After a spirited battle with two other regions, the Allegheny County Airport Authority persuaded US Airways to build a $30 million flight operations center along Ewing Road near Pittsburgh International Airport. The decision was considered a win for this area and the center opened with much fanfare in October 2008.
But in the ever-changing airline industry, US Airways merged with American Airlines in 2013 and American decided to consolidate all of its flight operations activities in a new center built near its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. When that center opened in August, the former US Airways operation here closed.
Now, the airport authority is hoping to breathe new life into the 60,000-square-foot facility. It agreed Friday to buy the 21-acre site from American for $1.87 million.
“For the past few months, we looked at our options and we’re pleased we were able to reach a deal with the Airport Authority,” said Matt Miller, a spokesman for American. “It’s really a good deal for both sides. It’s a fantastic building, new, but basically one we didn’t need anymore.”
Christina Cassotis, the authority's CEO, said she believes the authority will have no trouble leasing the facility to recoup the purchase price. The building will no longer be used as a flight operations center, she said, but should be open to almost any other use.
“When you look at it, it’s a hell of a deal for us,” she said, calling the airline “a good partner” with the airport. “We’re not in a position where we have to ask the developers to come here and look at things. They are coming to us. We are going to look at what’s the right fit and see what happens.”
When it was competing for the new facility a decade ago, the authority offered heavy incentives for US Airways to build here. But those financial incentives were deemed improper by federal aviation regulators because the facility would benefit only one airline.
In the end, Ms. Cassotis said, the only public money in the project was $3.25 million for site preparation, “the same thing we would have done for any project.”
In other matters, the authority:
• Heard a report that the number of passengers in November was up 7 percent over the previous year and Southwest continues to increase its share of the Pittsburgh market. American had 31.4 percent of the passengers in November to Southwest’s 25.8 percent, but that may narrow more next month when Southwest replaces service to St. Louis that American is eliminating.
• Approved spending up to $125,000 to develop a new marketing program to promote the airport to travelers and airlines.
Ed Blazina: email@example.com or 412-263-1470.
First Published January 8, 2016 12:51 PM