If the holidays can be your first time flying since the coronavirus pandemic started, your journey by means of Raleigh-Durham International Airport will really feel very completely different to you.
For starters, the crowds of individuals and lengthy traces that often fill the terminals this time of yr are gone. RDU expects 104,000 vacationers will move by means of the airport the week beginning Dec. 21, down 64% from final yr.
With enterprise means off, parking is a complete lot simpler as of late. RDU doesn’t want its distant park-and-ride tons and doesn’t expect they are going to reopen till 2024. There are loads of spots in the massive parking deck between the terminals, so you’ll be capable to stroll out of your automobile relatively than pile in to a shuttle bus.
As you deliberate your journey, you could have seen fewer choices for nonstop flights from the Triangle. This time final yr, airways supplied nonstops from RDU to 57 locations, together with 5 worldwide ones. Now that’s down to 37 nonstop destinations, a rise from 25 at the lowest level in air journey earlier in the yr.
Once you get by means of safety, you’ll discover a number of shuttered outlets and eating places in the terminals. There simply hasn’t been sufficient visitors to maintain a few of them in enterprise. But a number of are open, and you’ll discover a listing of them and their hours at www.rdu.com/shops-and-restaurants/.
Then there’s all the steps RDU and airways have taken to attempt to curb the unfold of the coronavirus and make individuals really feel extra snug flying. Masks are required in the terminals and on planes; if you get to the airport and don’t have one, RDU will give you a masks at the info desks, courtesy of FEMA.
RDU has stepped up its cleansing and disinfection and put hand-sanitizer stations all through the terminals. It has positioned indicators and ground decals and marked off seats in ready areas, all to encourage social distancing. You’ll discover Plexiglas shields at all airline and TSA desks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is discouraging travel this holiday season to curb the unfold of COVID-19. But Michael Landguth, president of RDU, says the airport expects a modest enhance in journey over Christmas and New Year’s in comparison with latest weeks.
“We do realize that customers will travel,” Landguth mentioned. “And when they do travel we want to make sure they fly with confidence and they can fly smart and be safe when they come to our facility and board those airplanes.”
Landguth mentioned regardless of the smaller crowds and shorter traces, vacationers ought to nonetheless permit 2 hours to park, examine in, examine baggage and get by means of safety to the gate.
“Don’t forget, the airlines start boarding their airplanes 40 minutes before scheduled departure,” he mentioned. “So by the time you add in all those steps, two hours is an adequate amount of time.”
RDU pressured to chop prices
About 14.2 million passengers handed by means of RDU in 2019; this yr, that quantity can be about 5 million, and half of these individuals traveled final winter, earlier than the pandemic hit North Carolina.
The drop in airline journey has been arduous on RDU’s funds. The loss in income from parking, passengers and airways has prompted the airport to chop working bills 17% and shelve a number of building initiatives, together with the opening of new gates in Terminal 1 and the growth of the security checkpoint area in Terminal 2.
RDU says it saved greater than $157,00 in janitorial prices by means of an effort it known as Operation Clean Sweep, by which greater than 150 staff volunteered to color, choose up litter, do landscaping and different work. The airport has additionally supplied an incentive bundle to encourage staff to depart, serving to cut back the payroll of 350 full-time staff by 10% by January.
Landguth mentioned airways expect one other sag in journey after the holidays, fueled partly by considerations about one other post-holiday enhance in coronavirus circumstances throughout the nation. Beyond that, he mentioned, between the depressed nationwide financial system and the sluggish monetary restoration of the airline business, it might be 5 to 7 years earlier than RDU sees the variety of passengers it did final yr.
Vaccines for COVID-19 are purpose for optimism, Landguth mentioned, that 2021 can be a greater yr for journey than 2020.
“RDU will get back up. We’re going to be ready,” he mentioned. “When customers are truly really ready to travel, when business leaders are ready to get their people back in airplanes, we’re going to be here.”