A bit of good news
Leisure trips drive modest traffic rebound at Pittsburgh airport as business travel continues to lag
This is the kind of year it has been for Pittsburgh International Airport: A 69.5% drop in passenger traffic counts as good news.
That was the case Friday when officials found some solace in that statistic in a year when COVID- 19 has devastated the airport and the airline industry as a whole.
The 69.5% decrease in September represented the smallest passenger decline since the pandemic gripped the region and the country in March. It was far less than the 96% plunge in traffic in April and the 89.4% decline in May, all the result of the virus.
Allegheny County Airport Authority officials also are encouraged by the upswing in traffic at the county airport in West Mifflin. General aviation traffic in the third quarter was down only 3.6% compared to 40.6% in April.
“I guess we can look favorably on some things,” said authority board chairman David Minnotte.
Christina Cassotis, the authority’s CEO, said the modest rebounds in passenger traffic at Pittsburgh International have been largely driven by leisure travel. Business travel, on the other hand, continues to sputter.
“We certainly saw many business destinations reduce capacity,” she said. “Airlines are continuing to focus on leisure markets as the summer travel season extended into September.”
Overall year- to- date traffic through September is down 61.3% compared to the same period last year.
Available seats dropped 54.6% last month, which Ms. Cassotis attributed to the airlines adjusting supply to a challenging environment in terms of demand.
Ms. Cassotis declined to predict where traffic is heading, particularly with airlines laying off tens of thousands of employees and cutting service in some markets because of the lack of additional federal stimulus funding.
“It seems to have leveled off for some time. We hope that holds in the winter months. I think that has to do with whether there’s a second wave [ in terms of the virus] or a vaccine,” she said.
Ms. Cassotis was more upbeat about the county airport. She said traffic is rebounding to near prepandemic levels.
“We want to put this out there
because not all of aviation is suffering, and private aviation in particular is doing well, and again, county [ airport] is really capturing a lot of that traffic,” she said.
Among those who have landed at county airport in recent weeks were Vice
President Michael Pence and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
While business travel has been down dramatically at Pittsburgh International, it fell only 4.46% from July through September at the county airport.
“What you’re seeing here really is the resilience of general aviation and the recovery trend for [ county airport] in particular,” Ms. Cassotis said. “We’re hopeful that the positive trend continues to hold through the end of the year.”
The long- term parking lot was still mostly empty at the Pittsburgh International Airport on Sept. 28.