Hugs, Tears and Excitement: BA Touches Down at PIT

After pandemic hiatus, nonstop service between Pittsburgh, London returns

By Bob Kerlik

Published June 6, 2022

Read Time: 3 mins


After exiting the first flight between London and Pittsburgh in more than two years, Teresa Bonar rushed to hug her sister, her eyes blurred with tears.

The two hadn’t seen each other in person since 2019 and her sister, Marian Dodsworth, was eagerly waiting to greet her by the security checkpoint at Pittsburgh International Airport.

“I had my last trip canceled due to COVID and I’ve been waiting for the flight to come back. My sister told me in March the start of the flight was on the third of June so I’m booking the third of June,” Bonar said.

June 3 marked the resumption of nonstop service on British Airways connecting PIT and London Heathrow. BA launched the route in April 2019 after a 20-year hiatus and operated it for about a year until pandemic-related travel restrictions forced the airline to suspend the route in early 2020.

The return of BA is a coup for PIT. The airport had been working with the airline on a return date since the hiatus began.

Officials celebrated with live radio broadcasts in the Center Core, along with photo ops with cutouts of the Queen’s Guard and Big Ben, iconic red telephone booths, and a wall-sized Union Jack made of balloons. The gate party included British-themed cake and cookies for all passengers, with music from British bands, from the Beatles and Queen to the Rolling Stones, playing in the background.

Chris Martin, president of the Carnegie Bosch Institute, said it was a priority for him to be on the first flight from London to Pittsburgh.

“I always get on the first flight to show support and how important it is to have connectivity to Europe,” Martin said.

“It’s absolutely huge—having the opportunity to fly people directly between Europe and Pittsburgh is really important to our business. It lowers barriers to host people here and increases investment.”

An economic impact study commissioned by PIT in 2018 found that the Pittsburgh-London route was expected to contribute over $50 million annually to the region’s economy.

BA will operate year-round with service on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The flights depart London Heathrow at 4:45 p.m. local time and land in Pittsburgh at 7:50 p.m. local time. Return flights will leave Pittsburgh at 9:50 p.m. and arrive in London at 10:10 a.m. the next morning.

BA officials chose Pittsburgh for service, citing the economic renaissance in the region, which boasts a rapidly growing technology sector and a booming scene for life sciences research and development.

“We’re really excited about coming back to Pittsburgh. This is a part of the country that is significantly underserved, particularly in the U.K. and European market and beyond. We realized at a very early stage there was a significant need for it,” said Ian Blackman, British Airways’ vice president of airports for the East Coast, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“I’ve seen people here tonight who haven’t seen their grandma in excess of two years. It’s important that we are back in the business of connecting people. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about—reconnecting the world.”

Bonar and her sister are just happy to see each other again.

“Even though there’s a jubilee in England and everyone is celebrating there, I brought my bunting. I hope it’s still in the bag,” she said, smiling, before the two left for her sister’s house, just west of the airport.

“We’re having our jubilee party here.”

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