PITTSBURGH — Normally, a new flight coming to Pittsburgh International Airport wouldn't garner much attention. But when looked at through Amazon-tinted lenses, the potential really takes flight.
The smiles were almost endless as Allegheny County leaders gathered to announce Alaska Airlines would begin nonstop flights between Pittsburgh and Seattle in September.
“We are the largest underserved market from Seattle no more,” said airport CEO Christina Cassotis.
It's a new partnership overshadowed by the possibility of an even bigger one down the road.
“I look forward to more expansion, more flights to come, and hopefully one big key company that needs us to use this flight more regularly,” said Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny County Conference.
That company is Amazon, as it shops for the future home of its second headquarters, which is expected to bring 50,000 jobs wherever it lands.
One of the retail giant's requirements was a nonstop flight to its headquarters in Seattle, initially considered a shortfall in Pittsburgh's bid.
“There was maybe one little missing piece and it was the direct flight to Seattle,” Fitzgerald said. “Now that there's daily service and every day they'll have service, that really adds to our bid.”
Fitzgerald believes this will make the city's bid stronger, linking tech hubs Pittsburgh and Seattle. Business leaders say even without Amazon, this could be a huge step for the region’s tech companies.
“We know this is going to open up a whole new pipeline of new relationships and relationships we can fortify further,” said Audrey Russo, CEO of the Pittsburgh Tech Council.
Alaska Airlines shared that vision when making this decision.
“Recognition of the business synergies that are current between Pittsburgh and Seattle, particularly on the tech side, and we do want to be part of it,” said John Kirby, Alaska Airlines vice president of planning.
The airline says it will take a few months to get a plane devoted to the nearly six-hour flight between the two cities.
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