Pittsburgh International Airport: A Victim Of 9/11?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When the Midfield Terminal of Pittsburgh International Airport opened in October of 1992 it was the dawning of a new age of aviation for the region.

The airport was built to handle 32 million passengers a year with the capability of expanding to a second airside terminal in the future.

Built primarily as a hub for US Airways, Pittsburgh International continued to grow throughout the 1990s until peaking at 20 million passengers in 2000.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001 and the world changed.

People were initially afraid to fly, fuel and ticket prices rose, video conferencing came of age as an alternative to travel, and airlines lost huge amounts of money.

The industry was forced to reinvent the way it did business to survive. For US Airways, that meant dehubbing Pittsburgh.

“We were right at 14 to 15 hundred operations a day as a hub,” says Pittsburgh International Executive Director Brad Penrod. “Today, we have about 160 daily departures, so the hub is gone.”

Suddenly, Pittsburgh had a lot more airport than it needed. Half of concourses A and B have been walled off, saving the airport about a million dollars a year in utilities.

Other airlines stepped in to take up some of the destination slack and competition has significantly dropped ticket prices out of Pittsburgh. But the loss of flights is only part of the story.

Due to the post 9/11 dehubbing, a lot of people lost their jobs.

“US Airways peaked in Pittsburgh at about 13,000 people,” Penrod says. “Today, they have a little over 3,000.”

While Penrod says the airport today is in better financial condition than it was as a hub, the glaring fact is he’s managing a facility that was built to handle four times the 8.2 million passengers that are currently using the airport each year.

So, he’s out there constantly trying to convince another airlines that Pittsburgh would be a good place to call home. Penrod says he’s got a building that is move-in ready.

“We could do it tomorrow,” he said.

Pittsburgh International Airport
9/11: 10 Years Later

More from John Shumway

One Comment

  1. Will says:

    The midfield terminal was not ncessry nor wanted. Us air had just remodeled their concourses at the old terminal and were forced to commit to over 75 gates it didn’t need. The “new” airport was the legacy of county commissioners who sought glory. Agree that 9/11 hurt the airport and bankrupted many airlines, however, airport management continually raise landing fees which many airlines consider exorbitant. Every int,l flight out of PGH has also failed. If we lower fees we’ll attract more airlines. Look at the success of Spirit in Latrobe. I fly to Myrtle Beach a lot and LBE is easy to get to, parking is free, people are friendly and it’s non-stop. PGH has to learn to compete.

    1. Zoeyzotron says:

      Its PIT, not PGH…

    2. Joseph Puskar says:

      spirit airlines in latrobe is subsidized by the us gov for over 300 per ticket at minimum thats the reason spirit is even at latrobe….lol….low cost isnt so low cost ….google it if u dont believe me…this subsidy only applies to small airports

  2. Chris says:

    I am interested in discovering the real reason for Pittsburgh Airport’s fall from glory. While I’m sure that 9/11 and US Airways share some of the blame, much of what I’ve learned recently supports Will’s claim that it is county management — in particular large fees and inefficient baggage handling regulations — that have driven the flights (and the large planes) away. Any pointers to definitive information on this would be appreciated.

    It seems to me that people are not sufficiently upset about this. Bringing people in for business or flying out on business has become a huge hassle. Small planes, few flight, inconvenient times. I believe this is hurting the city significantly, and will continue to hurt the city for years if something is not done.

  3. Neot Raja says:

    Onarato forced US Airways to move he’s almost unemployed

  4. Zoeyzotron says:

    I travel alot and I can tell you we have a GREAT Airport! It is laid out well, runs efficiently, and convenient for passengers. The international terminal (under C) is fantastic, immigration is fast, sadly rarely used. I really hope that we become a hub again one day, it would be great for us travelers and the entire region!

    Hey US Airways… how you liking that sinkhole of an airport in Pihiadelphia….

Comments are closed.

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Play It
Get The All New CBS Local App

Watch & Listen LIVE