Pittsburgh International Airport

Pittsburgh International Airport, or PIT, is a civil-military international airport in Findlay Township and Moon Township, Pennsylvania. Owned by the Allegheny County Airport Authority, it is the primary international airport serving the Greater Pittsburgh Region and nearby areas in West Virginia and Ohio. The terminal building is divided into the "Landside Terminal" and the "Airside Terminal" and features 75 gates spanning four concourses. In 2021, the airport had 108,464 aircraft operations. The airport covers 10,000 acres and has four runways: 10R/28L, which is 11,500 feet (concrete); 10C/28C which is 10,775 (asphalt/concrete); 10L/28R, which is 10,502 feet (asphalt/concrete); and 14/32, which is 8,101 feet (concrete).

Airport history

PIT began as a military airport during WWII, with the construction of runways beginning on April 20, 1942, on agricultural lands purchased by the county in Moon Township. Following the war, work began on a new passenger terminal building, and the new airport opened on May 31, 1952, as the Greater Pittsburgh Airport (changed to the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in 1972 upon the opening of the International Arrivals Building). Expansive (the second largest terminal in the US at the time), it was immediately busy, with 1.4 million passengers using the terminal in 1953. The terminal building was notable for using “stepped levels” whereby the first floor extended past the second, the second floor extended past the third, and so on. This allowed every level to feature an uncovered area that served as an observation deck. The airport began with service by TWA, Capital (later part of United), Northwest, All American (which later became Allegheny, then USAir, US Airways), and Eastern Airlines. By 1956, runways 10/28, 5/23, and 14/32 were all in operation, with 10/28 being the longest at 7,500 feet (extended to 8,000 feet after jet service began in 1959). The 10,500-foot 10L was added in 1965. In 1968 the airport obtained international airport status (with the first customs office), and the International Wing opened in 1972 (while international flights had already begun in 1971). The airport needed to expand. As such, rotundas were added to the end of each dock to allow for more gates in 1972, while the growth of air travel in the late 70s brought about the need for even more gates, leading to the opening of the South East Dock in 1980. Whereas TWA operated a small hub in PIT from the 60’s to 1985, USAir had become the dominant airline, and in 1987 work began on a billion-dollar terminal expansion on its behalf (and with its financial backing). The new terminal opened October 1, 1992. It was innovative, with an “X” design to reduce the distance between gates, an underground tram, and an air mall (with over 100 retailers and eateries). This design became a model for other airports, with the New York Times calling it “the airport of the future.” In 1997 the airport handled 21 million passengers (its most ever up to that point), although growth leveled off at that point, with USAir concentrating on expansion in Philadelphia and at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. Whereas the airport was headed towards a record year in 2001, the September 11th attacks were particularly damaging to USAir. This led to chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization for the airline in 2002, as it had been taking heavy losses from its PIT hub (while also being on the hook for 80% of the airport’s $673 million debt from the construction of the new terminal, which was done on its behalf). In 2003 the airline cancelled its lease at the PIT, and it filed for bankruptcy again in 2004. This downward spiral had caused the airline to reduce flights from PIT consistently, and by 2013 the airport only served 7.8 million passengers (compared to 2 million in August 2001 alone). By this point, 15 gates were sealed off from the rest, with numerous USAir ticketing and customer service counters abandoned. The downfall of the US Airways hub at PIT opened the door for low-cost and regional carriers to service the airport. Allegiant Air began service in 2015, with Frontier rejoining in 2016 (after a four-year absence), Spirit entering the fray in 2017, Alaska Airlines in 2019, and SunCounty Airlines in 2021. The airport has also seen an aggressive push by SouthWest Airlines, and it has overtaken American airlines as the largest carrier in terms of passengers served at the PIT.

Airport location

The airport is located 10 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh. 

Airport facts

  • In September 2017, PIT became the first US airport post-9/11 to allow non-passengers to enter the terminal's post-security portion so they could use the AirMall. To do so, one must sign up for a myPIT pass and pass through alternate security. 
  • In 2017, PIT was the first US airport to be named Airport of the Year by Air Transport World.
  • PIT is currently undergoing a $1.39 billion renovation, eliminating the need for the underground tram, as it will feature a new terminal for check-in, security, and baggage claims adjacent to the gates. 
  • A Hyatt Regency is directly connected to the landside terminal via a walkway.

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