July 10, 2008

RDU Losing Two More Nonstops

By David Ranii, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

Jul. 10--Raleigh-Durham International Airport is losing its only nonstop flights to New Orleans and San Antonio at the end of this summer, the latest in a string of flight cancellations as fuel costs soar.

Those routes are the last remaining flights ExpressJet operates out of RDU. The airline will continue to operate as Continental Express in some markets.

ExpressJet arrived with much fanfare when it began service out of RDU in May 2007, bringing the promise of new competition. The Houston-based carrier once offered 13 daily round trips but has been scaling back at RDU and elsewhere since the beginning of the year.

"It's unfortunate for the market here," said Eddie Albertson, vice president of sales and marketing for Travel Management Partners, a Raleigh travel agency that caters to corporate clients.

The cancellations take effect Sept. 2. Flights up to then aren't affected.

RDU passengers will still be able fly to New Orleans and San Antonio, but they'll have to stop at a connecting airport.

"It doesn't mean you can't get there," Albertson said. "It just means it won't be as convenient."

Other airlines have been cutting back as well, ending -- or announcing plans to end -- 30 flights at RDU this year, said airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin. That's about 13 percent of the 232 daily departures RDU had last year.

To counter that trend, airport officials are talking to airline executives about destinations that RDU considers underserved, Hamlin said. Airlines have added three flights out of RDU this year, including a Southwest Airlines nonstop flight to Denver that started in May.

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