American Airlines adds Pittsburgh-L.A. daily nonstop flight

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American Airlines' new nonstop service between Los Angeles and Pittsburgh already is winning rave reviews in Hollywood.

"I'm so excited. I'm so thrilled," said Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office.

Ms. Keezer said she wasted no time in notifying clients in Los Angeles about the daily nonstop flight after the news broke Wednesday morning. She said it could impact the region's ability to continue to attract big-budget movie productions like "The Dark Knight Rises."

"This absolutely makes a difference. One of the biggest complaints from our clients who want to do projects in Pittsburgh is the lack of nonstop service," she said.

American announced Wednesday that it will launch one daily nonstop flight between Pittsburgh International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport starting Aug. 27.

The flight can be booked starting Sunday and will operate seven days a week. It will leave Los Angeles at 8:10 a.m. each day and arrive in Pittsburgh at 3:45 p.m. The daily flight will leave Pittsburgh at 4:30 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 6:50 p.m.

American will use a Boeing 737 aircraft for the flight, which will give travelers another option to the West Coast. United is the only airline that currently offers direct service to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh, but it does so only four days of the week.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that he, local business leaders and airport authority officials had been seeking to expand service into Los Angeles for some time. The City of Angels is an important market for business and leisure travelers, he noted.

"This is really a community effort of people pulling together," he said, singling out the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Congressional delegation and the governor's office. "It's really a team effort."

Mr. Fitzgerald said American will not receive any incentives, such as a waiver of landing fees, to start service.

"I just think this was pretty much the market itself" making the case for the flight, he said.

Wednesday's announcement is the latest gain for regional air travelers who have spent much of the last decade coping with extensive flight cutbacks at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Southwest Airlines announced March 4 that it would be adding a direct flight to Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 29. The low-fare carrier also will be launching a new flight to Houston's William P. Hobby Airport on Sunday. Southwest added a seasonal flight to West Palm Beach, Fla., this spring. JetBlue Airways, meanwhile, will add a fourth daily flight to Boston on May 1.

Mr. Fitzgerald said he and airport officials are still trying to interest airlines in adding nonstop service to Seattle, San Diego, New Orleans, Richmond, Indianapolis and other cities. They also are trying to secure international service to London, Rome and Frankfurt, a priority destination for the region's German-based companies.

He added that officials also would like to expand service into New York and Philadelphia. JetBlue eliminated its flights into New York Feb. 27 and Southwest dropped its flights to Philadelphia in early 2012, giving US Airways a monopoly. Fares to both cities have soared as a result.

"We'd love to get the Philadelphia route back with Southwest," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "That would be an important thing."

neigh_city - businessnews

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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