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ACAA Releases Results of Economic Benefit of Low Cost Carriers on the Region


PITTSBURGH, PA – Fares lowered by 27 percent, about 360,000 additional passengers per year, a total economic impact of $180 million to the region – these are just a few of the results of a just-released study on the local impact of expanded low cost carrier (LCC) service at Pittsburgh International Airport. The Allegheny County Airport Authority commissioned this study, conducted by Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA), in an effort to quantify the value of lower airfares on the tri-state region.

Pittsburgh International Airport’s current roster of LCCs includes AirTran, JetBlue, Southwest and USA3000.

In 2000, the average one-way fare to all destinations was nearly $192, one of the highest in the nation. The expansion of low-fare service at Pittsburgh lowered this figure dramatically. The average one-way fare decreased by 27 percent to $140 from 2000 to 2006, and fares to Pittsburgh’s Top 15 destinations dropped 32 percent to $120.

The US DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that Pittsburgh International Airport was number one in dropping fares among US airports during the first quarter 2007 compared to 2006.

“We have been saying the discount fares of low cost carriers provide true economic benefits to the region. In quantifying these results, we learn that they have saved local businesses $110 million in travel costs; they saved leisure travelers $64.5 million and they increased visitors by 111,000 in 2006,” stated Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Chief Executive.

Another aspect of the study explores the implications should LCC service cease at Pittsburgh International Airport. “Every time a low cost carrier started or expanded service in Pittsburgh, the Airport Authority has been on record to say we need to support the new service, otherwise we will lose them and fares will go up. This report details the limited options air travelers would have if LCCs exited,” said Kent G. George, Executive Director, Allegheny County Airport Authority. The options passengers would have include paying higher fares, driving to other airports that have lower fares, driving instead of flying and forgoing travel. This would also cost the region jobs and pose a near impossible challenge to Pittsburgh International Airport in ever attracting any other LCCs.

Reducing the cost of flying out of Pittsburgh International Airport has been one of the primary goals of the Regional Air Service Partnership - a joint effort of Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, the Allegheny County Airport Authority, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

“Lower airfares make our region competitive for retaining and locating businesses. More low cost carriers at Pittsburgh International Airport mean more travel options that save money – that helps both businesses and the local economy,” said Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference.

Leaders of the LCCs at Pittsburgh International Airport also weighed in on the study results: "AirTran Airways is pleased to continue our longstanding history of driving down fares and stimulating demand in the Pittsburgh market," said AirTran Airways` vice president of marketing and sales Tad Hutcheson.

“Southwest Airlines strives to offer Pittsburgh travelers low fares and flights to popular destinations. We are so thrilled to be making a difference in Pittsburgh and look forward to growing in this great city,” said Gary Kelly, C.E.O. and Vice Chairman, Southwest Airlines.

“JetBlue has brought lower airfares to the region since launching service at Pittsburgh International Airport in June 2006,” said Trey Urbahn, Executive Vice President, Chief Revenue Officer, JetBlue Airways. “We encourage travelers to take advantage of our convenient flights to both New York/JFK and Boston.”

“USA3000 Airlines has received great support from the Pittsburgh market. In an ongoing effort to offer affordable fares to leisure destination USA3000 recently announced nonstop service to Montego Bay Jamaica and the re-introduction to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. USA3000 will continue to offer savings without sacrificing quality and service for the Pittsburgh Market,” says Angus Kinnear, Chief Operating Officer for USA3000 Airlines.

The report is available in two forms. A two page Executive Summary and the full report are both available as downloadable PDF files at

Aug 21, 2007