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As the name implies, RDU serves the cities of Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina. Until the eighties, the main carrier at RDU was Piedmont Airlines, one of the many victims of the post-deregulation airline bust. RDU was revitalized by the opening of neighboring Research Triangle Park, an office park that houses scores of pharmaceutical and computer companies.

In 1988, American Airlines moved in on RDU and started a hub operation there. Bob Crandall's original idea was to make RDU a connecting point for flights between the southeastern and northeastern United States: they also used Nashville as a north-south hub, as USAir did in Charlotte. American's new terminal flourished through the early 1990's, and the airline began nonstop service to Paris's Orly Airport and London's Gatwick Airport.

RDU's head cooled off in the mid-1990's. American pulled out of both Raleigh and Nashville, selling its RDU operation to Midway Airlines. AA keeps the Gatwick flight running to this day, largely for the benefit of the neighboring Glaxo Wellcome corporation.

Midway operated low-cost flights out of American's terminal for several more years before going bankrupt in 2001 and grounding its planes.

Since then, American and Midway's Terminal C has become a ghost town, with half of its now-empty gates cordoned off to the public. Terminal A, on the other hand, has actually expanded as the other airlines add more flights to fill the vaccuum. A new parking deck is currently in the works to handle the increased load on the other side of the airport.

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