By Meghan Schiller

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Pirates fans will soon have a new way to travel to Spring Training.

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Elite Airways picked Pittsburgh as the next dynamic stop for a direct flight to Bradenton, Florida.

A few years ago, Pittsburgh International Airport only had eight airlines. With the addition of Elite Airways, they’re back up to 17.

“We’ve designed the schedule around the weekends so you can leave on a Friday and get back early on a Monday morning early– get back in time for work,” Elite Airways CEO John Pearsall said.

The Pirates hold Spring Training in Bradenton and the city is just 25 minutes away from Sarasota.

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“Right now, people have never seen Elite unless you’ve been with a sports team because we’ve done a lot of collegiate, a lot of sports teams. So, unless you’ve done that you’ve never seen Elite. So, they have to get to know us,” Pearsall said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald thinks Pittsburghers might not yet know Elite Airways, but they know they want to get somewhere warm come January.

“I think as soon as the Steelers playoff, which we think is in February culminating after a Super Bowl, a lot of Pittsburghers start thinking let’s spend a weekend or a week down in Florida to get out of the cold a little bit,” Fitzgerald said.

Plus, the fact that the airlines picked Pittsburgh speaks for itself. Round trip to Bradenton will cost $399.

Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis says it’s not easy to land direct flights these days.

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“John can put that plane in a whole lot of markets and carry 70 people back and forth so to pick Pittsburgh to Sarasota, there’s a reason for that and it has to be a better reason than other opportunities,” Cassotis said.

Meghan Schiller