Pittsburgh’s Cargo Connects Region to the World

Major companies capitalize on Pittsburgh’s air cargo advantages

By gmastrangelo & Kevan Hoffman

Published December 4, 2023

Read Time: 3 mins


Pittsburgh has a reputation for expeditious cargo handling – but don’t take our word for it; ask our partners.

Major integrators, including FedEx, UPS and Amazon Air, offer a combined 50-plus weekly departures from PIT. Amazon Air recently added a second daily flight out of PIT for the holiday season. During the peak season, UPS and FedEx will also operate larger aircraft to increase capacity, allowing more cargo to flow through the airport.

“PIT’s unparalleled location between New York and Chicago and reliable operating environment help airlines and freight forwarders drive new levels of customer satisfaction,” said Bryan Dietz, senior vice president of Air Service & Commercial Development at PIT. “Our unique partnership mentality with forwarders, airlines, vendors and regulatory agencies allows PIT to offer a unique product to the cargo marketplace and act as an economic driver for Western Pennsylvania.”

Local businesses choose PIT

Several high-profile companies have strategically placed distribution centers around PIT’s campus and the Western Pennsylvania region to meet their customers’ needs for time-sensitive shipments and deliveries.

Pittsburgh-based customs broker and freight forwarder R.L. Swearer is one of several forwarders with offices in the Pittsburgh region. The organization specializes in providing international trade solutions for importers and exporters. The forwarder has been with PIT since the 1980s and is excited to see the reemergence of international cargo routes at the airport.

“The revitalization of international flights is instrumental in delivering the high-tech goods manufactured in the region to customers worldwide,” said Chas Watson, president of R.L Swearer.

The healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors – a growing part of Pittsburgh’s economy – also rely on the region’s cargo advantage. CVS Specialty Pharmacy occupies a 225,000-square-foot building near downtown Pittsburgh where it fulfills orders for specialty medicines, many of which require a temperature-controlled environment, making quick delivery critical.

JLG, a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corporation, has a 400,000-square-foot distribution warehouse a few miles from PIT’s cargo buildings. The company mostly produces industrial lifts and, with a facility so close to the airport, they can fulfill urgent orders for replacement parts late into the evening while still ensuring prompt delivery the following morning. Also based in the region is D.T. Gruelle, which focuses on providing freight to locations around the world that may be difficult to reach.

Connecting Pittsburgh to the world

While international airline British Airways may be best known for its commercial nonstop service from Pittsburgh to London, a route that just increased from four to six flights a week, their cargo service also has expanded.

The increased frequencies to Heathrow provide more opportunities for shipments bound for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. British Airways’ 787-8 aircraft have the capacity for almost 15 metric tons of cargo. This year, the carrier increased year-over-year air cargo volumes at PIT and became the fourth largest airline by freight volume at PIT.

Soon Icelandair will join British Airways in connecting Pittsburgh to the rest of the world. Set to launch service at PIT on May 16, 2024, the European airline will operate flights containing passengers and cargo. Icelandair flights are expected to carry all kinds of cargo to Pittsburgh, including fish, the country’s largest export.

The future of cargo

Meanwhile, PIT continues to invest in modernizing infrastructure for air cargo stakeholders, particularly with the ongoing construction of a new 80,000-square-foot facility.

The new space, dubbed Cargo 4, will have the ability to handle freight from any aircraft operating today, increasing the airport’s cargo capacity and making space for more carriers to operate out of PIT. It will also enhance the airport’s ability to accept international freight.

The new cargo facility comes alongside PIT’s $1.57 billion terminal modernization project. Like the new terminal, Cargo 4 will utilize cutting edge technology, designed with the fast-paced industry in mind. The improved functions will make deliveries faster and more efficient, allowing PIT to keep up with the ever-changing industry.

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