Colin McNickle: The Pittsburgh Worldwide Airport downside

Despite repeated efforts to increase passenger numbers at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) through subsidies for domestic and international flights, the airport has lagged far behind the average passenger growth at the country’s 50 largest airports, an analysis by the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy concludes .

“Between 2009 and 2019 (the year before the Covid-19 pandemic … crater-like air travel), passenger numbers at the top 50 airports rose by 36%,” says Jake Haulk, President Emeritus of the think tank in Pittsburgh. “PIT passengers only increased 19.1%, which resulted in PIT falling from 45th to 46th rank.”

What’s worse, PIT’s passenger count only increased 1% from 2018 to 2019, while the top 50 average increased 3.6%.

“PIT’s sluggish and lackluster performance is in stark contrast to many airports across the country,” noted Haulk. “In the period from 2009 to 2019, four in particular stand out.”

Austin rose from 44th to 32nd largest place with a passenger growth of 111.3%. Love Field in Dallas was up 119.9%; its ranking rose from 50th to 33rd. Nashville saw a 10-year increase of 103.8%, rising from 39th to 31st largest.

Raleigh-Durham saw a smaller, but still impressive, gain of 56.9% over the reporting period and saw an equally impressive increase of 10.6% from 2018 to 2019. Nashville and Austin also saw double-digit traffic jumps from 2018 to 2019.

“The strong increases in Austin, Nashville, Love Field and Raleigh-Durham reflect the strong underlying economic and population growth,” says Haulk. “Airports in areas with strong economic growth are attracting new flights from airlines looking to grow their business.”

PIT’s efforts to significantly increase passenger numbers by subsidizing travel have been a huge mistake, as shown by experiences with OneJet, WOW, CONDOR, British Airways and Delta.

PIT has shown some encouraging post-coronavirus pandemic passenger numbers since March 2020. The cargo volume showed what Haulk describes as “quite remarkable” resilience despite the severity of the general pandemic downturn.

The bottom line, however, remains that if the Allegheny County Airport Authority doesn’t like, the number of passengers at PIT now embarking on a $ 1.4 billion terminal modernization program will depend primarily on the number Hiring a major hub airline 20 years ago May bring population and employment growth in the greater Pittsburgh area.

But that has been anemic for many years.

“Trying to boost the region’s economy by subsidizing flights will never work,” Haulk emphasizes. “The region and the state need a much more business-friendly environment. And no environment that depends on subsidies from companies like Volkswagen, Sony and Aquion. Or professional sports teams. “

Despite the claim by Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Airport Authority that “our airports rely on innovation … to become real levers for economic growth,” Haulk argues that PIT “is not the engine that will fuel the region’s economy” .

“It’s part of the infrastructure that enables and facilitates growth,” he recalls. “When a huge hub operation does not come to the airport and significantly increases the job, income and sales opportunities for local providers, the best PIT can do is run the most efficient, cost-effective and competitive operation possible.”

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