Air Transport World

Saving the hub: Pittsburgh International closes gates, cuts expenses as US Airways changes service pattern at its second-busiest station.(Airports & ATM)

With a 93-gate terminal custom-designed to be a US Airways hub, "You're darn right we want to keep US Airways," says Kent George, executive director of Pittsburgh International Airport. "We're going to work with them any way we can ... We want as much of a hub as possible, and the 100-plus destinations and the 8,500 US Airways employees in this community."

Responding to the falloff in traffic that followed 9/11 and the realities of its own bankruptcy, US Airways cut service at its No. 2 hub from 500 daily departures in June 2001 to 401 today (see Cover Story, p. 28). George still calls his airport a fortress hub, but he notes that the principal carrier now accounts for 75%-78% of total passenger traffic, down from the high 80s. US Airways' local employment has declined nearly 3,000 from a peak of 11,400 and the airport's transfer passenger percentage has dropped from 60% to 50%.

"This is a business," says the pilot and Embry-Riddle graduate with 32 years in airport management and an MBA. "We're responding in a business manner. We have cut back on service on employees, on supplies and on the way we operate." PIT's operating budget for the current year is $134 million, down 1.5% from $136 million last year. "It will be down another $3 million to $4 million next year," George promises. He notes that refinancing has reduced the airport's debt service from $73 million a year to $62 million; "Before 9/11 we had been making a profit to pay off the debt." Now PIT struggles to pay the interest on the bonds it sold to build the new terminal

Before 9/11 the airport was headed for the second-highest traffic level in its history, a bit below the 1997 record of 20. …

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