Pittsburgh Wants International Air Service

Even with more than 260 foreign-based companies in Western Pennsylvania, a problem has been getting an airline to agree.

However, "There is just not that much revenue coming out of Pittsburgh," he added.

"If we can make it work -- fine," said Doug Parker, the airline's chief executive. "But we also have a problem with aircraft (being able to fly the route)."

German-based carrier Lufthansa has taken a similar stance, telling Pittsburgh area leaders there is not enough traffic to justify a new European flight, said Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.

But that doesn't mean its time to give up. Onorato said recently the effort to get some type of nonstop European air service is his top economic development priority.

"We all believe we can get this done," said Onorato. He is working with the Allegheny County Airport Authority, and the Regional Air Service Partnership, a coalition of 50 area business leaders brought together by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development to spearhead efforts to help the region attract replacement air service.

The coalition talks to "three or four" air carriers regularly, according to local leaders. But there are reasons why the process can be slow, said F. Michael Langley, chief executive of the Allegheny Conference.

"Airlines don't make these decisions overnight," he said, adding that companies often take two or more years to do so. Such decisions also may be delayed by factors such as the availability of planes to fly a route, or gates open for use at international airports

Local leaders might take heart in a similar effort waged by business and community leaders in Portland and neighboring Vancouver, Wash., after Delta stopped its nonstop service to Japan.

Not only did that effort find success in 2002 when Lufthansa agreed to start nonstop service from Portland International Airport to Frankfurt, but over the next two years it also helped convince Northwest Airlines to provide a flight to Japan and Mexicana Air to start service to Mexico.

"One of the key points ... was development of what we called a travel commitment" said Steve Johnson, spokesman for the Port of Portland, one of the partners in the community coalition. "Through our partnership we were able to raise almost $11 million in advanced commitment and pledges from local corporations to support the new nonstop service," he said.

Local leaders have made similar pledges of business in hopes of convincing airlines to fly here.

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