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Low-Cost Air Service Essential to Small Business and Leisure Travelers

Thought Leader

Ultra low-cost airlines at Pittsburgh International Airport are making travel more affordable and fueling new opportunities for the region’s small businesses and tech startups, passengers said.

Spirit Airlines CEO Bob Fornaro visited Pittsburgh in November to celebrate Spirit’s latest announcement of Tampa and Fort Myers – which started Nov. 9, 2017 – bringing the airline’s total nonstop destinations to eight from Pittsburgh International.

“We are thrilled to see low-cost airlines like Spirit expand service and contribute to the ongoing growth at Pittsburgh International and in our region,” said CEO Christina Cassotis. “We are committed to giving our passengers options as we expand our air service portfolio.”

Having low-cost service to markets such as Dallas and Los Angeles is important to both business and leisure travelers because it provides choice and fare competition.

“I choose to fly Spirit for business – it’s inexpensive and when you can book the Big Front Seats, it’s a lot more comfortable,” John Bevec, of Canonsburg, Pa., said. “It’s a good airline. It’s always early and it’s pretty reliable. It’s a comfortable and quick flight, with no layovers.”

Spirit’s Big Front Seats are similar to first-class seats on other carriers, offering more room and more comfortable seating. The airline, based in Miramar, Fla., offers reduced-cost tickets by unbundling fees for features like seat assignments and baggage. Passengers who choose to print boarding passes, bring bags, select seats or get food and beverages, pay additional fees for those items.

By providing nonstop flights to and from other tech communities, the airline is offering business connections in Pittsburgh for people like Marc Liscio, who works in video production in Los Angeles.

“I’ve flown to Pittsburgh, Texas and Nevada on Spirit for business,” said Liscio. “They have great customer service, have been very nice and I haven’t had a bad experience yet.”

Spirit is averaging around 300 passengers per day on each of its Pittsburgh flights, with more than 110,000 passengers travelling through August. The service has been a part of the airport’s surging passenger traffic, which was up more than 10 percent in both July and August. In addition to the two new Florida destinations, Spirit flies to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Myrtle Beach, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. The airline discontinued Houston service in November, however United and Southwest continue to serve Houston nonstop from PIT.

Other ultra-low cost airlines at Pittsburgh International – Allegiant and Frontier – are also contributing to growth. Allegiant, a Las Vegas-based carrier, currently flies to 10 destinations from Pittsburgh, while Denver-based Frontier provides service to two markets.

In just three years, Pittsburgh International has added nonstop service to 31 additional cities on seven new airlines. As part of its continued momentum, airport officials recently announced plans for a $1.1 billion terminal modernization plan which will lower costs to airlines while offering much-needed upgrades to the facility, including a new landside terminal, expanded security checkpoint, updated baggage delivery system and a new parking garage.