Delta plans to expand service to Paris |

Delta plans to expand service to Paris

A 2009 agreement with Pittsburgh officials allows Delta Air Lines to end its nonstop air service to Paris next June. Instead, the carrier will expand its flight schedule to six weekly.

Delta said Tuesday it will add two flights a week, starting June 1 and running through at least Aug. 31. The airline, which began the service in June 2009, currently operates one daily departure four days a week.

“The route has done better in its second year of service, enough so to add some additional flights this summer,” said Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter. “The future past Aug. 31 depends on the performance of the route. We’ll be keeping a close eye on it and gauging customer demand.”

Banstetter would not say how full of passengers its Paris-bound planes have been. But the flights were 53 percent to 81 percent full between July 2009 and November 2009, according to data from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

A partnership between the conference and the Allegheny County Airport Authority persuaded Delta to initiate the nonstop European service — something the Pittsburgh region lost in 2004 when US Airways ended nonstop Pittsburgh flights to Frankfurt.

In 2009, Delta agreed to provide Pittsburgh-Paris service for two years, until June 2011. Sweetening the deal was the Allegheny Conference’s promise that Delta would be paid up to $5 million the first year, and up to $4 million in the second, if passenger revenue didn’t hit Delta’s targets, which neither it nor the conference will disclose.

In the first year, Delta got all $5 million — $2.5 million from the conference, and $2.5 million from state grants. It is too soon to estimate the size of the subsidy Delta might receive in year two, said Ken Zapinski, a senior vice president of the Allegheny Conference.

“It’s fabulously useful,” Westinghouse Electric Co. spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said of the Delta flights. The Cranberry company’s employees made about 1,000 business trips to Europe using the nonstop Paris flight in the past 12 months, he said.

“Previously, from Pittsburgh we’d have to fly to another hub in the United States, and now we can avoid crowded hubs, such as Philadelphia,” Gilbert said.

“I encourage the region’s air travelers to use this nonstop Pittsburgh-to-Paris flight,” said Glenn Mahone, chairman of the airport authority. “Not only does it make it easier to travel internationally, (but) using this flight supports the region and helps to ensure its continued success.”

“This flight increases access to many destinations our travelers need to reach, and it saves them time and money in the process,” Mahone said.

Separately yesterday, Southwest Airlines announced new Pittsburgh service.

Beginning June 5, the discount carrier will fly nonstop to Denver once daily.

Southwest initiated Pittsburgh service in 2005 and now operates 22 daily nonstops to seven destinations.

The airline entered the Denver market in January 2006 and now flies from there to 42 cities.

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