The Allegheny County Airport Authority has handed out more than $2 million in grants to small airlines to entice them to expand service at Pittsburgh International and the head of the authority says more can be expected.
The largest of the grants was made a year ago to California-based OneJet, which since then has expanded service from its original two cities to a total of seven.
“They’re incentives in order for the airlines to pick us over other cities,” Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said. “They’re pretty standard in the industry.”
Under the terms of the incentive, OneJet must add five more destinations and continue to serve them for at least five years. Last month, the county’s redevelopment authority gave OneJet a $1.5 million loan to purchase new seven-passenger planes. The state has given the company an additional $500,000 loan.
Cassotis said the days of being a hub city or looking for major airlines to link medium sized markets like Pittsburgh and Milwaukee are gone. Limited seat regional jets run by smaller carriers look to be the future.
“Its costs are lower than the big guys and it takes a lot fewer passengers to be successful,” Cassotis said.
Cassotis expects to make more grants, which do not need approval from the Airport Authority. She said she will know when the time is right.
“Because I’ve been doing this for 25 years, I understand the competitive landscape, Cassotis said. "I know what I’m up against and we are constantly monitoring our competition.”