Could a direct route between Pittsburgh and China be in store for the future? Airport officials in Pittsburgh would like to see it happen. A test flight on Aug. 3 could help to speed up the process and connect the United States and China in a brand new way.
A Boeing 777-300ER from China Eastern has been chosen to arrive at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) from Shanghai as part of a new initiative that’s been created by Pittsburgh International Airport, Visit Pittsburgh and Idea Foundry. This journey is the first of two round-trip flights planned for the summer.
Seats on the 316-seat aircraft making the journeys are being sold by a Chinese tour operator called Caissa Touristic. Tourists making the journey will actually be using Pittsburgh as the arrival and departure gateway when visiting cities on the East Coast.
Routes are typically chosen based on demand in the airline world. However, officials in Pittsburgh are hoping that they can build demand for travel between Pittsburgh and China by offering test flights that will raise awareness.
A charter program that is boosted by relationships with tour operators is seen as a way to put the spotlight on Pittsburgh. The two test flights that are scheduled for August will expose hundreds of tourists from China to the sights and sounds of Pittsburgh for the first time. Plans are in place to introduce tourists to the city’s hotels, restaurants and attractions.
Airports in the United States have shied away from the strategy of using charter services to build up demand for regular service up until now. However, the charter-to-regular strategy is commonly used in markets around the world. Airports in England and Australia have successfully used charter options to create mainstream routes. Of course, it’s impossible to tell as of right now if Pittsburgh International Airport’s strategy will work.
Officials at the airport have made it clear that no expectations are in place when it comes to establishing a permanent route at any point within the next two to three years. Travelers hoping to be able to travel back and forth between China and Pittsburgh directly will likely have to wait at least five years before a regular route is introduced.
Pittsburgh International Airport has been focused on introducing more direct flights in recent years. In fact, the number of direct flights offered by airlines operating at the airport has doubled in just a short span of time. New direct routes to London, Frankfurt and Reykjavik are now on the roster.
Source: USA Today, Image Source: China Eastern