Going International: The Promise of Europe

This is the third in a 6-part series about RDU’s pursuit of new international air service. Read the series. New posts are added each Friday through September 19.

RDU's first nonstop international flight was to Paris in 1988.

RDU’s first nonstop international flight was to Paris in 1988.

Ever since the first American Airlines’ nonstop flight to Paris’ Orly Airport in 1988, the Research Triangle Region has been connected to the European continent, benefitting both private travelers and businesses alike. Since 1994, that connection has been through American’s daily nonstop flight to London, now in its 20th year. Today, more people are traveling abroad than one successful flight can accommodate.

Our first stop in a trip around the world takes us to Europe, where we’re actively pursuing new non-stop service to either Paris or Frankfurt because of the abundance of connecting flights from those gateway cities to other destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 

But beyond those hubs, what makes Europe so attractive for new air service? Are there other potential cities that could be air service targets? Let’s take a look.

Dublin is one of RDU's top European destinations.

Dublin is one of RDU’s top European destinations.

Top Destinations in Europe

More than 791,000 people travel each year to and from Europe from RDU via various routes. But where are they going? Below are the five most traveled to destinations (not connecting points) RDU passengers travel to in Europe:

  1. London
  2. Paris
  3. Rome
  4. Frankfurt
  5. Dublin 

Corporate Connections

I’ve shared that many corporations in the region have direct ties to locations in Europe, whether it’s a corporate headquarters, international campus, manufacturing center or location of a large customer base. Here are some examples of local companies with European ties.

Company Industry City Reason
Glaxo Smith-Kline Pharmaceuticals London Headquarters
Bayer CropScience Agriculture Various, Europe Clients
Merz Pharmaceuticals Pharmaceuticals Frankfurt Headquarters
Syngenta Biotechnology Basel, Switzerland Headquarters
Deutsche Bank Financial Services Frankfurt Headquarters
Credit Suisse Financial Zurich, Switzerland Headquarters
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Basel, Switzerland Headquarters
Grifols Healthcare Barcelona, Spain Headquarters
ABB Technology Zurich, Switzerland Headquarters
BASF Chemical Ludwigshafen, Germany Headquarters


Prague, Czech Republic. N.C. State University has ties to this nation.

Prague, Czech Republic. N.C. State University has ties to this nation.

Other Ties to Europe

We also see a significant amount of traffic heading to Europe due to academic trips by local students. Also, UNC-Chapel Hill has an affiliation with King’s College in London. N.C. State has partnerships with colleges in nine European countries including the Czech Republic, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

How to Get There Now

Many travelers fly non-stop from RDU to London-Heathrow and then connect on to other destinations throughout Europe. Others use hubs in Washington-Dulles, Newark, New York-Kennedy, Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte and Philadelphia and other major U.S. destinations to travel to and from Europe.

European Opportunities

The clearest opportunity for a new transatlantic service to the continent of  Europe is with new non-stop service to either Paris or Frankfurt.  We have been working with several different air carriers to establish service to one of these additional transatlantic destinations.  Either Paris or Frankfurt offer more than 40 additional one-stop connections throughout Europe and to other continents in Asia, Africa and Middle East.

The future for new, non-stop service from RDU to Europe is very promising. Ultimately, however, it will require community support in partnership with the airport and airlines to make it a recruitment reality and a success.

Next week, we’ll explore opportunities in Asia.

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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14 Responses to Going International: The Promise of Europe

  1. Juana says:

    Hi Andrew,

    We are really looking forward for an additional connection to Europe! 😀 Is there a timeline for when would that flight be a reality?

    Thank you!

  2. Bob says:

    Andrew: Is customs/immigration service available at RDU? If so we wonder why when we return from Europe we are required to collect our checked luggage and go through customs/immigration in New York and then have to recheck our luggage for the flight to RDU. Last time the airline was slow getting our luggage off the transatlantic flight and the long lines at customs/immigration caused us to miss our flight back to Raleigh. We spent almost the entire day in NY trying to get on another flight back to Raleigh. What a mess!
    Thank you. Regards, Bob

    • Sorry for the delayed response. RDU is a port of entry. Any nonstop flight originating from London or other overseas destination will clear customs upon arrival at RDU. If your flight has a connection in New York, you will clear in New York. The rule of thumb is that you will clear customs at the first U.S. airport your flight lands at.

  3. snl gli says:

    I travel to Europe and Asia both for business and pleasure. Having the non-stop connection to London is definitely a big convenience. It reduces travel time and gets lots of international destinations within one stop reach of RDU. However, I feel that if the return flight from London is at a later time in the day it will help more people connect to that flight. I almost always have to route through JFK while returning to RDU. As far as new international service goes I would vote hands down for service to Frankfurt. In my experience, Star Alliance has far greater reach and better options than Sky Team beyond Europe. Will you guys be pitching the routes to European airlines as well?

  4. Thomas says:

    Don’t forget about Siemens.

  5. Zach Pan says:

    That’s almost 1100 people flying to Europe everyday, if my math is correct. Impressive! Do you know how that ranks among other U.S. airports? and I assume that does not include India and mid-east passengers stopped over Europe, right?

  6. Harish S says:

    I am a proud Triangle area resident since 4 yrs, I have taken the RDU-LHR AA flight many times. It is super convenient, and helps avoid inclement weather in NE USA during Winters. I would love to see direct connections with outer EU destinations (Perhaps Frankfurt by United / Lufthansa), and Middle East, which provides quick connections with South / SE Asia.

  7. Alison says:

    Ok so 791,000 people travel to Europe a year, thats on average 2167.1 people DAILY. With that number someone would be surprised that RDU only has 767-300 service to LHR the biggest hub in all of Europe. Why couldn’t a 777-200 take this route. Why is the 767 going at about 60% occupancy. Thats just London Im not an expert but I would say Delta or AF could start a330-200 service to CDG. Or UA or LH with a330 or 777 service. I really don’t understand why RDU doesn’t have atleast 2 destinations in Europe daily. Could you guys please inform me on O & D to Europes top 10 destination. Thanks

    • Kendall Hart says:

      Hey Allison, I’ll try to clear some things up.
      So first of all you have to think that it is very expensive for an airline to start a flight to Europe. It isn’t quite like a new service to Florida or New York. The only planes that can fly from Raleigh to Europe direct are the larger aircrafts meant for long range flights. Planes like the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 777 start around $200 Million. Secondly it is a lot of fuel to fly to from Raleigh to Europe. So when an airline starts the service they need to know for sure that they will have a good investment. The good thing is that since you posted this we have gotten a flight, which is to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on Delta. The flight is daily and leaves in the afternoon.

  8. Jeff says:

    it probably has to do with yields. Vacationers look for the lowest fare; the AA flight (which I’m personally booked on this weeks to London, connecting to Berlin on British Airways) is designed for busjness travelers and may not always have the cheapest fares. Also, somebody booking a connection onward in Europe (or to the Middle East or India, etc.) really doesn’t care whether they connect in New York, London, Paris, or elsewhere. One stop is still one-stop. And the AA 763 equipment isn’t that bad.

  9. Alison says:

    I asked you guys a question a year ago and still have not gotten a response….

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