Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pittsburgh International Airport-a possible renaissance?



A couple of days ago I read in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the Allegheny County Airport Authority is planning to reach out to the German airline, Condor Airlines, over the possibility of offering direct service from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt, Germany. For anyone not familiar with the Pittsburgh area, US Airways announced in 2004 that it would be substantially reducing its operations at Pittsburgh International Airport and shifting its operations elsewhere; as such Pittsburgh lost its status as one of US Airways' hubs. With this status gone, so was all direct service to Europe. The chance that more direct international flights will be offered is fantastic.

Unlike some airports that remain busy well into the evening, flying back into Pittsburgh at around 8 or 9 PM is like arriving into a ghost town. A smattering of flight arrivals are listed on the boards, with an even smaller number of flights taking off. Even when departing in the morning, a busy time for a lot of major airports, there are still numerous gates vacant. As such, many Pittsburgh natives including D still harbor a deep resentment towards US Airways to this day for abandoning Pittsburgh. (US Airways still has the highest number of flights at the airport though.) I, on the other hand, just try to focus on finding an airline that will get me exactly where I need to go; all airlines today are reprehensible in some way, whether big or small.

Although there are a couple of charter flights offered to destinations in the Caribbean that fly direct from Pittsburgh, all other international destinations require a connection in another United States airport. However, in 2009 Delta Airlines began offering direct flights to Paris five days a week, making this route the first transatlantic direct flight from Pittsburgh in more than five years. The route only operates seasonally but resumed operations for the 2012 travel year on March 24. From what I've read, the Pittsburgh-Paris route was not as successful as some thought and hoped it would be. However, it is still in operation and hopefully will remain so for a long time, enabling anyone the opportunity to fly direct from Pennsylvania's second largest city.

Pittsburgh has been bestowed with a lot of accolades of late. It was named the United States' Most Livable City by Forbes magazine in 2010, as well as being named the most livable city in the United States in 2011 by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Also it was named one of the 20 places to visit in 2012 by National Geographic Traveler (Pittsburgh was one of only two places in the United States); and was labeled "in" compared to Portland, Oregon, which was voted "out" by the Washington Post earlier this year. I hope that all of the praiseworthy distinctions the city has been recently, will help in revitalizing the airport and especially to have foreign airlines see the benefits of bringing flight service to Pittsburgh.

Frankfurt, Germany is not exactly a destination at the top of my travel wish list and yet I know it's only a short train ride to other German cities such as Munich and Heidelberg, as well as to other destinations in Central Europe to which few cities in the United States have direct service. Although the relationship between the Allegheny County Airport Authority and Condor Airlines is only at the "touch base" level and there would need to be serious evaluation in terms of whether a route between Pittsburgh and Frankfurt would be successful, I hope it's a step in the right direction. If a deal were be able to be reached and a second transatlantic route can be added to Pittsburgh's arrival and departure boards, the travelers of western Pennsylvania would be well served.

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