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Nonstop flights from Pittsburgh to London start April 2

| Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 11:06 a.m.

British Airways is returning to Pittsburgh International Airport after a 20-year hiatus to launch year-round flights to London.

Flights to London’s Heathrow Airport will take off four days a week from Pittsburgh starting April 2, airport officials announced Wednesday.

The airport authority will pay the carrier a $3 million with money from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, split $1.5 million a year for two years. It is the largest incentive the airport has ever given.

It marks the first time the airport will have service to London since 2004 when U.S. Airways ended flights to London’s Gatwick Airport.

The flight will operate Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, departing London at 5 p.m. and landing in Pittsburgh at 8:15 p.m. A flight will also leave Pittsburgh at 10 p.m. and arrive in London at 10:35 a.m. the next day.

Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis wants the flights to eventually become daily, she said.

London was the top international city Cassotis wanted to bring to the airport when she took the helm in January 2015, she said. Airport and county officials have taken several trips there.

“We think this is a real turning point for the airport, and we think that it allows for the memo to land more effectively that Pittsburgh is back,” Cassotis said. “Not everybody knows that, and when British Airways picks you, it’s a good endorsement.”

British Airways does not operate in any other Rust Belt cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, N.Y., and St. Louis. It recently launched service to London from Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans and Austin, Texas.

“They can go anywhere,” Cassotis said. “They can put that plane anywhere. So it’s a big deal. It’s a big relief.”

Cassotis decided on the incentive amount after looking at what Nashville and New Orleans paid for the service, she said.

“It’s a partnership incentive that says we’ve got skin in the game,” Cassotis said. “(They’ve) gotta build up this market and make it work, so here’s a way of taking the sting out of the start up.”

British Airways offers service to more than 130 destinations from London’s Heathrow Airport, where it is based.

“There is a pent-up demand for people wanting to go to not just London but all over the UK, to places like Germany, France, Italy, so we’ll be able to deliver that,” said Simon Brooks, British Airways senior vice president for North America.

The flights will also carry cargo, starting on April 2, Brooks said.

The flights will have an economic impact of $57 million and create 560 jobs, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Several Pittsburgh-based companies including PPG Paints, and law firms Reed Smith and K&L Gates have offices in London, said Fitzgerald, who traveled to London about a month ago with other airport and tourism officials.

“Just a couple years ago, we had one European city — Paris,” Fitzgerald said. “Now we’ve got Paris, Reykjavik, London and Frankfurt. And we’re going to be bringing on China with charter flights, Qatar with cargo. Pittsburgh is an international city going back to our roots.”

The airport authority awarded $800,000 to WOW Air for service to Iceland and $500,000 to Condor for seasonal service to Germany, which launched last year. It will pay up to $560,000 for two China charter flights next month and could pay up to $1.46 million to Qatar Airways for the first year of cargo service. Startup OneJet received $1 million from the airport and $2 million from county and state loans in 2016 to launch flights to 10 regional cities.

For the flights, British Airways will use the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, which has 214 seats, including 25 in premium economy and 35 in business. The airline serves all passengers free meals, beverages, on-demand entertainment and a free checked bag, a news release said.

The flights are on sale now through the British Airways website. A roundtrip ticket for the first week of April from Pittsburgh to London starts at about $700.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, or via Twitter @tclift.

Simon Brooks, British Airways senior vice president for North America, speaks Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at the announcement of a direct flight from Pittsburgh International Airport to London.
Simon Brooks, British Airways senior vice president for North America, speaks Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at the announcement of a direct flight from Pittsburgh International Airport to London.
Passengers walk through the ticketing area at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Passengers walk through the ticketing area at Pittsburgh International Airport.
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