A Florida-based regional carrier announced Pittsburgh as its next focus city Wednesday with plans to start service to four locations and hopes of adding more later this year.
Pittsburgh will become the 19th destination for Via Airlines, an established carrier with routes primarily in the southeastern U.S. The carrier, founded in 1997, will serve nonstop routes from PIT to Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis and Hartford. Service to Austin, Texas, will be available via one-stop through Memphis.
“Pittsburgh is a dynamic city with a steady and growing economic base and we want to be a part of it. We see a lot of opportunity here,” said Don Bowman, Via’s director of business development.
He said Pittsburgh’s stable and growing business market was the key to the airline’s decision to expand here. The airline will also add 10 local jobs with the potential for more.
“We take a look at the economic viability; how stable is the business economy in the market? We’re not looking at Pittsburgh in a vacuum, Pittsburgh-U.S. Steel-Birmingham. Pittsburgh-Memphis-FedEx. We start to put all the pieces together and Pittsburgh rose to the top.”
Nonstop flights to Birmingham, four days a week, will start in April; Memphis and Austin will start in June and Hartford will begin in July. Via will fly the 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 on the routes.
“Historically throughout the country, it’s been really tough to get from medium-size market to medium-size market. And Via has made a point of making sure that they can be an airline that flies that,” Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said.
“Knowing how important nonstop service is to the economy of our region, we’re delighted to be adding three more markets and we are hoping that we will see more from Via in the future,” she said.
Airport officials said Via will receive a marketing incentive, available to any carrier that starts service to an unserved destination. The amount of the incentive has not yet been finalized.
Aviation experts said mid-size city to mid-size city flying has seen a decline as legacy carriers focus only on flying to their hubs, leaving room for carriers like Via to enter the market.
“Most of the legacy carriers, except Southwest, are utilizing their hubs. For them, there is no point-to-point. That’s the reason many medium-size airports have suffered significantly,” said Bijan Vasigh, professor of economics and finance at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“If Pittsburgh wants to have flights to mid-size airports, you shouldn’t think about American, Delta and United. There’s no way they would provide that service. Their (strategy) is based on providing hub service. I think Pittsburgh’s approach is the right approach.”
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