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Drilling Possible At Pittsburgh International

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Although it was built to be a major hub in airline transportation, much of Pittsburgh International is now an empty shell.

Things have gone from bad to worse at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Just last week, Jetblue became the latest airline to end some its flights here.

Now, Allegheny County is searching for answers -- including opening up airport land for shale gas drillers to reduce airline costs.

It has the sad distinction of being the most under-used major airport in the county, with only 15 percent of its gates currently in operation.

But instead of getting better, things are getting worse.

"Obviously, things are not are not going well," Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. "We're not happy about it."

The latest bit of bad news is the loss of Jetblue's direct service to New York ending in February, at which time it's remaining competitors will jack up their fares -- same thing that happened when Southwest ended its direct flights to Philadelphia.

"It's just a bad situation and we've got to fix it," Fitzgerald said.

One possible fix is to lure more airlines here by lowering their operation costs, reducing the gate and landing fees.

Next week the county is set to open bids to lease out all of this unused airport land to shale gas drillers.

The county intends to use those revenues to reduce airline expenses.

"Will that bring every airline here all at once?" Fitzgerald asked. "No. But it can be part of an incentive - part of a package - about lowering the cost, lowering the cost of operation in locating here."

Not having a thriving airport -- with a large menu of destinations -- is major threat to business in the region and Fitzgerald is urging Pittsburgh's corporations to support and use low-cost carriers like Jetblue and Southwest.

But right now, the focus is to stop the bleeding

There are no easy answers and leasing the land for drilling will not be enough to reverse the airport's fortunes.

But the county is looking for any and all answer to help turn things around.

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