COVID-19 having ‘unprecedented’ impact on airports, traffic at RDU down 96%, officials say

Local News

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious and “unprecedented” impact on air travel at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and others across the country, according to a news release from the RDU Airport Authority.

According to the RDU Airport Authority’s Board of Directors, passenger traffic in March was down almost 52-percent when compared to March of last year. Just under 535,500 passengers traveled through the airport last month.

So far in 2020, traffic “has settled at approximately 96 percent below 2019 levels,” which the Board said “is consistent with declines reported by other airports in the U.S.”

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on passenger traffic has reduced revenue for airports to levels that are unprecedented and unsustainable,” said Michael J. Landguth, president and CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. “RDU continues to identify cost savings to help the airport remain financially stable and able to adapt to the industry’s rapidly changing dynamics.”

According to the release, multiple airlines have reduced their scheduled flights at the airport for June, but “their summer and fall schedules remain relatively unaffected. The airlines continue to make near-term adjustments while leaving longer-term schedules unchanged due to the unpredictable economic environment.”

RDU will receive $49.5 million in CARES Act funds, according to the release. All of the money “will be used to help pay for debt service, salaries, and benefits.” A stipulation of the bill, which was just signed into law, is that airports are required to maintain 90 percent of their workforce after making any adjustments for retirements or “voluntary separations” through the end of this year.

RDU also announced a 10-year agreement with the Raleigh-based Pepsi Bottling Ventures for the soft drink to become the airport’s “semi-exclusive provider of all non-alcoholic and non-brewed beverages, including soft drinks, bottled and canned waters and more.”

The deal is expected to generate anywhere from $8.6 million to $14.3 million to the RDU Airport Authority.

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