Here is a article from July 16th, 2000 edition of the Raleigh News and Observer that talks about the problem with AA at RDU. The article answers some questions asked by DCA-ROCguy and will inform those who have not heard anything about this yet.
July 16, 2000
The News & Observer
Past hub retains hold on RDU
By DUDLEY PRICE
VICKI HYMAN; STAFF WRITERS
Five years after American Airlines pulled out of its hub at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, its grip there has never been stronger.
A long-term lease gives American control over RDU's bigger terminal, the red-roofed Terminal C, putting it virtually off limits to local airport officials as they struggle with
near record passenger traffic.
The arrangement threatens to limit new flights and make life more miserable for travelers as the airport embarks on a massive overhaul of its smaller terminal, airport
officials say. American, with only 16 flights a day, has no incentive to make any improvements, and RDU doesn't want to invest millions of dollars in a terminal it owns but
"You've got to have control of that building to do any expansion," said Airport Authority member Ray Sparrow. "Something has got to be done, no question about that."
In a situation rare among U.S. airports, American, once RDU's premier carrier, is now more of a caretaker and not a very good one at that, Sparrow said. Walls are
marked up, metal doors are dented, carpets are stained, and Terminal C hasn't had a major facelift since it opened 13 years ago.
American Airlines agrees something needs to be done. But its proposed solution isn't acceptable to airport officials. The airline has said it will give up its lease on the
terminal and related facilities, said Airport Director John Brantley - if RDU will assume annual payments of about $7 million through 2015.
Dallas-based American declined to discuss expansion needs or maintenance complaints. Company spokesman Dale Morris said the airline is "deeply in negotiations" with
RDU officials about assuming control of the building.
But Brantley said talks have been on and off for the past year or so. "The ball is currently in American Airlines' court, and they have got to decide to play it for the
situation to become better," he said.
Expansion plans change:
Once humming with 81 percent of the airport's passenger traffic, Terminal C now handles less than half of the 172,000 passengers who move through the busy airport
each week. It has 26 gates to accommodate arriving and departing flights; compared with just 18 at Terminal A.
Joe Salsbury of Pittsboro noticed the difference last time he met his son's flight in Terminal C. "It's a joy to pick him up," he said. "There's no one in there. Why in the
world does that sit there empty and vacant?"
The Airport Authority didn't envision this situation when it struck the deal with American Airlines for its planned hub.
As part of that deal, the authority issued nearly $114 million in tax-exempt, low-interest bonds to help pay for the new terminal where American would be based. In return,
American agreed to pay off the debt and was given a 40-year lease.
As business at the airport continued to grow, the authority even adopted a long-range plan in January 1995 that called for a dramatic expansion of Terminal C. A new
north concourse was to be added, which would have more than doubled the number of gates on the airport's west side.
Two weeks later, however, American announced its decision to close its hub. The expansion plans were put on hold and the dispute over Terminal C has been
simmering ever since.
Since 1995, competition among other airlines to serve the Triangle has picked up, but the Airport Authority has been limited in its ability to accommodate them and their
Today, American uses only six of the 26 gates in Terminal C. The airline subleases 19 gates to Midway Airlines and one to Midwest Express. Other airlines did not
move into Terminal C because they did not want to pay what American was charging for rent and because Midway had already spoken for most of the gates, Brantley
A short-term solution:
For a solution, the Airport Authority turned its attention to the part of the airport it could control: Terminal A. It scrapped plans to demolish RDU's original terminal, which
had a leaky roof and was boarded up, and spent $18 million to renovate it and connect it to Terminal A.
That gave the authority new gates to rent at rates lower than American's, but it didn't solve the space problem for long. Along came Southwest Airlines and MetroJet, US
Airways' low-fare subsidiary. Almost overnight, Terminal A became stretched to capacity.
The crunch has become so severe in Terminal A that the airport is spending $14 million on a temporary concourse to provide new gates as a stopgap while it builds a
permanent concourse nearby. It plans to spend $500 million over the next 10 years to overhaul Terminal A.
Even if RDU controlled Terminal C, the airport would still need to overhaul Terminal A, said Airport Authority Chairman Bob Winston, but it would have more flexibility to
handle the growth. Six airlines want to add flights, but the authority can't use Terminal C to relieve the pressure, even temporarily.
"We could have transferred airlines over there, but we can't do it because we don't have control," Sparrow said.
The Airport Authority also says it may be unable to help Midway, which wants to add flights and expand its presence in Terminal C.
The airline now has 95 daily jet departures there and will expand to about 150 in two years. Midway will require another eight to 10 gates for this expansion, said Robert
Ferguson, president and chief executive officer. "Somewhere late next year we flat run out of space," Ferguson said.
But as long as American controls Terminal C, Brantley said, there's not much the Airport Authority can do.
Brantley thinks it would be to American's advantage to turn over control of the terminal to the Airport Authority. The airline, he said, does not profit from rent it collects at
Terminal C, once it subtracts maintenance costs.
"Under the lease, they are required to be the building manager," Brantley said. "They can't just do nothing. It takes people, synergy, to do that even if they don't do the
greatest job of it, and American Airlines is in the airline business, not the property management business."
Still, Brantley said, the airport benefits from having American pay for the terminal. He would like for American to voluntarily extricate itself from the burden of maintenance
and repair, Brantley said.
"But if American Airlines does not agree to it, that's not what the situation is going to be," he said. "If they're shouldering the load, they have the right to set the