Many Ups, a Few Downs – and a Big Reveal

Annual ‘state of the airport’ address to unveil design concepts for PIT’s new, modern terminal

By Natalie Fiorilli

Published February 20, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


From announcing the return of British Airways nonstop service to London to welcoming the region’s first-ever nonstop flight from China and other key air service additions, 2018 was Pittsburgh International Airport’s most successful year in more than a decade.

On Wednesday evening, Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis will address regional business and community leaders on the “State of the Airport” at a reception Downtown.

So, what is the state of Pittsburgh International?

In four years, the airport has increased its number of nonstop destinations by more than 75 percent while experiencing five years of passenger traffic gains, highlighted by 9.66 million passengers traveling through PIT in 2018 – the most since 2007.

Additionally, PIT’s Cost Per Enplaned Passenger decreased for the sixth straight year, lowering the cost of doing business for airlines, as part of the authority’s 2019 budget. CPE is a benchmark used to compare an airport’s costs to airlines by calculating the total of all airport expenses to airlines and dividing it by the carriers’ number of departing passengers.

Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis addresses the public at an annual State of the Airport Event in April 2018. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Cassotis, who joined the authority in January 2015, said the milestones are indicative of the airport’s success and show that passengers and airlines alike are investing in PIT.

“We’ve had a lot of success and built a lot of momentum, but that success doesn’t just happen,” she said. “It’s part of a deliberative strategy across the organization – and really a cultural shift of the entire team.”

Along with progress in decreasing airline costs and increasing passenger traffic at PIT, the airport is working to diversify its concessions program by adding more local options and changing stores and restaurants more frequently to keep the retail mix fresh for travelers.

New shops coming in 2019 include Primanti’s and Wigle Whiskey, with more local concessions to be announced in coming months.

PIT also has continued to strengthen its community partnerships with local universities and organizations such as 412 Food Rescue, signed an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University to use the airport as an innovation laboratory, and broke ground on the Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus.

Officials break ground on the Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus in Dec. 2018 (Photo by Beth Hollerich).

The news hasn’t all been positive, however. Delta Airlines canceled its summer nonstop flight to Paris, OneJet suspended its operations, and WOW stopped its direct flights to Reykjavik, Iceland.

Cassotis is undeterred and says the airport will continue to “swing for the fences” by recruiting new carriers and flights. And the airport’s Terminal Modernization Program will better serve the Pittsburgh market and stimulate regional growth, she said.

“We can’t do all of this other stuff and leave the terminal the way it is,” said Cassotis. “It doesn’t make sense to maintain a facility that was built to be a hub airport when there is no hub here.

“We are now an origin-and-destination market, and we have a bright future. This program is about planning for that future and taking a cue from our past – not being bound by it.”

The State of the Airport event on Wednesday night also will feature the release of the design concepts for the billion-dollar modernization program, which is expected to break ground in late 2019.

For County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the terminal overhaul at PIT is one of the last pieces of the puzzle to complete a regional renaissance.

“This is a project that we all can be proud of,” said Fitzgerald. “This facility will be built for us, for our market, to maximize the benefit to our regional economy. This will truly be Pittsburgh’s airport.”

For more on Pittsburgh International Airport’s Terminal Modernization Program, visit

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