PIT Passenger Traffic Rises, More Routes Return for Spring Break

20-years post-hub at PIT, passenger traffic and airline routes continue to rise

By Evan Dougherty

Published February 16, 2024

Read Time: 4 mins


It’s been 20 years since US Airways dismantled its hub at Pittsburgh International Airport.

And after a decade of stemming losses, the last 10 years have seen steady growth – resulting in more flights, more airlines and more passengers.

From 2014 to today, the airport has:

  • Increased nonstop destinations from 37 to 61
  • Expanded the number of airlines by 50 percent to 15 today
  • Grown passenger traffic from 7.99 million in 2014 to 9.8 million in 2019 pre-pandemic – to 9.2 million last year, 94 percent of pre-pandemic traffic.
  • Added key international and West Coast destinations including London, Reykjavik, Seattle, San Diego and more.

“Nobody thought it could get fixed unless another hub airline came in and saved us. And the fact is, Pittsburgh saved itself because it is a great community. It has a market that deserves service, and the entire industry has stepped up,” Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said Friday during the authority’s monthly board meeting.

Part of her remarks included the first numbers from 2024 that continue to show growth. January total passengers increased 5.2 percent year-over-year.

“We have been laser focused as a team. And when you are laser focused on air service, it means every single part of the organization has to support it. Public safety, operations and maintenance, HR, IT, finance, commercial development, legal – there’s not one part of this organization that doesn’t support air service. We’re going in one direction. And we’re going in a direction the community needs us to go in because otherwise we go back.”

Southwest Airlines led all airlines at PIT by adding 23 percent more scheduled seats last month. The airline’s increase was driven by recently expanded services to in-demand markets, including daily service to Austin, as well as more flights to Atlanta, Denver, Phoenix and Tampa.

Additionally, Breeze Airways offered over three times more total seats at PIT year-over-year.

And capacity is expected to increase at PIT in the coming weeks as airlines continue to invest in the local market through larger aircraft, increased flights and new and resuming destinations – right in time for spring break travel.

Part of that capacity increase is additions by Frontier, which signed on to be a signatory airline to the airport’s master lease – signaling a long-term commitment. The carrier is adding four new destinations in May, including twice daily service to Philadelphia

A Frontier A320neo taxis to the runway at PIT on Sept. 21, 2023. On Friday, Frontier signed on to be a signatory airline to the airport’s master lease, signaling a long-term commitment to the Pittsburgh market. (Photo by Evan Dougherty)

New and resumed flights

This week, ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air resumed seasonal nonstop service to Charleston, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida. Allegiant will also resume flights to Savannah, Georgia, on March 8; Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida, on April 3; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on April 5. In addition, Spirit Airlines will also resume its seasonal service to Myrtle Beach on March 21 with daily flights.

Other carriers adding nonstop flights this spring include Breeze Airways which resumed service to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, on Thursday and will resume nonstop flights to Hartford, Connecticut, and Los Angeles on March 1. In addition, Frontier Airlines will resume nonstop service to Denver on April 11.

Internationally, American Airlines restarted nonstop service to Cancun in December and will operate flights through March 30 while Southwest will resume its seasonal flights on March 9. Tour operators Apple Vacations and Vacation Express also offer nonstop charter flights to Cancun, along with Punta Cana, from Pittsburgh.

In addition, British Airways will increase its nonstop flights to London Heathrow to six times a week on April 1.

Passengers board Southwest flight 3097 to Dallas/Love Field at PIT on Feb. 16, 2024. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Spring break surge

Earlier this week, travel fare aggregator Expedia released its spring break travel outlook which reveals the top trending destinations among travelers this spring.

Flight search data from Expedia showed that the April 8 total solar eclipse is expected to provide a significant boost to the busiest spring travel week this year. Travelers are expected to flock to cities within the path of the total eclipse – the first one to occur in the U.S. since 2017.

“Spring travel is going to be even busier this year with the addition of solar eclipse seekers hitting airports in early April,” said Melanie Fish, head of Expedia Group Brands public relations in a statement. “The week of April 2 is going to be the busiest and priciest time for air travel.”

Cities within the path of the total eclipse show the largest increases in flight searches for spring travel. Searches for Dallas, for example, are up over 95 percent, and Austin more than 90 percent versus last year, data shows.

It’s not just the total eclipse that is driving more popularity to other destinations. Expedia says that Fort Myers, Washington, D.C., Fort Lauderdale and Chicago are each up over 80 percent for flight searches this spring. San Juan, Puerto Rico, is up over 75 percent.

However, traditional spring break destinations are also up in searches. Orlando, the most popular U.S. destination expected for spring break this year, leads the way with searches up over 60 percent year-over-year among travelers. Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix remain the top hotspots for spring breakers.

Internationally, Punta Cana is the highest trending city this spring, with searches up more than 60 percent, closely followed by Mexico City and Tokyo, each up over 55 percent. In Europe, Lisbon and Madrid are each up over 45 percent year-over-year in searches.

Cancun is forecasted to be the most popular international market this spring, followed by major European markets that include London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona.

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