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Delta extends nonstop flights to Paris

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Delta Air Lines will continue its direct flights to Paris into 2012, though it will take this winter off, officials said Thursday.

Delta began offering nonstop flights at least four days a week between Pittsburgh International Airport and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport in June 2009 with a guarantee from the state and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development to cover up to $9 million in Delta losses in its first two years.

That agreement ended June 2, with airport officials saying Delta would continue to offer the flights until Aug. 31.

"Delta's decision to extend international service from Pittsburgh is thrilling and a testimony to the region's growing position in the global economy," Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said in a statement.

Delta will fly between Pittsburgh and Paris five days a week until Aug. 31. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 28, it will fly the route four times a week. Flights will be suspended from Oct. 29 until March 24, when service returns at four days a week.

The airline offered the flights during winter months in the last two years, said Ken Zapinski, senior vice president of the Allegheny Conference's transportation and infrastructure program.

Tourism traffic between Pittsburgh and Europe drops off in the winter months, Zapinski said.

"There aren't a whole lot of folks going from Pittsburgh to Europe in the winter months," he said.

Atlanta-based Delta is cutting several cities' trans-Atlantic flights this winter in reaction to rising fuel costs, said spokesman Trebor Banstetter. For example, he said, Delta will suspend flights between Philadelphia and Paris, Atlanta and Moscow, and several from New York to European destinations.

"These are routes that might be successful in the summer, but for this year at least we had to suspend them for the winter," he said.

International air travel was beginning to increase this year after having been depressed during the economic recession, he said. Any revenue growth was offset by increased costs.

While Delta recouped $5 million from the state and the Allegheny Conference on the Paris route in its first year of operation, it remains unclear whether the airline lost money on the flight in its second year before the agreement expired.

State officials said last month that they did not expect to pay any money to Delta. Under the agreement, the Allegheny Conference was responsible for the first half of the remaining $4 million guarantee, meaning Delta could have made a profit or lost no more than $2 million.

The conference does not know if it will owe Delta money because is still waiting for final numbers from the airline, Zapinski said.

Banstetter declined to comment on the guarantee. But, he said, "I think it's fair to say it's been successful so far this year."

Delta's decision to extend the service into next year -- without a guarantee of recouping losses -- is a "tremendous step," Zapinski said.

"What today's announcement shows is that Delta has tremendous faith in this flight, even as they're cutting other trans-Atlantic flights," he said.

Until Delta started the Paris route two years ago, Pittsburgh International Airport had not had nonstop European service since 2004, when US Airways ended flights to Frankfurt, Germany.

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