PITTSTON TWP. — A study of the feasibility of restoring direct flight service between the Pittsburgh International and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International airports is under way, and area leaders are hopeful it will show there is a need. But even if that’s the case, convincing an airline to handle the flights is another story.
According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Allegheny County Airport Authority board hired Texas-based Mead & Hunt Inc. last year to develop possible business plans, including costs and flight schedules, for airlines that might be interested in starting service between Pittsburgh and 13 other airports in the state, including Erie, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Lancaster and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Mead & Hunt will be paid $299,148 for the work. The airport authority will chip in $74,787, and the rest will be paid by a $224,361 state grant.
Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton International Airport Director Barry Centini said he believes there is a market here that would fill seats if flights were offered. Wen USAir ran flights between the two airports, passengers responded positively, he said.
The last flight between the two airports occurred June 2, 2007, when USAir ended its scheduled flights. Now for a passenger to get to Pittsburgh, he or she must fly to Philadelphia and get on a connecting flight.
With the Marcellus Shale Industry taking off in the state’s Northern Tier and the southwestern portion of the state, Bill Moore said restoring flights makes smart business sense for an airline. The head of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, Moore said there is likely plenty of travel between the two regions by shale industry workers.
“The more convenient you can make it for the business traveler, the more likely they are to use it,” Moore said. And for casual and leisure travelers, it’s also convenient — as Pittsburgh offers more destinations than the local airport does and it’s only an hour flight between the two.
US Airways dropped Pittsburgh International as a hub in November 2004. Within a few years, the airline eliminated service to many of the smaller airports in the state that served as feeders for flights from Pittsburgh, including Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley.
Centini said he believes the study will show there is an interest in flights between the two regions. “I don’t believe it’s a matter of numbers,” he said. “It’s a matter of which airline.”