The word international in the name Pittsburgh International Airport has been a frail plant in recent years that has needed the mulch of $9 million in subsidies from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the state of Pennsylvania to survive.
The recipient was Delta Air Lines, which used the money to start a nonstop service from Pittsburgh to Charles de Gaulle International Airport in June 2009. It was a hopeful boost to a city wanting to revive its former standing as the headquarters of major corporations.
Of course, some people oppose such help as a matter of political ideology, but the subsidies made the difference in helping Pittsburgh's airport keep a toehold in the big league of international travel. Before that, Pittsburgh hadn't had a direct connection to Europe since November 2004, when US Airways terminated its service to London and Frankfurt.
But the subsidies expired in June 2011 and Delta had the right to drop its service in the absence of them. It didn't. Delta continued the service for another year, albeit on a seasonal basis.
The good news is Delta will keep flying to Paris again next year. As announced by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the midfield terminal, the service will start on May 12 and continue until the last week of October. Delta is hoping to fly to Paris from Pittsburgh five days a week most of the season, a slight increase from last year when the flight operated for five days only in summer.
There's no arguing with success: The subsidies worked to grow the business. Now it appears onward and upward for Pittsburgh International Airport entering the 21st year of its modern phase.