For Chris and Laura Masi of New Castle, Pa., the timing for a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico couldn’t have been better.
As day two of the region’s deep freeze continues, with record temperatures dropping as low as negative five degrees, passengers at Pittsburgh International Airport, including the Masi’s, are fleeing for warmer destinations.
“This was a planned vacation,” said Chris Masi, as he and his wife waited at the gate for their connecting flight on Southwest Airlines to Orlando, Florida Thursday morning. “It just worked out that we were leaving and it was frigid, so we can’t beat it – our family and coworkers are very jealous.”
In January and February, the top five “warm-weather” cities travelers head to from Pittsburgh International all happen to be in Florida – with flights to Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, and Miami accounting for 128,534 available seats.
Passengers on another Southwest flight to Orlando on Thursday afternoon, Chrissy Boston of Bellevue and Dorothy Gorny of Whitehall, said they were delighted to escape the extreme cold in favor of Florida’s more comfortable climate.
“Yesterday was unbearable, it took my breath away,” added Boston. “It was so cold, I got an instant headache when I breathed that air, and I had a scarf up to my face – so I’m looking forward to wearing t-shirts and shorts down there.”
Other travelers headed to Florida, Emily Fernick of Beaver County and Alliy Gundlach of Valencia, Pa., joked that at least when they return to Pittsburgh, the temperatures should be warmer.
“We had this planned for about two months, and the timing was strategic,” Fernick said. “We knew this was coming, but hopefully when we come back we should at least be in the teens again.”
Along with the Sunshine State, California is another top destination for passengers traveling from Pittsburgh International over the next month, with more than 8,000 seats available in February on flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
San Francisco resident, Joe Levinghal, who traveled to Pittsburgh for work this week, was happy to be heading home Thursday morning, but explained that he still enjoyed his time in the ‘Burgh, despite the cold.
“Actually, it wasn’t bad,” said Levinghal. “We went out and had a great dinner, and the streets were pretty quiet because it was freezing outside, but it was nice.”
While some passengers were happy to be leaving Pittsburgh, others experienced flight cancellations due to this week’s extreme cold front, wind, and snow in other northern and Midwest destinations in the U.S. and Canada. Through Thursday afternoon, there have been 30 flight cancellations and 33 delays at Pittsburgh International on Thursday alone, all for flights to Boston, New York LaGuardia, Chicago, and Toronto.
Read here about how jobs essential to airport operations require workers to face extreme winter weather conditions to make sure travelers get to those sunny destinations.