RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Raleigh-Durham International Airport has been working to bounce back from the immense drop in traffic that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to their traffic rates.

What started as a “slow, sluggish recovery,” as described by Michael Landguth, RDU’s President and CEO in July 2020, is now looking more hopeful as more than 937,600 passengers flew through RDU last month.

This jump in traffic shows an increase of 34 percent over the previous month and a 90 percent increase, in comparison to March 2021.

Numbers released by the Airport Authority Board on Thursday show traffic for 2022 is up 107 percent compared to last year.

“As passengers return to the skies in increasing numbers, their options at RDU are also growing,” said Landguth. “Airlines are making significant investments in the Research Triangle region by adding more flights and new destinations in time for the busy summer travel season.”

Icelandair will become RDU’s 12th airline when it launches a nonstop service to Reykjavik in mid-May, marking the first new international flight at RDU since the pandemic began. RDU will also add a thirteenth airline in May when Avelo Airlines begins nonstop service to the New York metro region—the airport’s most popular destination.

Frontier will add eight destinations from RDU in April and May, including Islip, New York; Providence, Rhode Island; Syracuse; Newburgh, New York; Indianapolis; Detroit; Cincinnati and New Orleans. Air Canada will bring back nonstop service to Montreal in early June, signaling an uptick in international travel.

New coffee and dining options announced

In addition to traffic numbers, the board also approved agreements that will make way for several new coffee and dining options in the terminals.

Later this year, Durham-based Beyu Caffe will open in the pre-security areas of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. These will be serving coffee, tea, smoothies and grab-and-go food.

Grove Bay Crawford will open three locations in Terminal 2 late next year.

Crawford Genuine, a casual dining bar led by five-time James Beard award nominee Scott Crawford, will open in Concourse C along with an open-air kiosk, Carolina Craft, serving craft beer, cocktails and light food.

Black & White Coffee Roasters, founded by U.S. Barista Champions Lem Butler and Kyle Ramage, will join the Marketplace. Black & White currently operates multiple full-service coffee shops in the Triangle area.

The new additions to the RDU concession lineup will operate under a new model intended to increase revenue for RDU and provide more opportunities to small and diverse businesses, an RDU press release said.

Parking expansions

Park Economy 3 will continue in its expansion and design. The lot, which offers one of the airport’s lowest rates, will be gaining an additional 8,700 spaces. This expansion is intended to help address an increase in demand.

A few parking rate increases are also in the works.

RDU said in a release that rates will adjust to the following amounts on May 1.

  • $17/day for drive-up rate at Central
  • $25/day for drive-up rate at Premier
  • $11/day for drive-up rate at Economy 3

These new rates, the Airport Authority says, are lower than the maximum that it is permitted to charge.

“The terminal deck is filling up more frequently and the rate change will help RDU manage capacity while preserving a variety of options for our guests,” an RDU release said.

The additional revenue will also help with the growing costs of labor and construction for future airport projects, along with the $13.5 million RDU has already spent to resurface the economy lot and replace elevators and moving sidewalks in the terminal parking area.