Meeting and Greeting, Pittsburgh Style

New terminal’s baggage claim design will support distinctive regional tradition

By Jenny Hepler

Published June 21, 2024

Read Time: 3 mins


We do things differently in Pittsburgh. We put fries on sandwiches and salads, have our own language (“Pittsburghese”), and no wedding is complete without a cookie table. We are proud of our mid-size city with a small town feel and the many traditions that bring us together.

One tradition, often taken for granted, happens daily in the pre-security area of Pittsburgh International Airport.

In many cities, when a friend or relative is coming to pick up a passenger after their flight, they meet them on the pickup curb outside – or greet them at home when they get out of the taxi. Not in Pittsburgh. We meet each other in baggage claim or at the checkpoint. We park, make our way inside, then intently watch the Flight Information Display Screens to check the status of the flight. That way, we’re ready to greet (and many times surprise) our friend/relative/loved one.

Spend a day in baggage claim and you’ll witness many iterations of this phenomenon. Passengers coming down the escalators to retrieve their bags are met by “Welcome Home” signs, flowers, balloons, hugs, and sometimes even engagement rings. Special memories are made here too. We see first-time meetings between grandparents and grandchildren, parents and their grown child’s significant other, and – in today’s digital age – couples sometimes meeting for the first time in person.

A view of the arrivals level and baggage claim area of PIT’s new terminal. (Courtesy of Gensler, + HDR in association with luis vidal architects)

When designers were creating the concept for the new Pittsburgh International Airport, they not only kept the “Pittsburgh way” of meeting and greeting passengers in mind, but they dedicated several indoor and outdoor spaces to it.

The second level of the new terminal, the same floor as baggage claim, will feature a beautiful spacious meeter-and-greeter area with seating where those waiting for arriving passengers can relax and enjoy their surroundings. The attractive waiting spaces also include two large outdoor terraces pre-security that will be filled with greenery as well as ample seating.

The state-of-the-art baggage handling system currently being installed will allow arriving passengers to gather their bags quickly. The system is not only more modern and efficient, but also has a much shorter distance to cover to deliver bags from plane to belt (two miles of conveyor belts, vs. eight today).

There will also be eight larger baggage claim carousels in the new terminal.

In a city with 90 neighborhoods, each unique in its own way, we remain a close-knit community – bound together by family ties and regional traditions.

Next time you find yourself in Pittsburgh International Airport’s baggage claim, whether picking someone up or arriving yourself, stop for a moment. Look around. You’re bound to see a few hugs and maybe some happy tears. Take it all in. And smile – you’re home.

The new PIT terminal will include two large outdoor terraces pre-security that will be filled with greenery and provide ample seating.(Courtesy of Gensler, + HDR in association with luis vidal architects)

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