By Sara Longenecker
United Airlines announced Monday that it will withdraw all its flights from Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
United Airlines also withdrew flights from five other cities, including Norfolk, Va., and Knoxville, Tenn., according to a press release from the company.
A United Airlines spokeswoman said she did not know if the airline would return to RDU if ticket sales picked up in the future. "It's too soon to tell," she said.
According to the press release, United Airlines withdrew as a result of low passenger demand because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that resulted in more than 5,000 deaths.
American Eagle will take over United Airlines' flights and service their RDU routes for the time being.
The shutdowns at RDU come in the wake of a Midway Airlines declaration of bankruptcy and cancellation of all flights. Midway had a hub at RDU and laid off more than 2,000 employees in the Triangle area.
RDU Communications Manager Mirinda Kossoff said there has not been a problem with passengers getting stranded without flights.
She added that United Airlines was not a prominent airline at RDU. It ran six daily flights out of the airport, and Kossoff said its decision to withdraw from the airport is not as serious a problem as the loss of Midway.
"It is certainly sad," Kossoff said. "United Airlines has been with us since 1959 but were never a big presence here."
Kossoff said the airport does not know what to anticipate with United's withdrawal. "We are in a wait and see mode."
She said before the industry can reach its previous operating levels, consumers must regain their confidence in air travel. "Consumer confidence is the key."
Kossoff said the immediate problem was the decrease in traffic in Terminal C, formerly occupied by Midway.
Concession stands face an even greater decline in business than those in Terminal A, which only lost United business.
Kossoff stressed that the closings are not hurting passengers' abilities to reach their destinations. "All major destinations are being served," she said, "A few smaller destinations have been eliminated."
Kossoff said a more critical issue for the airport is uncertainty about the gates left vacant by Midway. She said the issue of the empty gates is in bankruptcy court.
American Airlines has a sublease on the gates expiring in 2002, which will force officials to wait until the lease has expired.
But Kossoff said business travel is continuing as usual, which is a good sign. She added that she is optimistic about the future of the airport. "Financially, we are in good shape."
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