Triangle’s thriving Native American community is pushing RDU for a direct flight to India – here’s why

Editor’s Note: Steve S. Rao is council member and former mayor Pro Tem of the City of Morrisville and opinion writer for WRAL Tech Wire. He has served on the board of America’s New Economy, now the American Immigration Council, and the Race and Equity Task Force of the NC League of Municipalities. He is a regular WRAL TechWire writer.


MORRISVILLE- Based on the explosive growth of the Native American community in the Triangle and the increasing need for frequent trips to India from the Triangle, community leaders and I are holding a town hall meeting with the CEO of the airport in RDU, Michael Landguth, September 22. at 6:30 p.m. at the Hindu Society of North Carolina. (309 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville, NC 27560)

The purpose of the meeting is to explore opportunities for direct flight service to India, and for Mr Landguth and his team to share the criteria the airport uses when considering additions to international flight service . Michael will provide an overview of the airline industry and what it takes to recruit international airline services. During the meeting, he also plans to reveal the latest airport data on the number of daily travelers to India from RDU.

Steve Rao

The community hopes to seek guidance and advice on the strategic steps that need to be considered for direct air service to India as RDU continues to expand international flights. Furthermore, he will inform the community about the RDU Vision 2040 strategic plan, as well as the challenges and opportunities that RDU Airport faces in a post-Covid economy.

We also invited Research Triangle Regional Partnership Executive Director Ryan Combs and I work with the Hindu Society of North Carolina, Association of North American Indians, Global Entrepreneurial Organization, TIE Carolinas and IT Serve , a coalition of Indian American technology CEOs.

This Town Hall was the result of an increasing number of emails and phone calls I have received from the Community over the years about the need for a direct flight to India. Prior to the Covid pandemic, Mr Landguth and I had planned a town hall meeting to discuss this issue, but for the past two years it has been very difficult for me to arrange a meeting.

Today Newark, Dulles, Chicago O’Hare, Seattle and San Francisco have direct flights to India (LA had one before the Covid pandemic) and these airports are all major international airports, unlike RDU. However, I still believe there are a number of reasons why RDU should consider adding a direct flight.

In fact, during the pandemic, I have seen a significant increase in interest in flying direct to India. Much of this interest has come from families, who were unable to see their loved ones before they died because they missed connecting flights. The grief and grief I witnessed stuck with me and opened my eyes to how important a direct flight is to this growing community.

Yes, although there are several ways to get to India, whether via Paris, London or Dubai, a direct flight might be more convenient with no connections or stopovers. Currently, Paris flight from RDU is the number one route to Delhi, Chennai and other cities in India.


It’s no secret that North Carolina will need to continue to strengthen its economic ties with the world’s largest democracy and the world’s 5th largest economy, India.

In fact, The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) opened an office in Bangalore in November 2018 to build on its track record of Indian business presence in the US region. Chris Chung and his team led efforts to establish this office to take advantage of the recent economic development momentum of investment from India.

In 2017, Infosys established an Innovation Center in Raleigh with the goal of more than 2,000 jobs in the region in 10 years and has already achieved the goal of 500 jobs by 2021. This $3 billion investment from the market-leading technology services company was a game-changer. win for our state.

Bharat Forge announced plans in 2019 to invest $127.3 million and create 304 jobs in Sanford. And HCL in Cary is a perfect example of how foreign direct investment from India can lead to well-paying jobs and aggressive economic growth in the region.

A direct flight to India can accelerate this momentum of economic development and encourage more companies in India, in the technology, manufacturing and life sciences sectors, to invest in our region. Also, many tech companies, including IBM, SAS, Cisco, to name a few, continue to have a strong presence in India, along with smaller tech companies, many in Morrisville and Cary. Pharmaceutical, life science and contract research organizations also have strong ties to India.


In previous blogs, I have addressed the challenges many Indian American families face with the backlog of H1 B visas and H4 visas. Difficulties obtaining visas for families to travel to North Carolina have increased the need for many of our residents to visit family when needed, especially parents or aging or ill family members . A direct flight or an expanded air service to India could certainly help these families in difficult times.

A direct flight to India could also provide a much-needed connection to a large and growing international student population in our region and help bolster global student recruitment efforts. Our universities are full of international students from all over the world, many of them from India. Our state’s 21,954 international students inject $722.3 million annually into the local economy, supporting more than 9,000 jobs. International students also make college affordable for Americans: although they represent only 4.6% of the student population, international students pay 28% of all tuition.

I am very excited about this Town Hall and look forward to Mr. Landguth and the Indian community working together on what I believe is a much needed addition to international flights from RDU.

Over the past decade, the Triangle area has seen explosive growth in the Indian community. With more than 425,000 Asian Americans in North Carolina, 2021 census estimates had more than 51,000 Native Americans in Wake County and 57,000 with Wake, Durham, and Orange counties combined. The census also revealed that the Native American community of Morrisville made up 46% of the population of the city of Morrisville, currently 36,840. Census experts revealed to me that the city of Cary has at least 20% American Indians as residents.

Every day in our All America City, I like to celebrate our Triangle connection with India in Morrisville, where I can start my day with an Idli Dosa and a South Indian coffee, listen to my own Radio Nyra show, the largest Indian radio station in the Triangle, watch the cricket at Church Street Park and end my day with a Bollywood concert or a Diwali celebration at HSNC or in October, Hum Sub Diwali.

Every day we see more and more immigrants coming to the region from India, and I continue to work with my Council colleagues, other elected officials and business leaders in the Triangle, not only to strengthen, but also to develop our ties with the largest democracy in the world.

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday for an interesting and productive discussion and thank Michael Landguth and his team for taking the time out of their busy schedules to work with us to make this meeting happen. I also thank the Hindu Society of North Carolina, the American Indian Association of North Carolina and all sponsors of this event.

A sold-out attendance is expected, which includes leaders from the Indian community, the business community and other elected officials, including North Carolina State Minority Whip Jay Chaudhuri and my colleague, the board member Satish Garimella.

Each year, I am honored to work with my Council colleagues to continue to lead the American city of Morrisville, where we can all live connected and live well. One of the most important bonds we continue to celebrate in Morrisville and much of the Triangle is our connection to India.

Considering a direct flight to India will help the thousands of Indian Americans who live in North Carolina and can strengthen our economic and cultural ties with the world’s largest democracy and the world’s 5th largest economy.

Let’s get to work. On Thursday.

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