Friday, January 8, 2016

Allegheny County Airport Authority agrees to buy former flight operations center

The Allegheny County Airport Authority plans to purchase a flight operations control center once owned by U.S. Airways for a little more than 5 percent of its original cost.

The authority's board unanimously approved a $1.87 million purchase of the former US Airways flight operations control center located at Pittsburgh International Airport during its monthly meeting on Friday. The center closed in August as part of the merger between US Airways and American Airlines, which is running all flight operations out of a new center in Fort Worth.

“This was a good transaction for both of us,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “(American Airlines officials) are as interested in moving forward as we are.”

US Airways spent about $30 million for the facility that opened in October 2008. The 60,000 square foot facility sits on about 15 to 20 acres of land on Hookstown Grade Road in Moon. Construction benefited from at least $3.25 million in state grants.

American Airlines handled its final flight operations out of the facility in August. About half of Pittsburgh's 600 employees transferred to jobs at the Fort Worth location, said American spokesman Matt Miller.

“We don't have a use for it at this point in time,” Miller said. “We're very pleased to have it go over to the airport who will ensure it's put to good use.”

The purchase is pending a site inspection. The transaction is expected to be finalized within 90 days. Cassotis does not expect finding a new tenant will be a challenge once a fair market value is derived from an appraisal.

“We are not in a position anymore to have to be asking the developers to come talk to us,” Cassotis said. “They're calling us. So we'll see what they say.”

Also on Friday, Cassotis reported that passenger traffic at Pittsburgh International Airport was up for the year by 1.7 percent as of November 2015, with almost 7.5 million passengers. Passenger traffic in the month of November was up 7 percent from the prior year, the largest percentage increase seen since February 2011 when the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the Super Bowl and residents flocked en masse to Dallas.

This time, the jump in traffic is due to an increase in the number of flights, some to new nonstop destinations. About 117,000 passengers through November 2015 flew on Allegiant Air, an ultra-low-cost carrier coming up on its one-year anniversary in the Pittsburgh market.

The board also approved a $125,000 marketing and communications campaign for this year that will incorporate new brand redesign to be integrated across web and advertising platforms. Cassotis said that brand would be finalized in the coming months.


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