It wasn’t that long ago that Pittsburgh lacked direct domestic flights to many major cities, let alone internationally. But now business and leisure travelers can get to the city from almost anywhere in world, thanks to the efforts of the Allegheny County Airport Authority and VisitPITTSBURGH. In the past three years, nonstop destinations have nearly doubled from 37 to more than 65 and passenger traffic has soared to its highest levels in more than a decade.
British Airways recently announced nonstop service to London Heathrow will start in April, adding to transatlantic nonstop service already underway to Reykjavik and Frankfurt on WOW and Condor respectively. Through July, international passenger traffic at PIT was up 20 percent over last year.
But Pittsburgh had never had service to Asia. That changed Aug. 3 when the region celebrated its first-ever nonstop flight from Shanghai, China — thanks to a partnership between the Airport Authority, VisitPITTSBURGH and Idea Foundry.
“Our partnership with VisitPITTSBURGH and other community organizations has been essential in helping to fuel the turnaround of Pittsburgh International Airport,” Christina Cassotis, Pittsburgh International Airport CEO, told Convene. “We are focused on meeting the needs of our region, and air service is a huge part of that. VisitPITTSBURGH has been an important partner as we work together to attract new service, like the recent announcement of nonstop flights to London on British Airways and the start of nonstop charter flights from Shanghai, China to Pittsburgh. Working together as a community is a way to maximize our impact both in terms of landing new service but also in fueling regional economic development.”
There were more than 300 tourists from China on the region’s inaugural nonstop flight from Shanghai to Pittsburgh this summer. Pittsburgh is the first city of its size in the country to be considered a destination for Chinese tourists. This direct flight is a way to “open up Pittsburgh to China,” according to Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH, and the first step toward growing the Chinese tourism market in the Pittsburgh region, with the ultimate goal of accelerating scheduled service.
“VisitPITTSBURGH brings Pittsburgh to the world and the world to Pittsburgh,” Davis said. “New international air routes enable us to expand our reach to brand-new visitors to our great city. We know that some of the best attributes of our region are of significant interest to these markets, and given our existing connections with our innovative business community and educational institutions, it really is a natural fit.”