RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – With travelers steadily returning to the skies, the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority on Tuesday launched a digital system that will help travelers stay up-to-date and plan their trip to all cities that serve as the destinations for any flight that leaves an RDU runway.

RDU says it is the first airport in the world to provide the service to travelers.

The goal is to answer “the main questions travelers have about destinations around the world – where can I go and what can I do when I get there?”

Travelers can find:

  • COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements
  • Instructions to follow upon arrival at a destination
  • Updated local regulations and public health guidance
  • Status of restaurants, businesses, and attractions

To be sure the tool is up to date, it refreshes 5,000 times per day updating data in real-time from websites like the International Air Transport Association and governmental websites, said Stephanie Hawco, director of media relations for the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority.

“It’s a really helpful tool for people to use in their planning, and allows them to be able to travel smart,” Hawco told WRAL TechWire.

Flier confidence builds

The tool was launched as RDU disclosed in a new survey that people are confident they can now fly as COVIDA-19 vaccines become more plentiful.

“We do believe that widespread distribution of vaccines is going to be what ignites the recovery for our industry,” she said/

Fourteen million passengers traveled through RDU in 2019, said Hawco, compared to just 5 million in 2020, a change of 66 percent.

“It’s been very dramatic,” said Hawco.  “In April 2020, passenger traffic was down 97 percent year-over-year.”

Yet air travelers are returning already, said Hawco, and air traffic last week had returned to 55 percent of the same week in 2019.  “It’s inching up, slowly,” she said.

RDU offers nonstop flights to 38 destinations, including two international. Before the pandemic struck a year ago, RDU offered 57 nonstops including five international.

According to the survey, 76% agreed that being vaccinated against COVID-19 would make traveling by airline safer, and 91% of respondents indicated that they have been vaccinated partially or fully or intend to be in the near future.

“While RDU and airlines have made tremendous strides in restoring passenger confidence, vaccinations will be the final piece that ignites the industry’s recovery,” said Michael Landguth, CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, said in a statement.  “All indications are leisure travel will pick up as the vaccine becomes more widely distributed.”

A similar survey conducted by the organization was conducted in November, and in both 54% of respondents reported that they would feel safe traveling from RDU.

As for future destinations, that’s not an RDU decision.

It’s up to the airlines, individually, to reopen flights internationally, said Hawco. RDU does offer flights to two international destinations: Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Cancun, Mexico.

“The airlines have indicated to us that they are looking to bring the Paris and London trips back,”  said Hawco.  “We do anticipate those coming back in late spring, and they are based on demand, so they could get pushed, but we are looking at those flights coming back.”