British Airways Connecting Pittsburgh to the World Stage

Carrier will serve PIT year-round with four times weekly service to London Heathrow

By Matt Neistei

Published March 27, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


Beginning April 2, most of the world will be one flight away from Pittsburgh.

The return of British Airways to Pittsburgh International Airport, after a 20-year absence, is in many ways a benchmark for the region’s progress, and a compliment as well.

“It’s a real barometer of where Pittsburgh is as a city,” said Simon Brooks, British Airways’ senior vice president for North America. “What we see is a thriving city with sustained growth. I’m talking over the last five to 10 years. We know this place is really happening now. It’s just taking off.”

PIT’s fortunes are also on an upswing, with a steady annual rise in passengers, routes and airlines that has led to a new vision for the “front door” to the region: the billion-dollar Terminal Modernization Program, which will give Pittsburgh an airport built for its present and future.

READ MORE: Direct from London, with Plenty of Pittsburgh on Board

So when British Airways lands at PIT on Tuesday for the first time in the 21st century, the travelers onboard will be greeted by some familiar faces and plenty of new ones, all happy to reboot a fruitful partnership that comes with a major upgrade.

“I think this sends a signal that Pittsburgh is back. It’s been 20 years since British Airways was here,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The flight then was to Gatwick; this one, obviously, is to Heathrow. This is one of the world’s premier airlines and one of the world’s premier airports in one of the world’s premier cities. It just a big deal in so many ways.”

Fitzgerald will be part of a Pittsburgh delegation on the inaugural flight that includes Pittsburgh airport CEO Christina Cassotis, VisitPittsburgh CEO Craig Davis, Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman and other regional leaders.

“My first meeting with an international carrier after I got here four years ago was with British Airways. We’ve been working on this basically since I got here,” said Cassotis, who noted the route is poised to do well. “I think we’ll do better than what BA is hoping for because there’s so much pent-up demand.”

The last British Airways flight left Pittsburgh on Oct. 31, 1999, and landed at Gatwick Airport in London – a fine airport, to be sure. But the 787 Dreamliner arriving April 2 will take off from London Heathrow Airport, the second-busiest airport on the planet by international passenger traffic, serving more than 180 destinations in 90 countries.

READ MORE: Flight of Fancy: Look Inside British Airways’ Dreamliner Jet

That kind of portal appeals not only to Pennsylvanians with wanderlust, but international companies with business interests in Pittsburgh, as well.

“Nonstop service from Pittsburgh to London sends a powerful message about the region’s capacity when it comes to international business investment and strategic bilateral partnerships with companies abroad.  I’m excited about future collaboration with the airport to keep moving the region forward,” Pashman said.

As part of the deal, the airline will receive a $3 million incentive over two years, in line with what other North American cities have offered, including New Orleans (more than $4 million) and Nashville ($3 million), according to published reports. The state of Maryland reportedly offers up to $6 million annually for the carrier to serve BWI Marshall Airport.

“If you don’t have incentives, nobody wants to talk to you,” said Michael Boyd, president and CEO of Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm. “An airport like Pittsburgh talking with an international carrier like British Airways, if you don’t offer them (something), you might as well write the presentation in crayon. You have to do it.”

An economic impact study commissioned by Pittsburgh International found that the British Airways flight was expected to contribute more than $50 million annually to the regional economy.

“The key thing to remember is this gives Western Pennsylvania access to the rest of the world,” Boyd said. “Pittsburgh represents a lot of global traffic that British Airways wants. People will drive from Erie down to Pittsburgh to make an international flight. It’s faster to do that than it is to fly to Philadelphia to make a connection.”

If You’re Going

The seven-and-a-half-hour flights to Heathrow will depart Pittsburgh (Flight No. BA170) Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 9:50 p.m., arriving at 10:25 a.m. London time the next day. On the other side of the pond, the flights depart London (Flight No. BA171) at 4:10 p.m. and arrive in Pittsburgh at 7:25 p.m. on those four same days. Bookings can be made at

The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner has 214 seats in a three-class cabin configuration.

Go to Top