Whenever winter weather threatens RDU, I receive a lot of questions via social media on how airport operations are impacted. Our guest services team in the terminals and others who answer the phones at RDU receive plenty of questions as well.
Generally, regardless of whether it comes by phone, face-to-face, or via Twitter, the questions about winter weather that we receive are about the same. We’ve all found that many people believe certain myths and have misconceptions of how the airport operates when winter weather arrives.
Below, I’ve attempted to bust some of the most common myths about winter weather at RDU and replace them with facts that will help you become a super savvy traveler.
Myth: The airport cancelled my flight.
Fact: The airport can’t cancel flights. The airlines and/or the Federal Aviation Administration are the entities that can determine whether flight operations may or may not occur.
Fact: RDU doesn’t close during winter weather. Depending on conditions, the airlines may cancel flights.
When this happens, you may see very few people in the terminals and extremely limited shopping and dining opportunities. However, we never lock the doors and turn off the lights in the terminals.
Regardless of weather, our job is to keep the terminal buildings open and operating and ensure that roadways and parking lots are as clear as possible so that when the airlines make the decision to resume service our customers can make it to the terminals and their flights.
Fact: RDU doesn’t own any deicing equipment. Each of our eight airlines deices aircraft either with their own equipment or by contracting with one of the other airlines to provide deicing. Our operations team ensures that there is dedicated space available on the ramp for each airline to conduct deicing procedures. Keep in mind, that procedures and processes may be different at other airports and with each airline.
Myth: The airport doesn’t have snow clearing equipment.
Fact: We have a fleet of snow clearing equipment and contract with a local company to provide additional vehicles as well. When snow occurs, we have a plan that helps us to work toward the goal of having one runway open for take-offs and departures when the airlines and FAA decide its safe to fly.
Our snow clearing plan also allows for the clearing of key taxiways on the airfield as well as key roadways, sidewalks and parking lots on the land side of the airport. Each airline, however, is responsible for clearing the ramp space immediately in front of their gates.
Myth: I heard that tons of people are stranded in the airport.
Fact: While it is true that occasionally a few people may spend the night in the airport, our goal is for that not to happen. When it does occur, we have a comprehensive passenger assistance plan in place to provide blankets, pillows and meals to individuals who find themselves at RDU overnight.
The main reason we don’t see many stranded passengers is that RDU isn’t a hub, which means most people can return home or to where they were staying if flights are cancelled due to winter weather.
If you arrive at RDU and can’t get to your final destination because of the weather, our guest services team at the information desks will work with airport-area hotels that have shuttle service to find you a place to stay.