Our Region’s First Nonstop Flight to Asia

By Kollengode S Venkataraman


After considerable effort, the Allegheny County Airport Authority finally succeeded in cracking into the Asian aviation market with a chartered nonstop flight to Shanghai, operated by China Eastern Airlines, starting this August. One hopes that the charter nonstop  flights to Shanghai is just the beginning for Pittsburgh International to get nonstops to other Asian destinations. It must grow into a seasonal and then regular three or four weekly flights all year around.

This nonstop came with a price tag for the region:  The airport authority is pitching in up to $560,000 to subsidize the flight. This is essentially tax-payer money. That amount will drop   when Pittsburgh travelers purchase tickets, according to the Authority’s spokesman Bob Kerlik.

In addition, the VisitPittsburgh tourism agency is kicking in another $300,000, with another $50,000 coming from the Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that works with Chinese families and students to encourage educational ties and investment.

The subsidies are part of a three-year agreement with Caissa Touristic, the tour operator, to market and sell trips to Pittsburgh. However, the flight currently is guaranteed for only one year.

Remember, in the heyday of US Airways at Pittsburgh International we had daily nonstop and direct service from PIT to Paris, Frankfurt, London, Rome, London, Milan… … And then the sky fell for us when US Airways walked away from its hub here, only to eventually disappear altogether from the skies. Recently Pittsburgh International inaugurated nonstops to Europe through WOW and Condor airlines.

The Patrika has written on the need for connecting PIT to Asia with nonstops for our region to encourage businesses to relocate here. However, anybody who is even peripherally familiar with the commercial aviation industry knows that the center of gravity of commercial airlines has shifted to Asia (Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, China, and India).  The commercial airline industry will grow for the next several decades in this region domestically, regionally, and even globally. Europe and North America are saturated markets.

The Big-Three US air carriers — United, Delta, and American — dominate global nonstops through their hubs across the US. Working to get American or other large European air carriers to introduce nonstops from Pittsburgh International to Europe and Asia is just a waste of time. That is why airlines from China, India, South East Asia, and the Persian Gulf countries has become attractive for Pittsburgh International to get nonstops to Asian destinations.

China Eastern Airlines nonstop seasonal charter service connecting Pittsburgh and Shanghai, China commences on August 3. This is the region’s very first nonstop air link with China, or for that matter, the the whole of Asia. Pittsburgh will be the arriving and departing gateway for hundreds of Chinese tourists visiting the U.S. East Coast this summer.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our region to become the first medium-size city in the country as a destination for Chinese tourists,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “Our region’s businesses, the airport, and our tourism industry will be the primary beneficiary of this agreement.”

China Eastern will fly its flagship Boeing 777-300 ER, carrying 316 seats in a first/business/economy three-class configuration. The first departure from Pittsburgh will occur the same day as its landing.

“This is huge step forward for the future, particularly for nonstop air service to China. The charter-to-scheduled service model has been successfully adopted in other parts of the world,” said Christina Cassotis, Pittsburgh International Airport CEO. “We are the first U.S. market to tap into China’s fast-growing tourism market with this type of business model.”

Pittsburgh area travelers will be able to purchase tickets on these flights through www.Travel2.com and www.firstinservice.com. Flights start at just $1,098 inclusive of tax and fees. Travel2 has also put together land packages starting as low as $990 when booked in conjunction with these flights. For all bookings, inquiries, terms, and conditions contact michelle@fls.com or call 310-435-3977.   



  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.