PIT Earns Nods from Fast Company, Future Travel Experience

Airport recognized for accessibility, workforce development, tech partnerships

By Bob Kerlik

Published August 22, 2023

Read Time: 3 mins


Fast Company magazine announced today that Pittsburgh International Airport’s commitment to accessibility—led by its inclusive sensory room—earned two spots in its nationwide Innovation by Design Awards.

Presley’s Place was named a finalist in the Accessible Design category and earned an honorable mention in Experience Design. Fast Company posted the winners on its website this morning and will publish the list in print in its September issue.

The awards come on the heels of last week’s announcement from Future Travel Experience’s Pioneer Awards, naming PIT a finalist among some of the world’s best airports. FTE is a leading travel industry organization dedicated to enhancing business performance and the passenger experience.

“PIT’s unique passenger-centric approach is changing the industry to make air travel more accessible and user-friendly for all,” said Christina Cassotis, CEO, Allegheny County Airport Authority. “I am thrilled that Fast Company and FTE are recognizing the work we’re doing to make this airport one of the most innovative and accessible in the world. These awards spotlight PIT and the Pittsburgh region’s global leadership in invention and place-making.”

The Innovation by Design Awards honor the designers and businesses solving the most crucial problems of today and anticipating the pressing issues of tomorrow. The competition, now in its 12th year, features a range of blue-chip companies and emerging startups.

“So much innovation news these days is focused on AI,” said Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “This year’s Innovation by Design honorees are a reminder that it’s human ingenuity that drives invention.”

Fast Company magazine announced Tuesday that PIT’s industry-leading sensory room, Presley’s Place, earned two spots in its nationwide Innovation by Design Awards for Accessible Design and Experience Design. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Presley’s Place, located in Concourse A, is a private space designed for people with sensory sensitivities and other neurodiverse conditions to unwind before flights. The airport recently celebrated its four-year anniversary.

The space is the idea of Jason Rudge, a heavy equipment operator at PIT, and is named after Rudge’s son, who has autism.

When Rudge began to understand the lack of resources available for passengers with autism, he knew something needed to change. After conducting some research, he sent a letter to Cassotis suggesting opening a sensory room at the airport. She reached out to him immediately.

“Being a parent with a special needs child, you’re kind of forgotten about,” Rudge said. “To have somebody that’s going to strive for the other families or push for inclusion, it feels so good.”

FTE recognizes PIT’s global leadership

FTE unveiled its shortlist for the Airline and Airport Pioneer 2023 Awards last week. Next month, three airlines and three airports will be crowned the winners for outstanding efforts to transform the passenger experience and define the future of the industry.

Pittsburgh International Airport is a finalist in the airport category along with:

  • Aeroporti di Roma – Rome, Italy
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Avinor – Operator of 43 airports in Norway
  • Changi Airport – Changi, Singapore
  • Dallas Forth Worth International Airport – Dallas & Forth Worth, Texas
  • Frankfurt Airport – Frankfurt, Germany
  • Hamad International Airport – Doha, Qatar
  • Los Angeles World Airports – Los Angeles, California
  • Port Authority of New York & New Jersey – Operator of airports in New York and New Jersey

FTE recognized PIT for its efforts in three areas:

  • Energy: Launched a first-in-the-world microgrid using on-site natural gas and solar panels; signed an agreement with CNX to pursue an alternative fuel strategy and is pursuing sustainable aviation fuel production.
  • Technology and robotics: Through its xBridge Innovation Center, the airport has partnered with startups and Fortune 500 companies to use the terminal as a testing bed for the industry. The airport also hosted the first Aviation & Robotics Summit in April.
  • Workforce: Breaking down barriers to entry by tackling job training, a new childcare center and enhanced public transportation.
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