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.