Delta launches PIT-NYC nonstop
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Accompanied by accordion music and a water cannon salute, Delta Air Lines launched nonstop service from Pittsburgh to New York's LaGuardia Airport Wednesday, hoping to cash in on the frequent business and leisure travel to the Big Apple.
The first flight from Pittsburgh International Airport shortly after noon is one of six the carrier is scheduled to fly each weekday into LaGuardia, thanks largely to a deal reached last year with US Airways to swap takeoff and landing rights at LaGuardia and Washington's Reagan National Airport.
"This is great, a new option for people to get to New York," Rich Stanizzo, an Allegheny County Airport Authority board member, said during remarks before passengers boarded the first flight.
As it added the LaGuardia service, Delta dropped two of its five daily flights to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
But even with the cuts, it still will have nine daily weekday flights into Gotham, the No. 1 travel destination from Pittsburgh. That's more than US Airway's seven, JetBlue's two, and American's one.
Von Campanella, Delta's district sales manager in the Northeast U.S., said the new LaGuardia flights are part of a larger strategy to make the carrier New York's "hometown airline."
Since Delta acquired 132 "slot pairs" (takeoffs and landings) from US Airways, Pittsburgh dominant airline, it has increased service to LaGuardia by 60 percent. It now has more than 260 flights each day to the airport, the most of any carrier. The airline also is spending $160 million to modernize LaGuardia's C and D terminals.
Mr. Campanella said that LaGuardia is the "preferred airport" for travel to New York because it's closer to Manhattan. He doesn't expect the new service to undercut Delta's flights at JFK, which he said is used more for international connecting traffic.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that adding more nonstop flights at the half-empty Pittsburgh terminal, hit hard by US Airways cutbacks over the last decade, "is a priority of my administration."
He said he is expecting a number of major local companies to take advantage of the new service, particularly those in the financial and fashion sectors. Mr. Fitzgerald said he traveled to Atlanta earlier this year to visit Delta executives and liked what he heard from them. "They were very bullish on Pittsburgh," he said.
For now, however, Delta is not looking to expand beyond the additional New York flights, Mr. Campanella said.
First Published July 12, 2012 12:00 am