British Airways

After nearly 20 years, British Airways is returning to Pittsburgh.

Starting in April 2019, the legacy airline will offer four nonstop flights a week to London’s Heathrow Airport. The new route was announced on Wednesday morning at a press conference at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said planning for a new London route had been in the works nearly since she started at her post three years ago.

“We identified London as a very big hole in our air service portfolio … I had been hearing about it [and] I could see just from the data before I even got here that this would be a target.”

British Airways had a direct flight from Pittsburgh to London until 1999, while US Airways offered service to Gatwick Airport until 2005.

“The market that [British Airways] left in 1999 is a very different market than the one they’ll enter in 2019. This is a market that has diversified itself and is now no longer dependent on a single industry,” said Cassotis, saying the fracking boom, in particular, had increased travelers flying into the area.

In the last three years, nonstop flights from the airport have increased by 90%, with eight new airlines added in 2017.

Cassotis and her team remain bullish on continuing to expand the airport’s reach, especially within the continental US. In particular, Cassotis said they are looking to lock down daily, direct flights to the San Francisco Bay Area.

“We are thrilled with how we are seeing the West Coast markets start to fill in, but we know there’s more we can do,” she said.

The airport is also in the early stages of a 1.1 billion dollar modernization project, which will see the construction of new ticketing and security areas on the site of gates C and D.

Cassotis emphasized that the project is being paid for by airline operators, and will not be coming out of the county coffers. 

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.