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New Airport Authority CEO Cassotis Spells Out Plans for Restoring Direct Flights to Europe

 

Guest speaker Christina Cassotis describing how to restore European flights to Pittsburgh

 

PITTSBURGH, 9 June, 2015 -- Saying it will take a “tipping point” of factors to convince a European airline to restore a direct flight to and from Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis spoke to a highly interested audience at the GABC’s spring meeting and, without naming names, said she is in discussions with leading German carriers.

“There’s an unmet need [for international service],” Cassotis said. “There are 288,000 passengers going between Pittsburgh and continental Europe every year. There’s a market to be taken, and we’re making headway.”

 

Christina Cassotis

Perhaps the top factor in an airline’s decision-making process, she said, is how to recoup its minimum operating cost to place one aircraft into one airport’s air service cycle at a time when margins are thin, a number she placed at an astonishing $54 million.

Cassotis said she and her team are looking at every possible strategic and tactical way to enhance the ambience at the 23-year-old facility as a gateway to the city and region. These might range from bold aesthetic enhancements at the terminals and baggage collection areas to security re-screenings for international arrivals and potentially adding more covered parking spaces. She has been visiting each of the airport’s domestic and international carriers to maintain a dialogue about how to better serve them.

The airport originally was designed for USAirways as a mega-hub for connecting flights to accommodate 35 million annual passengers. At the peak, Cassotis said, there were 21 million passengers annually. Today there are only 8 million users, and so the Authority is looking at other ways to utilize the unused space. Among these are talks with carriers to increase the number of non-stop flights to the West Coast. She also wants to understand local companies’ growth plans and how additional international routes might work to serve them.

“One of the reasons I took this job was the impact and involvement of the business community here,” Cassotis said. “You don’t find that in a lot of other markets, where airport directors are begging the chambers of commerce and inward investment agency to work with them.”

CEO since January 2015, Cassotis heads both the Pittsburgh International Airport and the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, an executive aircraft airport and general aviation airport. She previously was managing officer for Airport Services for ICF-SH&E, leading a global team of airport consultants in areas of competitiveness and business strategy for clients worldwide.

Cassotis was introduced by BKD managing partner Jeffrey Deane, with BKD partner David Bluemling wrapping up the evening.

German American Chamber of Commerce – Susanne Cook of Cohen & Grigsby explained the organization’s recent combination with the newly established German American Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh and extended greetings from Chamber President Paul Overby, Honorary German Consul for Pittsburgh, who was unable to attend.

GABC/Rotary Scholarship – The audience was briefed on the GABC’s plans for its second annual scholarship for local students in partnership with the Pittsburgh Rotary Club Foundation. The application is downloadable here. An update from last year’s winner Aric Brown, a student at Washington and Jefferson College, was read aloud with the full text here.

GABC/Pittsburgh Rotary Club Foundation 2015 Scholarship Application:

English

W&J Student Brown Wins Inaugural $2,500 Scholarship for Study in GermanyEnglish - Deutsch

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Future Events: To receive an invitation to future GABC events, please contact Erika Daxbeck at edaxbeck@BKD.com.

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