Trapped in Pittsburgh

We hope you didn’t really enjoy having US Airways in your life.

This past week, Pittsburgh’s largest carrier announced another round of cuts to its service out of Pittsburgh. This means that, in January, the number of daily flights leaving town will drop from 108 to 68. Places you may have wanted to go and no longer can include: Nashville, Denver, Erie, Chicago, Norfolk, Louisville, and Toronto.

But really this is part of a larger trend for US Airways, which shortly before 9/11 had over 500 flights leaving Pittsburgh each day. In 2004, Pittsburgh International Airport was downgraded from a hub to a “focus city” — which in airport lingo means they don’t love us anymore — and just this past May, US Airways cut direct flights to Baltimore, San Diego, Buffalo, and Seattle.

The positive side to all of this is as US Airways withdraws, other airlines may increase service like Southwest and JetBlue have done. This should, in theory, increase the market efficiency and lower prices for those of us who want to get out of the city for a bit.

While the county remains hopeful that other airlines will step up, US Airways has decided to only renew its contracts on 10 gates at Pittsburgh International Airport, leaving 18 empty. The airport will likely shut down these gates in an effort to save money, at least until other companies increase service as airport officials hope will happen. Officials are currently claiming that these cuts will not affect travelers.

But with 18 gates closed, we can imagine the airport starting to feel deserted. We imagine a future with tumbleweed blowing down the moving sidewalks and the TGI Friday’s becoming that kind of old-style saloon where there are only two old guys drinking at the bar who look at you funny as you walk in. The best deals to fly home for break will include driving out to Cleveland to catch a decent flight. Or, possibly, we will simply all remain in Pittsburgh, trapped beside our three rivers, trying to figure out why the airplanes no longer stop here.