United Airlines is taking Pittsburgh places it has never been before.
On Thursday, the legacy carrier announced a slew of new routes across its national network, including four new destinations from Pittsburgh International Airport, two of which have never been served from PIT until now.
Beginning Memorial Day Weekend, travelers will be able to catch nonstop flights to Pensacola International Airport (PNS), Florida; Portland International Jetport (PWM), Maine; Charleston International Airport (CHS) and Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), both in South Carolina.
This marks the first time Pensacola and Hilton Head Island have appeared on PIT’s route map.
Several hours later, Southwest Airlines announced it would be adding Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to its network and tabbed PIT as one of five initial cities with service there.
“These new nonstop routes are a convenient way for passengers to fly nonstop to popular destinations, some of which will see nonstop flights for the first time from Pittsburgh,” said Bryan Dietz, vice president, Air Service Development at PIT. “We are grateful United and Southwest recognize the strong origin and destination market in Pittsburgh by tapping into increasing passenger demand this summer.”
The seasonal summer routes are scheduled to operate until Labor Day weekend and further illustrate United’s notable pivot over the last year to focus on leisure destinations and point-to-point flights.
United will also begin flights to those four destinations from six other cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis.; Milwaukee and Indianapolis. The airline also plans to resume more than 20 domestic routes and will start new service between Orange County, Calif., and Honolulu.
“Throughout the pandemic, United has been strategic and thoughtful in adding flights to destinations that our customers want to visit,” said Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of domestic network planning and scheduling.
“With many customers now beginning to plan summer vacations in places where they can enjoy time outside, we look forward to offering new service to these destinations. United will have the most flights to Portland, Maine, of any carrier.”
The Bombardier CJR550 regional jet is the world’s first to include a first-class section. (Photo courtesy of United Airlines)
PIT’s new routes will be served primarily by United’s new Bombardier CRJ-550 jets, the world’s first 50-seater aircraft featuring both first-class and economy cabins.
Equipped with 10 first-class seats and 20 each in Economy Plus and standard Economy, the aircraft also have enough overhead bin space for every customer to bring a roller bag onboard, which are typically prohibited from being stored in the cabin on regional jets.
Southwest will begin Saturday nonstop service to Myrtle Beach in late May; that service will ramp up to five times weekly beginning in early June. Currently, Spirit and Allegiant serve Myrtle Beach nonstop from PIT; Southwest’s addition follows its expanded nonstop service to Sarasota, Florida, which was extended through mid-August.
The announcements come as the aviation industry is beginning to see a sustained uptick in passenger traffic after a year in crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leisure travel has led the resurgence as vaccine rollouts and warmer weather have prompted consumers to return to airports. PIT’s weekly passenger numbers have jumped by thousands in March, matching the growth seen in many airports nationwide.
While traffic is still far from reaching its pre-pandemic levels, the recent increases are spurring cautious optimism at PIT and throughout the industry.
“It has been encouraging to see passengers traveling again to see family they have not seen in months or to take their long-awaited vacation,” Dietz said. “We are grateful for the many carriers at PIT making it easier for passengers to travel safely this summer.”