Pittsburgh International Airport this week welcomed international cargo carrier Finnair as added flights continue to bolster cargo business at PIT.
Finnair’s first flight touched down Tuesday, arriving nonstop from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Finland and transporting automotive parts from Asia to North America. The new service is another win for PIT as the airport continues to move forward on expanding its cargo footprint.
Currently, the service is planned to be short-term, with flights operating in April and May. However, airline officials said they are hopeful the service could expand beyond the initial schedule.
“We were delighted to have this opportunity to offer Pittsburgh as solution for our customer,” said Fredrik Wildtgrube, vice president of Finnair Cargo. “We believe that meeting the customer needs and having readiness to open new routes will increase interest towards our cargo products.”
Supply chain challenges during the pandemic have prompted airlines like Finnair to look beyond their traditional network. Airline officials compared PIT to their Helsinki hub, saying smaller airports can be faster, agile and flexible.
Workers from Worldwide Flight Services unload cargo from a Finnair flight on April 27, 2021, at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)
Finnair is utilizing its Airbus A350-900 aircraft. First entering commercial service in 2015, the A350 is Airbus’ newest twin-aisle widebody passenger jet. Built mainly from carbon-composite materials, the A350 can achieve 25 percent lower fuel burn and operational costs. It is the first scheduled A350 service of any kind to PIT.
“We are excited to welcome Finnair Cargo to Pittsburgh International Airport,” said Bryan Dietz, Vice President of Air Service for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates PIT. “Keeping supply chains moving is critical and the opportunity to partner with Finnair to customize solutions to serve their customers is at the core of what we do for every airline, forwarder, and shipper that chooses to operate at PIT. We are thrilled to be working with a customer-focused partner such as Finnair at PIT. ”
The arrival of Finnair, greeted with a water arch salute from firefighters for the inaugural flight, comes as PIT continues to see an increase in demand for air freight amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, the airport saw a 29 percent increase in cargo compared to 2020. Air freight rose by 27 percent while mail increased 37 percent.
The spike in air freight is attributed to cargo carriers utilizing larger aircraft and increasing the number of operations at PIT.
In December, Qatar Airways resumed its cargo operations at PIT and continues its weekly flight on a converted Boeing 777-300ER. Additionally, Cathay Pacific used a similar aircraft for cargo flights between Pittsburgh and Hong Kong that ran twice weekly from September to November of last year.
A pair of Finnair jets serving a cargo route sit on the ramp at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)
FedEx and UPS have also upped their operations at PIT, with the carriers increasing year-over-year flights by 46 percent and 83 percent, respectively, in March.
UPS has added an additional daytime flight from Louisville and added larger aircraft to existing flights. FedEx also increased its presence at PIT during the first quarter of 2021, which included additional weekday flights to Newark and Indianapolis.
At congested cargo gateways like New York and Chicago, airlines and freight forwarders often have to wait days to get their products offloaded and on the road. At PIT, that can happen in a matter of hours.
Cargo carriers have consistently referenced that speed as a major selling point to utilize PIT.
“PIT offers a seamless and turnkey experience for cargo airlines, shippers and forwarders alike,” said Joe Rotterdam, Director of Air Service Development for ACAA. “From the minimal time cargo spends on our airport to customer-focused vendors and partners, cargo moves faster at PIT and we are excited to see Finnair take advantage of what our airport can offer to their customers.”
Plans to accelerate cargo expansion at PIT received a major boost when the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an $18.69 million BUILD grant to support the construction of a 75,000-square-foot cargo processing facility and an adjacent surface parking lot. That facility is in design.
Additionally, airport officials signed an agreement with Ted Stevens Anchorage International last summer to collaborate in better streamlining the global air cargo supply chain.