American. Delta. Southwest. United. These are the biggest airlines serving RDU today, but it hasn’t always been this way. Over the course of time, many other carriers have come and gone. In this edition of “The Fives,” we’re going to look back through time at some of the carriers that have gone the way of history.
1. Eastern Airlines. In many ways, Eastern Airlines can be credited with helping RDU become the airport it is today.
In 1940, Eastern’s President, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, took out a full-page ad in area newspapers imploring local governments to set-aside local differences and work together to build the airport that is now RDU.
It worked. In 1943 the airline began service to New York and Miami, with many interim stops. The airline continued flying at RDU until about 1990.
2. Midway Airlines. Do you remember the days of Midway Airlines at RDU? The airline began flying out of RDU in 1995, making the airport its primary hub.
Midway, with its signature blue-and-yellow-tailed aircraft, was a popular travel choice for many Triangle-residents.
It offered dozens of non-stop destinations along the East Coast and beyond, and many travelers enjoyed connections through RDU’s now-demolished Terminal C. Midway ceased operations just days after Sept. 11, 2001 and returned briefly in 2002.
By 1989, it had 23 daily departures to destinations such as Charlotte, Washington-National, Baltimore-Washington and Newark.
The airline also operated numerous other flights to places such as Asheville and Greenville under its’ Piedmont Commuter brand. The airline merged with US Air in 1989.
4. America West Airlines. In the summer of 2001, I was a college intern at RDU when I was tasked with picking up one of the chief executives of America West Airlines from Terminal A.
My job was to bring him to our administration building for the official media announcement that America West was coming to RDU.
The events of September 11 caused the airline to delay its start until 2002, but it operated daily flights to Phoenix and Las Vegas until it merged with U.S. Airways in the mid-2000’s.
5. ExpressJet. You may very well fly ExpressJet the next time you take off from RDU, as the carrier today operates as a regional airline flying passengers for American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express.
The company also operates a number of charter flights for sports teams and businesses.
In 2007, though, the airline began a popular, but short-lived service of non-stop flights under its own name to places such as Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans and San Antonio. It ended non-stop flights after the economic downturn in 2008.
Do you have another favorite airline that once flew from RDU? Let me know in the comments below!