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RDU Expanding Despite Rough Times

June 19, 2008

By Dudley Price, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

Jun. 19–The first new terminal at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in 21 years promises to ease crowding and make boarding faster for passengers when the first phase opens by late October.

The 920,000-square-foot terminal will be more than three times as large as Terminal C, which it is replacing. As part of a campaign to educate the public about the project, RDU officials gave the media a preview Wednesday of the $570 million passenger terminal.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: The terminal gives the airport room to expand. It will be able to handle more airlines and will have more room for amenities such as restaurants and stores. The airline industry is in turmoil, with carriers cutting flights and adding fees, so it might seem that RDU’s timing is off. RDU officials acknowledge that the economic environment has changed since construction began in 2005. But they say that the Triangle is a growth market and that the terminal is needed to alleviate crowding and lure airlines in the future.

WHAT PASSENGERS CAN EXPECT: Travelers could spend less time getting on planes. The terminal will have 60 self-check-in kiosks — 40 in the first phase. It also will have seven security lanes, up from four now. Automated baggage screening, which will assess luggage as it moves from airline check-in to departing aircraft, will handle 1,600 bags an hour, about double the current capacity. There will be 26 stores and restaurants in 550,000 square feet. Phase 2 will add 17 additional shops and restaurants in 370,000 square feet.

It also ends some confusion. In the past, travelers couldn’t understand why there was a Terminal A and a Terminal C, but no Terminal B. Terminal A will be renamed Terminal 1 and Terminal C’s replacement officially becomes Terminal 2 when the first phase opens.

WHAT THE NEW TERMINAL MEANS FOR AIRLINES: Carriers will no longer be wedged into cramped space designed for one airline. Electronic signs will allow gates to be easily added or switched as carriers adjust schedules.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR RDU: The airport will have more space to lease to carriers. Terminal 2 will have 32 boarding gates, up from 25 now in Terminal C. The first phase will have 19 boarding gates. The second phase will add 13 additional gates.

WHO’S PICKING UP THE TAB: No tax revenue will be used. The terminal will be paid for with airport revenue from parking, airlines and passengers.

WHICH AIRLINES ARE MOVING IN: Delta will join American, American Eagle, United, Midwest Connect and Air Canada when the first phase opens. Continental, Northwest and US Airways will move in with the second phase, scheduled to open in late 2011.

dudley.price@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4525

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