Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Newest Competitive Advantage

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that people flying out of Pittsburgh pay, on average, 77% less for a domestic airline ticket for a trip of the same distance than people flying out of Cincinnati do. According to the Journal, the plane fares from Pittsburgh cost an average of 11.65 cents per mile, whereas plane fares from Cincinnati cost a whopping 20.63 cents per mile.

In fact, Pittsburgh now has the 22nd lowest fares of any of the 100 largest airports. Cincinnati is the most expensive of any of the airports, but many other competitor regions have a lot higher fares than we do, too. For example, Charlotte's average is 14.43 cents per mile, 24% more expensive than Pittsburgh. Atlanta's average is even more expensive, at 14.93 cents per mile. Boston is 13.95 cents per mile, 20% higher than Pittsburgh. Cleveland is 13.60 cents per mile, 17% more.

It hasn't always been so. Although the USAirways cutbacks over the past decade have reduced the number of nonstop flying options for people in Pittsburgh, the growth of alternative airlines, particularly Southwest, has done wonders for our airfares. In fact, the Wall Street Journal analysis shows that since 2005, Pittsburgh's fares have dropped by almost 13%, the second largest decrease in fares of any of the top 100 airports. Instead of people driving from Pittsburgh to Cleveland and other airports to save money, as they did in the 1990s, people should now be driving from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus to fly out of Pittsburgh.

Our lack of international flights remains a serious competitive weakness. But we still have nonstop service to most major domestic locations, and as the data cited above shows, the fares, on average, can't be beat. That's a great advantage for entrepreneurs and small businesses on tight budgets.

Using our competitive airfares to encourage more entrepreneurial growth and job creation here would result in more people flying out of Pittsburgh, and that in turn would increase our chances of getting more flights, which would make us even more competitive. That's the kind of positive economic spiral we need.


Blogger Jefferson Provost said...

Interesting that the per-mile fares are so low, given that there are so few west-coast nonstops. (The only west coast city with nonstop flights from Pittsburgh is LA.)

How do you think this will change when PIT increases fees in response to US Airways' service cuts? What fraction of the total flight cost is airport fees.

1:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home