Jun. 1--For the first time in nearly two years, Pittsburgh International Airport passenger traffic is on the rise.
The number of travelers using the airport rose by 2.4 percent in April. It marked the first time traffic had increased since September 2004 and only the fourth time since August 2001, the month before the terrorist attacks, that monthly traffic bested the year-ago numbers.
In all, 850,887 travelers boarded and got off planes at the airport in April, up 20,242 from April 2005.
"We hope it's the beginning of a trend," Allegheny County Airport Authority Executive Director Kent George said.
The increase follows nearly five years of tumbling traffic at the airport, largely the result of massive cutbacks by US Airways.
Since 2001, the region's dominant carrier twice filed for bankruptcy, slashed more than 350 flights and more than 9,000 jobs locally, and closed its Pittsburgh hub in November 2004. During that time, total traffic has plummeted from 19.9 million passengers in 2001 to 10.4 million last year, much of it due to the loss of US Airways connections through Pittsburgh.
Mr. George said the April increase was driven by lower fares and more choices for travelers, including Southwest Airlines, the low-fare giant that has risen to become the airport's second-largest carrier after starting service in May 2005. In April, Southwest carried 91,643 passengers, or nearly 11 percent of all traffic.
"With these choices and low fares, it helps to stimulate the traffic," Mr. George said. "P eople come to Pittsburgh instead of making choices to go to other airports or driving."
Despite numerous cutbacks, US Airways remains the airport's biggest airline, carrying 55.2 percent of all traffic in April. However, its Pittsburgh traffic dropped 12.9 percent for the month. That was more than offset by increases at Midwest, Air Canada, Continental, American, United, Delta and Northwest airlines.
Mr. George is hoping that the arrival of another discount carrier, JetBlue, on June 30 with flights to New York and Boston will help to further increase traffic, particular as it relates to business travelers.
"The Boston and New York markets are very critical to the business traveler and I think you're see some stimulation of those markets," he said.
For the first four months, airport traffic is down 3.5 percent compared with the same period in 2005.
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