The number of daily flights at Raleigh-Durham International Airport continues to decline, as do non-stop destinations, even though passenger count increases.

Late Tuesday, ExpressJet announced plans to discontinue operations, other than charter service, both its own and as a commuter airline linked to Continental. The ExpressJet shutdown takes effect Sept. 2, which means RDU will lose the airlines’ daily nonstop service to New Orleans and San Antonio.

"On behalf of everyone at ExpressJet Airlines, I would like to express our gratitude to the communities that provided such a warm welcome and were always supportive of our branded service," said Jim Ream, chief executive officer at ExpressJet, in a statement. "If we had any other choice, we would not take this difficult action. However, rising fuel prices [have] made the operation impossible to sustain."

While a few airlines such as Southwest, which is the most popular airline at RDU, have added flights, several are cutting back due to soaring fuel costs and a slowing economy.

With the ExpressJet announcement, RDU has been informed that airlines will drop more than 10 percent of its daily schedule, or 29 flights, through the fall. The current total is 219. Of those reductions, 13 have taken place, according to RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin.

Despite the service decline, however, the amount of passenger traffic at RDU has increased this year over 2007. And last year was the second-busiest year ever for RDU.

"One thing we know is that in our region, there is strong demand for travel, and so far we have not seen any changes or impact,” Hamlin said. “Currently, in terms of passengers, we are ahead of last year.”

Through May 31, the enplaned passenger count at RDU was 1,998,988. That’s a 2.2 percent increase from the same time frame a year ago.

Traffic on major carriers increased more than 5 percent to 1.37 million, offsetting a 3.9 percent drop on regional carriers to 625,762. (June traffic figures will be released later this month.)

Hamlin also noted that the changes buffeting the airline industry are not without precedent.

“We have been in similar positions before when the aviation industry has had to make changes,” she said, “and we’ve often seen ticket prices change as well.”

RDU is in the midst of a major expansion program, with a new Terminal 2 under construction. ExpressJet was among the carriers launching new or reviving service from the airport. Its arrival led to competition with American Eagle for non-stop service to new markets such as New Orleans.

The explosion in fuel prices led ExpressJet to end non-stop service to Louisville last fall and then Kansas City, Birmingham Ala., and Jacksonville, Fla. this year. One-stop flights to Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, also were dropped.

American and American Eagle also have cut flight plans, and Delta dropped its Los Angeles flight.

Southwest Airlines countered the destination reduction trend with a non-stop flight to Denver.