By Jon Delano

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When Pittsburgh submitted its HQ2 pitch to Amazon to become the Seattle-based giant’s second headquarters, many asked, isn’t Pittsburgh hurt by the lack of a non-stop flight to Seattle?

Well, no more.

“Pittsburgh will become our 90th non-stop destination from Seattle,” announced John Kirby, vice president of capacity planning at Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines, headquartered in Seattle, is coming to Pittsburgh and linking Pittsburgh to Amazon.

Officials, including Kirby, denied any connection in response to questions from KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

Delano: “Did Amazon have anything to do with this?”

Kirby: “I wish I could say yes, but the answer is no. We make this decision independent of whatever Amazon decides.”

Kirby says their decision to fly to Pittsburgh was based on existing traffic between the cities, not future speculation.

Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis agrees.

“This is not about Amazon. This is about Pittsburgh,” says Cassotis.

Delano: “Did you use the Amazon argument in making your case?”

Cassotis: “No, because Alaska Airlines wants to know that the planes are going to fill up with the traffic that’s here today.”

Audrey Russo with the Pittsburgh Technology Council says the demand is here already.

“This opens up opportunities,” says Russo. “It is key for venture capital investment in our region’s tech companies. A lot of wealth on the west coast. A lot of wealth in Seattle. The easier it is for them to get here, the more they can invest here.”

But it looks like everyone will have to wait for those flights to start.

The Alaska signs behind the ticket counter are only temporary because Alaska Airlines is not going to start service until next September.

So why the delay?

One word — aircraft.

“It all comes down to aircraft availability,” says Kirby. “We have our resources already spoken for until next September.”

In other words, no planes to fly to Pittsburgh from Seattle.

Still, county executive Rich Fitzgerald says getting Alaska in Pittsburgh helps the Amazon bid.

Delano: “Does it have an impact, do you think?”

Fitzgerald: “I think it does. First of all, they’ll find out. We’ll let them know. We’ll communicate that.”

No doubt non-stop service to Seattle helps the Amazon bid.

But it will also be a benefit to residents here traveling to the west coast.

Alaska Airlines is frequently rated the number one airline in America, offering over 200 free movies for you to watch on your devices during the five-hour flight.

As for service to other west coast cities, airline officials say, stay tuned

Fitzgerald tells “The KDKA Morning News” part of the reason Alaska Airlines is coming to Pittsburgh is the success of the technology industry locally.

“They know that the Pittsburgh market is hot right now. They know there’s a lot of Pittsburgh connections between the tech industry here and the tech industry in Seattle,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald adds even without the Amazon proposal, “the market is there for Pittsburgh and Seattle, and it will be very beneficial to our entire tech industry.”

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