Morrisville, NC – Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) had two important announcements recently, one related to a new airline taking non-stop flights out of the airport and an update on funding for direct flights to China, all while local passengers are looking for information on what to expect with the TSA and wait times during the federal government shutdown.
Traveling During the Shutdown
The federal government shutdown has meant non-essential federal employees have not been working. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is deemed essential and therefore, TSA employees who run airport security must still report to work without a guarantee of payment.
Since the shutdown, there has been a rise in unscheduled absences by TSA employees, with the TSA reporting around 6 percent of employees nationwide not coming to work during this week. A CNN report quoted Mac Johnson, the union president for North Carolina TSA employees, saying call-outs among TSA workers were 10 percent higher now, though both the TSA and Department of Homeland Security have denied this, responding specifically to CNN’s reporting.
While this has resulted in delays in major transportation hubs such as New York City and Atlanta, these same delays have not affected RDU Airport. There have not been uncommonly long lines or reports of significant delays. During the shutdown, getting the most up-to-date information from the TSA is difficult but recent data from earlier in January said wait times at Charlotte Douglass International Airport were around 15 minutes, with TSA spokesperson Michael Bilello saying RDU had a similarly minimal impact.
Passengers who have TSA Pre-Check can also expect to get through security even more quickly.
New Flight Options
RDU is moving forward with plans to expand flights, with Spirit Airlines to start offering seven flights in May 2019. Those flights will go non-stop to:
- Fort Lauderdale
- New Orleans
Additionally, RDU will run two flights to Baltimore each day.
Spirit is the country’s eighth largest commercial airline company and is known for its low ticket prices, with prices kept down primarily by using newer planes that have fewer repair and fuel costs, as well as balancing low ticket prices for comparatively higher fee costs.
Plans for China
As we reported at the start of the year, RDU is looking to have non-stop flights to China. To do this, the airline needs a new, longer runway to replace the main runway, at a cost of around $350 million.
But RDU’s President and CEO Michael Landguth said the Federal Aviation Administration is currently planning to give the airport closer to $35 million for the project – significantly less than Landguth was expecting.
This does not mean RDU is stopping its plans, either for a new runway or for flights to China. But it does mean the airport will need to look for more funding sources, possibly relying on passengers and travelers to close the gap.
Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration gave RDU $12.6 million for repairs.
Story by staff reports. Photos courtesy of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.