For the first time since US Airways dismantled its hub operation, Pittsburgh International Airport will have flights into multiple destinations in Europe in summer 2017 after WOW air and Condor announced growth into Allegheny County. The two new routes will complement the Delta Air Lines link to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport that has operated since summer 2009, but more long-haul flights remains Allegheny County Airport Authority’s vision, including the returns of flights to London.
Low-cost carrier WOW air will continue its long-haul growth into North America with a four times weekly link from Keflavik International Airport launching from June 16, 2017, serving Reykjavik and providing connection opportunities across Europe. The flight will be operated using a single-aisle Airbus A321 configured in a 200-seat, single-class arrangement.
“Making exciting new destinations accessible for travellers across the world at unbeatable prices is an integral part of our ethos at WOW air. Pittsburgh is certainly a destination on the rise and one that will appeal to a wide range of European travellers looking to discover somewhere different, so we’re thrilled to add the destination to our route list,” said Skúli Mogensen, founder and chief executive officer, WOW air.
In an exclusive interview with Routesonline during the recent World Travel Market event in London, Mogensen noted that Pittsburgh fits well into the growth of its network into secondary points in North America and which will complement its activities in markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and its new services to New York (from November 25, 2016) and Miami (from April 5, 2017).
“We are planning to grow our activities into second tier city markets. We see strong potential for these markets and Pittsburgh fits the mould perfectly within the range of our single-aisle fleet and 24-hour return flight rotation,” he said.
The airline believes that not only will its flights meet the already notable demand for flights between Pittsburgh and points across Europe, but its low-fares will also stimulate the market further. “We have already seen all of our existing flights into North America provide significant market stimulation,” he confirmed.
A week after WOW air inaugurates flights, German carrier Condor will introduce a twice weekly seasonal link between Frankfurt and Pittsburgh, introducing non-stop flights into a market that has been in high demand from the Pittsburgh region. The route will take to the air from June 23, 2017 and will be operated using a three-class Boeing 767-300 with a Business and Premium Economy offer adding to the standard Economy service.
The Business cabin and schedule (Friday and Monday rotations) will support increasing trade links between Pittsburgh and Germany. According to the German American Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh, there are approximately 11,000 people working for German-owned companies in the region; 5,000 German citizens with family in the area; and 125 German companies including Adidas, BASF, Bayer, Covestro, Bosch, SAP and Siemens.
It is over ten years since Pittsburgh and Frankfurt were last linked in October 2004 by US Airways and the German city is key for business and leisure travellers alike. “While we know many leisure travellers will use this route, we have at least 13 German companies with Pittsburgh offices or subsidiaries; 15 German organisations in the region; and 10 university and secondary school partnerships with German institutions,” said Christina Cassotis, chief executive officer, Allegheny County Airport Authority.
“Those figures translate to passengers as well as cargo opportunities with this widebody aircraft. We’re thrilled that Condor recognised the demand for this service in Pittsburgh.” she added.
In the space of just two years, Pittsburgh International Airport has expanded its route map by 70 percent growing non-stop links from 37 to over 60 destinations as it has welcomed new carriers such as Allegiant Air, OneJet, Frontier Airlines, Porter Airlines, Vacation Express and Southern Airways. It now serves over eight million passengers annually and is on track for its third straight year of passenger gains.
Most recently the airport has added non-stop service to Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Dallas Love Field on Southwest Airlines; Cincinnati, Louisville, Hartford, Milwaukee and Indianapolis on OneJet; New Orleans, Savannah, San Juan, and Austin on Allegiant Air; and Harrisburg, Pa., in addition to small markets of Morgantown, W.V. Johnstown, Pa. Dubois, Pa. all on Southern Airways.
Looking ahead Allegiant Air have announced plans to base a second aircraft at the airport to support the nine non-stop destinations it serves, while in recent months the chief executive officers of both Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines have both visited the facility and suggested further expansion is possible. The latter has since confirmed a weekly New Orleans link from March 19, 2017 through May 7, 2017 growing its non-stop network to 17 destinations.
The expanded network will help Pittsburgh International Airport report another year-on-year growth in traffic during 2016. Latest data for September shows a 6.8 percent increase in traffic versus last year to 708,895 passengers and September 2016 was the busiest September month since 2007 at the airport. Year-to-date total airport passenger traffic is up 2.1 percent with 6,192,235 total passengers travelling through the airport in the first nine months.
“When new service comes in, you expect that it will stimulate the market, and that’s what we’re seeing here with the addition of new non-stop flights on new carriers including Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Porter Airlines, Southern Airways Express and OneJet at Pittsburgh International,” said Cassotis. “We are pleased that carriers are recognising the demand for air service in our region, and that they are already seeing high load factors on the new routes.”
As schedule data from OAG illustrates, the domestic US market dominates capacity at Piitsburgh International Airport, with international activity like the icing on the top of the cake, but bringing significant economic value into the city and wider region. In fact the international network growth this year will mean 2016 is the first year in the last ten that domestic capacity has not exceeded a 98 percent share from Pittsburgh, slipping to 97.4 percent, based on published schedules.
The strong domestic expansion is now being supported by increased international activity, with the two new European routes are welcomed additions. International traffic is up nearly 40 percent this year, bolstered by the one-year anniversary of Porter Airlines, expanded service on Air Canada, and service to the Caribbean on both American and Delta, as well as an expanded offer to Paris from Delta, which flew the route on a daily schedule for the vast majority of the summer season. In addition to Condor and WOW air, Vacation Express also plans to add a Montego Bay, Jamaica international connection next year.
“Our recent growth and momentum at Pittsburgh International is matching the momentum and growth of our region. The likes of WOW air have now recognised Pittsburgh’s pent-up demand for air service to Europe, and the airline’s ultra-low cost fares will greatly enhance travellers’ options,” said Allegheny County executive, Rich Fitzgerald.
Like the Delta Air Lines route to Paris, which gained a reported state and Allegheny Conference on Community Development support of up to $9 million in subsidies over two years to support its launch, the new WOW air and Condor routes will be receiving incentives to support their rise to profitability during their first couple of years of operation.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority will reportedly provide $400,000 - $500,000 in annual payments, via the state Department of Community and Economic Development, for two years to both WOW air and Condor to help to mitigate the airline’s risk in addition to waiving landing fees as is standard policy for new long-haul routes.