After a losing streak many feared would never end, Pittsburgh International Airport finds itself with a winning record. Flights and passengers are up, PIT was named 2017 Airport of the Year and Christina Cassotis was named Airport Director of the Year.
Now, they have a plan to keep the momentum going.
It involves completely rethinking the purpose and design of the airport in the form of a Terminal Modernization Program. It’s slated to cost $1.1 billion and result in $1.66 billion in economic activity, according to the airport. It will also create 10,642 direct and indirect jobs, and $28 million and state and local income tax, they say.
“This facility was built for an airline [US Airways] that no longer exists,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis.
“We are a vibrant, growing and tech-focused city, and we need an airport that reflects that.”
The press conference was held Tuesday afternoon at the far end of Concourse A. It’s a long, confusing hike from short-term parking to a completely dead corner of the terminal. This was intentional.
The existing facility was determined to be too large, old and expensive. There are long walks for passengers, and it’s poorly-situated for international travelers. Escalators, elevators and other conveyances are reaching the end of their useful lives.
The airside terminal will be redeveloped with 51 gates. The existing landside terminal is planned to be demolished (unless someone comes up with a use for it).
Construction will start in 2019. The plan does not include any local tax dollars. It will be financed through bonds, revenue from gas drilling, parking and retail.
The plan is expected to save money on maintenance, and keep costs to airlines “stable or declining.” Other goals include reducing operating expenses, increasing non-airline revenue through real estate and retail, improving the security screening, and reducing wait times for passengers and luggage.
Other changes will allow for updated technology, improved baggage delivery, and elimination of the People Mover, which costs $2 million annually to operate. An additional 24,000 square feet of retail concession space is planned.
Initial renderings show a bright, skylit interior, with lots of art and water features.
The Master Plan will be open to review and comment by the public, then filed with the FAA for final approval.
Since 2015, PIT has been adding new routes, including overseas, as well as low-cost carriers at a steady clip, including WOW Air, Frontier Airlines, Spirit, Allegiant and Condor. Its Airmall is also debuting a first-in-the-country program to allow non-passenger visitors for the first time since 9/11.
The airport opened in 1992, designed to US Airways’ specifications. After 9/11 — which hurt the major airlines badly — US Airways closed its Pittsburgh hub. More than 10,000 jobs were lost in the region.
“At the time, it was leading-edge,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “It’s time to make it leading-edge again.”