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Monday November 28th

RDU enters new fiscal year with $249 million budget, new projects underway

<p>Raleigh-Durham International Airport serves the Triangle area and the greater North Carolina community. Photo courtesy of RDU Airport Authority.</p>
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Raleigh-Durham International Airport serves the Triangle area and the greater North Carolina community. Photo courtesy of RDU Airport Authority.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport approved a $249.3 million budget on March 17 for the new fiscal year, which began Friday.

After pausing certain operations and construction plans due to COVID-19, the RDU Airport Authority Board approved the budget, which will be used to restart old projects and begin new ones as the airport continues its pandemic recovery.

“We've been gratified to be able to come through this pandemic, which was so devastating for the airport industry,” RDU Director of Media Relations Stephanie Hawco said.

The $249 million budget includes $70.1 million for capital projects spending, a 69 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. It also includes $94.7 million in operating expenses, a 16 percent increase from the last fiscal year.

The budget will also be used to restart Vision 2040, RDU's 25-year plan approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017 to guide the construction of major projects.

These projects include terminals, ground transportation and general aviation.

In addition to these projects, RDU plans to spend the budget on investments in recruitment, customer experience, community relations and other infrastructure improvements.

“We began the year with a sense of optimism as we prepared for a prolonged but steady recovery,” Hawco said.

Planned projects

One airfield project planned for the fiscal year includes the replacement and rehabilitation of one runway. In addition, the airport apron — the area surrounding the airport — will be expanded and reconstructed.

The airport's terminals will also be revitalized.

Flooring in Terminal 1 will be replaced, while Terminal 2 will receive a pre-flight area, checkpoint expansion, bathroom refreshment and pet relief area.

The board also plans to spend $4 million to develop the concessions in Terminal 2.

Parking is another focus of the budget plan, as $12.38 million is allocated toward a parking guidance system, further parking garage rehabilitation and expanded economy lot parking.

Doug Lowe, region II vice president for the worker union Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, said the budget provides opportunities to the workers that the union represents and gets them more involved in the development of the airport.

“It's good work, you know, these are the kinds of things that we want to see happen at the airports,” he said.

Operating plans 

Beyond the construction projects, the business plan involved a talent recruitment and development program.

According to the plan, RDU will offer regionally competitive compensation for its employees.

“Like many organizations and many companies across North Carolina and across the country, we are experiencing the effects of the labor shortage," Hawco said. "And we are making a full-court press on hiring and recruitment and retention right now."

Hawco said RDU hosted Special Olympics North Carolina last fall as a way to give back to the community. She added that they are looking for more opportunities like this to strengthen community relationships.

The board also included rate adjustments in the plan that were proposed by RDU Chief Financial OfficerRon Kapocius. The airport increased some fees that were reduced or held steady during the pandemic.

North Carolina resident Philippe Bechard travels frequently through RDU and said he noticed the airport's prices have gone down recently. 

“I would say that the cost of RDU is comparatively low compared to other airports, and the prices are slightly lower now than pre-pandemic,” he said.

According to the newly approved budget, airlines now need to pay 10 percent more to land at RDU and about four percent more to use RDU’s terminals.

The ground transportation fees remain the same. However, non-tenant transportation operators — such as taxi or Uber drivers — and transportation network companies will be charged more for passenger transportation, baggage delivery and temporary stops. 

The increases range from 25 percent to 125 percent, depending on the number of passengers. Additionally, the daily maximum public parking fee increased by approximately 20 percent.

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