Flight plan: The county must pursue more international service

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It's been nine years since Pittsburgh International Airport lost some of the rights to that name. Fortunately, county officials keep trying to win airline business that would make the title more appropriate by offering direct flights beyond the Western Hemisphere.

In 2004, Pittsburgh lost nonstop service to both London and Frankfurt, the start of a drought of European destinations that continued until 2009 when Delta Air Lines, backed by $9 million in subsidies from the state and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, began offering direct flights to Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris. That service is offered during only part of the year.

The county's strategy basically has been to ask, to ask nicely and then to ask again. That continues.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told Post-Gazette reporter Mark Belko that he and airport officials have been talking with Air France-KLM Royal Dutch Airlines about service to Amsterdam, with Alitalia about Rome, with American about London and Frankfurt and with Delta about adding to its Paris flights.

The county's strategy is not limited to talk. The airport authority on Thursday approved a reduction in landing fees, the second cut since July and a move made possible by a $46.3 million lease bonus payment from Consol Energy, in exchange for the rights to drill for natural gas on airport land.

Pittsburgh's fees of $13.92 per passenger remain much higher than the national median of $7.22, though, so cuts to this degree may not be persuasive. An increase in demand from travelers originating in Pittsburgh will be necessary, too.

The region's improving economic status can only help. And, as the old adage says, there's no harm in asking.

opinion_editorials

First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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