A better flight from RDU to Paris is on the way

Paris-bound passengers lines up at the boarding gate for Delta’s RDU to Paris international flight when it launched on May 12, 2016.
Paris-bound passengers lines up at the boarding gate for Delta’s RDU to Paris international flight when it launched on May 12, 2016. File photo

On May 12, 2016, 160 passengers boarded a Boeing 757 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport headed to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, after celebrating the inaugural voyage with champagne and chocolate cake.

One year later, 75,000 other people have traveled between the two cities on that flight, some using the new connection to travel to other cities in Europe and the Middle East, according to RDU.

“I would classify it as being very successful,” Delta Air Lines spokesman Anthony Black said. “The demand that we’ve seen in both directions, the overall demand we’ve seen, has been strong.”

So strong, in fact, that Delta is upgrading the flight to a larger plane for the summer.

Starting May 25, the Boeing 757, the largest single-aisle aircraft, will be replaced with a Boeing 767, which has 43 more seats. American Airlines used the Boeing 767 on the RDU to London flight before upgrading it to the larger Boeing 777 this year.

While the Paris flight serves a mix of business and leisure travelers, more leisure travelers are expected to use the route during the summer months.

“Our region definitely has a desire to travel to Paris and beyond,” RDU spokesman Andrew Sawyer said.

Last year, Paris became RDU’s second nonstop route across the Atlantic and its fourth nonstop international flight, after London, Toronto and Cancun.

“There are a number of cities that you can get to with one stop through Paris that might be a little difficult through London,” Sawyer said. “And vice versa. They really pair well together.”

Delta Airlines employees gear up for their first passengers at Delta’s inaugural RDU to Paris international flight on May 12, 2016. Harry Lynch File photo

The success of the Paris flight is even more satisfying for RDU and Delta because the airline’s previous attempt to start direct service to Paris was canceled a few weeks after it was announced in November 2008 because of the economic downturn.

The upgrade also comes after a busy year for the airline, which kicked off new daily nonstop flights from RDU in 2016 to Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J. Since then, Delta has launched a flight from RDU to Austin, Texas, and expects to launch flights to Seattle and Nashville, Tenn., in June.

The airline has cited RDU’s passenger growth as a major factor in the additions.

Last year, RDU broke its record for most customers when a little more than 11 million people traveled through the airport – 10.4 percent more than in 2015. This topped the airport’s previous record, set in 2000, of 10.4 million passengers. About 30 percent of the passengers who boarded a plane at RDU in 2016 flew with Delta.

“An interesting development is how much the Raleigh-Durham market has developed overall for Delta,” Black said. “It’s not just this flight.”

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon