This includes, India, China, Singapore, Korea and Japan. This means the latter route even if it would be difficult to secure may be one that is equally good as the former.

  5. George Rhodes says:

    United Airlines and a route to Frankfurt would appear to be the best for RDU to pursue. From this Star Alliance hub city, Lufthansa is poised to take passengers to most cities in Europe, Africa, the Middle East or Asia.

  6. Burak says:

    It seems that Frankfurt/Paris is already going to happen and very good decision. On the top of it,
    A direct flight to Istanbul would benefit the RDU from all kinds of aspects. It is a hub/gateway to Asia, Middle East, Africa and east Europe and well let’s not forget the mediterrannian destinations also.

  7. Sanket says:

    Great work. Good to see people at RDU airport striving to help grow this region and working towards the future. Good luck.

  8. Brett says:

    I think that RDU-CDG is most likely on either Delta or Air France, given the high concentration of Delta flyers and elites flying from RDU. I’m afraid that RDU-FRA on Lufthansa or United would be cannibalized by Lufthansa’s existing CLT-MUC service. To be clear, I’d still love to see a RDU-Europe star alliance flight.

    • Pradeep Mohan says:

      There are high concentration of delta flyers because there is no other option. RDU-FRA wouldn’t be cannibalized by Lufthansa’s existing CLT-MUC serice. It will be the other way round. That flight may start getting drained out if RDU – FRA were there. This is because, the triangle area has a large population that flies to Asia and the middle east than CLT. Then there are people who go to CLT from RDU just because they can take certain flights. This number will come down significantly.
      Given, the horrible behavior of Air France over the years with the Asian community virtually nobody from many cities in Asia, particularly India wishes to travel with Air France and it has had to cancel its flights to many Indian cities. Delta cannot afford to fly directly into Asia, hence they have to rely on Air France for a connection so the new air service that comes to RDU is actually a terrible one for several people travelling to Asia. RDU-FRA with united or Lufthansa is a much better service than the RDU-CDG option for people travelling to Asia (remember that is >= 675000 in the triangle area alone) and then there is Business travel.

      • Burak says:

        Hi Pradeep,
        I think Turkish Airlines started that Europe – Asia and Europe – Africa bridge, Istanbul being the Hub to fly to those areas. They already have direct flights to JFK, Chicago, Dulles, LAX and Houston. I think they are opening up SFO next spring.
        I dont know if you have checked their options and of course a direct flight from RDU to that big hub would be preferred…

  9. @RTPLawyer says:

    I travel to Paris and Frankfurt 2-3 times a year. I typically avoid connecting in the U.S. to reach those destinations, and prefer transiting through London on American & BA. This routing provides convenient departure and arrival times at RDU. Flying directly to Paris or Frankfurt from RDU would be a great addition. (I’m a dedicated AA customer so I hope that is one of the airlines RDU is considering for these routes).

  10. D says:

    Will the increase of international non-stop routes require an additional runway and/or terminal?

  11. D says:

    Also, are countries in Africa on your list of proposed routes?

  12. Claudine says:

    Could someone tell me what months Delta has direct flights from rdu to cancun?

  13. lcopps says:

    Selling RDU as a toe to toe competitor to large airports is a lost cause. RDU should position itself as a low hassle, friendly, convenient international gateway maximizing its already pleasant passenger experience. Passengers hate going through crowded, unfriendly hubs like JFK, Chicago, and Washington. The addition of some very nice business friendly lounges for businessmen to get work done, restaurants, transportation to whisk passengers to their flight would go a long way and be quite a selling point. Right now the airport paradigm is much like a bus station: a place to shelve crowds until they can catch their ride. RDU should pursue a different paradigm and strive to be a rewarding experience to rival the AA’s Admiral’s club in comfort and functionality. An airport should not be such an awful place to spend 20 minutes to 6 hours. If RDU is the best airport for a layover, the word will get out quickly and airlines will want to come here.

  14. Harry says:

    If we were to have flights to FRA with United which aircraft would most likely be used, same with Lufthansa? If we had flights to CDG with Delta what aircraft would be used, same with Air France? Is American ever going to upguage the LHR flight?

  15. Mohamad says:

    So, any news with regards to the new international destination?
    I’ve seen articles going back to 2012-2013 discussing this. Are we gonna still have to wait longer?
    Trips to the Middle East take 30+ hours and cost a fortune.
    Is there an event/date when the good news could possibly be announced?

    • The process of obtaining new international service is similar to running a marathon. Right now, we’re a little over the halfway mark. Interested airlines are wanting us to demonstrate support within the business community. The Regional Transportation Alliance is leading this effort.

  16. Peter says:

    Is there any news about additional non-stop flight to Europe. (Personally, I am hoping for FRA). You mentioned in an earlier post that you were a little over halfway… Does this mean that another route could commence as early as spring 2016?

  17. Emmanuel says:

    How about the Caribbean?

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