A bit of good news

Leisure trips drive mod­est traf­fic re­bound at Pitts­burgh air­port as busi­ness travel con­tin­ues to lag

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Business - By Mark Belko

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.”

An­drew Rush/ Post- Gazette

The long- term park­ing lot was still mostly empty at the Pitts­burgh In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Sept. 28.

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