Pittsburgh International Airport reported higher passenger traffic Thursday for the fifth straight month — gains not seen since 2010 — prompting some experts to say the airport’s passenger plummet may have bottomed out.
The airport’s passenger traffic is up 1.5 percent through September compared to the same time period last year.
A combined total of 657,929 passengers traveled through the airport in September compared to 633,939 in September 2013, representing a 3.8 percent month-to-month increase.
Airport officials have been trying to build on the momentum with additional carriers and destinations.
Another direct flight may be on the way. The Vacation Express website indicates that it is accepting reservations for a direct flight to Grand Bahama Island starting in August 2015, meaning a new destination for Pittsburgh International.
“This is good news, not only for Pittsburgh but for the airlines,” said Bijan Vasigh, economics professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. “I think with average passenger growth about 3 percent and based on Pittsburgh being very proactive in trying to reduce charges, it presents an opportunity to increase passengers.”
The airport’s numbers last year were dismal with fewer than 7.9 million passengers, its lowest total since 7.3 million people flew out of the former Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in 1975. US Air dumped Pittsburgh as a hub a decade ago, sending passenger numbers spiraling.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority ousted former CEO Brad Penrod in March, installing CFO Jim Gill as acting executive director.
Gill pointed to the passenger gains and recent announcements of added flights to regional cities in Pennsylvania and three Florida destinations as indicators of clearer skies ahead.
“That’s positive growth from what we’ve seen in the recent past. We think it’s certainly a rebound of passenger traffic that we’ve been trying to recapture,” Gill said. “We’ve created a revised strategy and we’re being more specific in how we market to airlines.”
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air announced earlier this week that it plans to start service in February to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in the Tampa Bay area, Punta Gorda Airport north of Fort Myers, and Jacksonville International Airport.
The news was released less than a month after Fort Lauderdale-based Sun Air Express announced it was adding five regional flights to Pittsburgh International as part of a federally subsidized program.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or [email protected].