The three budget airlines will join Southwest in Terminal 1 on the east side of RDU’s campus by April 1, 2020.
Spirit became the 11th airline to fly from RDU when it added eight daily nonstops to seven cities earlier this month.
The move will free up space in Terminal 2, the airport’s largest and busiest with 36 gates. It will coincide with the activation of four dormant gates in Terminal 1, bringing the total there to 9.
Between now and next spring, RDU will build a new baggage handling system at Terminal 1 as well as install new ticket counters and kiosks, flight monitors and furniture. It’s not clear yet whether the terminal’s security checkpoint will be expanded or a second one will be built, said airport spokeswoman Stephanie Hawco.
Two of the new gates will have traditional jet bridges found throughout the airport, while two will be configured to allow passengers to walk outside, where rolling stairs or ramps would lead to the plane’s front and rear doors.
Frontier Airlines, which now flies nonstop to 32 cities from RDU, asked the airport to accommodate ground-level, dual-door boarding for its planes to reduce the amount of time it takes to get passengers on and off.
A new restaurant will also open in Terminal 1 just as the airlines begin using the new gates. The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority approved a contract Thursday for Raleigh Brewing Tavern, which will feature beers from Raleigh Brewing Co. The restaurant will also serve Port City Java coffee and both sit-down and carry-out meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The tavern will be operated by Uptown Airport Group, the company that has run the Char-Grill and Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina in Terminal 1 since 2014.
The expansion of Terminal 1 is needed because Terminal 2 is essentially full, with none of its 32 gates available to lease, according to Bill Sandifer, the airport’s chief operating officer. This winter, Sandifer told the airport authority that moving Frontier would free up two gates in Terminal 2, while moving Spirit would free up one. Allegiant doesn’t have an assigned gate, but moving to Terminal 1 will mean other carriers won’t have to share with the airline.
A record 6.4 million passengers flew out of RDU last year, and traffic continues to grow as airlines add flights. Nearly 572,000 passengers boarded flights in April, a 6.2 percent increase compared to the same month last year, airport president Michael Landguth said Thursday. Airlines have since added 16 flights to the schedule, including a new daily nonstop to Phoenix from American Airlines.