RDU is the fastest growing airport in Delta Air Lines’ entire system, with its capacity more than doubling since 2010. Delta is RDU’s largest carrier with the most destinations, flights, and seats. The number of destinations the airline serves from RDU has increased from 11 to 27 since 2010.
We were thrilled to see that RTA was able to secure Joe Esposito, senior vice president of network planning for Delta, as its keynote speaker for the breakfast. He spoke before a packed ballroom at The Umstead Hotel and Spa.
“We look at what the communities are doing and where you’re putting your assets and resources,” Esposito told the audience. “The support in this room is what will make you successful and will drive your economy.”
Esposito talked about Raleigh-Durham being a focus market for Delta. Delta currently offers 500 departures a week at RDU. The RDU passengers boarding Delta jets increased from 1.28 million in 2013 to more than 1.8 million in 2017, which marks a 40 percent increase.
“You are one of the fastest growing communities in our system,” said Esposito. “You are one of the fastest growing in the nation.”
Esposito said support from the business community is driving much of the growth and success.
“I travel to many communities around the world and I can’t thank you enough because you don’t get this turnout elsewhere,” he said. “Thank you for what you do and how you support us.”
As for the future, Esposito told the audience that he sees Delta offering more options for RDU passengers to the Western United States. In particular, he mentioned more nonstop flights to Seattle and to Salt Lake City.
“It’s a natural addition for Raleigh,” he said.
An audience member asked whether Esposito could see expanded service from RDU to European destinations.
“It’s not unreasonable to get more service from RDU to Europe,” he responded.
Joe Milazzo II, RTA executive director, asked Esposito how the business community can help ensure RDU’s continued success.
“You’re doing a lot of great things, especially with the diversification of your market,” responded Esposito. “We want to make sure when we use Raleigh-Durham that it’s as efficient as it can be. Continue the diversification of business community.”
He cited the presence of industries such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, along with the presence of major universities and Raleigh being the state capital.
We also had the opportunity to hear from some other speakers, including Michael Landguth, RDU’s president and CEO, who introduced Esposito.
Landguth said RDU has seen a 27 percent increase across the board in the number of passengers boarding a plane since 2013. He told the audience that RDU anticipates more than 12 million passengers for the calendar year, which would break an all-time record.
RDU is investing $90 million in capital projects in 2018. Landguth said these investments go to taxiways, shops, roadways, and a checkpoint expansion. He said it is all a part of RDU’s Vision 2040, a master plan ensuring the airport will meet the needs of a growing and thriving region.
We also heard from RTA Chair Bruce Sargent and RTA Air Service Chair Michael Schoenfeld.
Sargent, the director of North America Real Estate and Strategy Operations for IBM Corporation, echoed the importance of the business community’s continued support.
“We have an offering here with RTA that is not offered in a lot of other markets,” he said. “We bring an important aspect to the equation with the business support. Hear what was said today because this is not a common denominator when you go across the rest of the country.”
Schoenfeld, the vice president of public affairs and government relations for Duke University, also talked about the outstanding partnership between the airport and the region.
“RDU is one of the top airports in the country,” he said. “There is nothing like coming back after a long day to RDU into an airport that is so comfortable and welcoming.”
Schoenfeld said recruiting is essential to air service. He presented the 2018 Transportation Champion Award to Dave Young, the director of air service development at RDU. Young has been with the airport since 2012 and is retiring.
Landguth talked about the air service expansion that has taken place during that time frame at RDU, including new carriers and the number of nonstop destinations increasing from 37 to 62. That includes the nonstop Delta flight to Paris.
“Since Dave’s addition, we’ve literally started to take off,” said Landguth.
The Raleigh Chamber and RTA join together in thanking everyone who attended the breakfast, the speakers for their insight and valuable information, and all of the sponsors. Your generous support makes events like this and the work of RTA possible. The breakfast also generated community interest with multiple news outlets covering the event, and the official Twitter hashtag, #RTAbfast18, was among the top trending topics for the day on Twitter in the Raleigh area.
Please mark Thursday, Dec. 13 on your calendar for The State of Mobility: RTA’s 17th Annual Meeting. That event will be from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle in Cary. We look forward to seeing you there!