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Pittsburgh airport moves to draw direct flights to more cities

| Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 4:15 p.m.

In an effort to boost nonstop service from Pittsburgh International Airport, the airport authority announced on Friday an incentive program for airlines that start service to popular destinations, including San Diego, Seattle, New Orleans, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Jacksonville.

The authority could waive landing fees and provide marketing support, depending on the route. The incentives would last two years, at which time the airport hopes the routes would be self-sustaining, spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said.

“It helps support the launch of a route,” Jenny said.

Airlines that offer seasonal Caribbean and Latin American destinations, as well as other North American destinations on a seasonal or less-than-daily schedule, are eligible for some incentives.

The airport offered the program in 2013. Southwest Airlines, which began nonstop service to Nashville and Houston last year, qualified for the incentives, Jenny said.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the incentive program was a factor.

“Where there is a new entrance into an airport these incentives are popular. When you're trying to provide a new nonstop (flight) it does mitigate some of the risk,” Hawkins said. “Anytime you have a cost consideration, it's a factor.”

Airport officials are hoping the incentives will increase passenger traffic, which dipped 5.2 percent in November compared with November 2012. Last year through November, traffic was down 2.4 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

The Airport Authority also said a plan to speed up the process of clearing customs for incoming travelers will begin this spring. Two Global Entry kiosks will be installed allowing expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers entering the United States. Arriving passengers will be able to process their entry through the kiosks rather than waiting in line for a Customs and Border Protection officer.

Officials estimate passengers will be able to clear the primary inspection process in less than a minute at the kiosk. The kiosks will be installed before Delta Air Lines' direct flights to Paris resume on April 27.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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