British Airways Launching Flights To Pittsburgh

Filed Under: British Airways

It’s incredible how much growth we’ve seen from British Airways the past few years, especially on transatlantic flights. Rather than just increasing frequencies in major markets, we’ve seen them add service to all kinds of destinations that previously had limited transatlantic flights, including Austin, Nashville, San Diego, and San Jose, just to name a few. British Airways has now announced their latest transatlantic flight.

British Airways will be launching 4x weekly flights between London Heathrow and Pittsburgh as of April 2, 2019. The route will operate year-round using a Boeing 787-8, featuring 35 business class seats, 25 premium economy seats, and 154 economy seats.

British Airways’ 787 business class

The new route will operate with the following schedule on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays:

BA171 London to Pittsburgh departing 5:00PM arriving 8:15PM
BA170 Pittsburgh to London departing 9:50PM arriving 10:25AM (+1 day)

The 3,720 mile flight is blocked at 8hr15min westbound and 7hr35min eastbound.

This is huge news for Pittsburgh, which has been working very hard to attract longhaul carriers. Currently Pittsburgh has a seasonal flight to Frankfurt on Condor and a seasonal flight to Paris on Delta, as well as year-round service to Iceland on WOW Air. The airport has also been trying to attract nonstop flights to/from Asia, and they’re going so far as paying a lot of money for two China Eastern charter flights between Pittsburgh and Shanghai, hoping that will attract other airlines to start service.

This will be Pittsburgh Airport’s only year-round transatlantic flight on a full service airline, so this is a huge win for the airport. I suspect there were some significant incentives involved for British Airways, in terms of waived landing and service fees, and possibly even money towards marketing the flight. I imagine that played a big role in this decision.

As you’d expect, award availability on the route is excellent, given that it was just loaded into the system. Unlike other programs, British Airways Executive Club promises that they release at least two business class award seats and four economy class award seats per flight.

If you were to redeem American AAdvantage miles for this flight, you’d pay 30,000 miles one-way in economy, or 57,500 miles one-way in business class, plus taxes and carrier imposed surcharges.

Meanwhile if you redeemed British Airways Avios for the flight you’d pay the following amounts one-way:

  • Economy: 13,000 Avios off-peak, 20,000 Avios peak
  • Premium economy: 26,000 Avios off-peak, 40,000 Avios peak
  • Business: 50,000 Avios off-peak, 60,000 Avios peak

That doesn’t include British Airways’ hefty surcharges, which can be $500+ one-way for a premium cabin ticket. For example, a one-way business class ticket from Pittsburgh to London around the time the service starts costs 50,000 Avios plus $531.40 in taxes and surcharges.

What do you make of British Airways launching flights to Pittsburgh?

  1. Pittsburgh also has seasonal Delta service to Paris, which this year is on a 767. This service has operated for about 10 years now.

  2. It won’t work….
    Pittsburgh may be a niche market but British Airways doesn’t have a product that’s competitive enough….

  3. @ Red — I’d argue that Pittsburgh is one of the few transatlantic markets where their product *is* competitive, given the lack of competition.

  4. @Red – why wont it work? if there’s demand for London service, plus decent beyond demand, then it will work. BA doesnt just open most markets without extensive research and analytics. If they didnt think the demand was there, they would not be making the choice to allocate their resources there.

  5. Its actually a route re-start! I flew that LHR-PIT (used to operate with a stop in PHL) almost 20 years ago!!

  6. Part of British Air’s calculation for coming to Pittsburgh is undoubtedly Pittsburgh’s willingness to pay for international connectivity. Pennsylvania’s Development fund will be paying $3 million for a two year commitment from British Air.

    As previously noted, Pittsburgh is paying WOW $800K over two years, and $500K to Condor for their two year commitment to Frankfurt, $500K to Alaska Air for service to Seattle, $350K to China Eastern for the single flight to and from Shanghai, and $1.5 million to Qatar for cargo service to Doha. Not only does Pittsburgh have deep pockets, but they see financial incentives as key to building new connections. Delta’s flight to Paris from Pittsburgh started off as subsidized, but continued after subsidies ended.

  7. This actually isn’t the first time British Airways has served Pittsburgh. They previously flew the route from 1985 to 1999, initially with 767s and later 747s when BA bought part of USAir.

  8. @alex – Qatar turns around 787s and A350s in 70 minutes, so 95 minutes for a 787 should be no problem.

  9. Red this route will definitely work and I’ll bet you money that it will wind up going daily within 2 years of starting. BA is very well known with a competitive product and they also have the AA/US frequent flyer base to work with.
    Congratulations to PIT with British Airways to LHR, and flights to KEF & CDG.

  10. Interestingly, the new contract lounge there, The Club at PIT, is the old BA lounge that was closed for many years before being renovated and reopening last year.

  11. As a London based Steelers fan, this is big news. I may have to point this out to the other half, who knows….maybe a birthday gift to see the Steelers at Heinz Field

  12. I flew this route on a 767 almost 20 year’s ago, when BA had a partnership with US Airways. As soon as that relationship ended, the route was pulled.

  13. There certainly will be some premium demand. My company’s largest base is Pittsburgh and our EMEA HQ is in London. We have employees traveling between both cities often (as well as other large EU offices in Brussels, Poland, Ireland, Manchester, Paris, etc.) and we do have a contract with BA. I could also see UA losing some of our India traffic since many here primarily fly AA.

    Employees also fly in paid J for trips where the longest leg is in excess of 6 hours.

    They certainly will see some traffic from us. Very happy with the new flights and the times are wonderful for those based in Pittsburgh.

  14. PIT has a long history of service to London. As a kid, I flew on the inaugural TWA flight from PIT to LGW. I think it was in 1981, on an L-1011…

  15. Congrats to PIT. US Airways really did PIT dirty back in the early 2000’s. Clearly some of the folks in Western PA have spent a lot of energy doing everything they could to keep the airport viable. Their cargo operations have really been a positive for them. I wish them continued success.

  16. This is amazing for Pittsburgh! This would be a fun inaugural flight to be on. Might take the short hop from DC back to my old home airport.

  17. Now I (as a PIT flyer) can have a non-stop roundtrip award in BA’s subpar business class product for only 115,000 AAdvantage miles + $1,354.01. What a deal, haha.

  18. Planes infested with bugs, food that is inedible and the world’s nastiest flight attendants. I’ll take a pass on that.

  19. I wonder if BA premium will get the AA lounge or if BA will contract with The Club lounge. The Club is too small and over-run, although one flight 4x a week may not make much of a difference. They already restrict Priority Pass at that time of day.

  20. @Derek Glass, you are spot on about BA’s flight attendants. “World’s nastiest” isn’t an exaggeration at all. I have only flown 4 segments on BA, all in business, but on each flight I was made to feel like scum of the earth. Like I was being a burden on the flight attendant’s precious time. Like my very existence was ruining their lives. I can’t imagine how economy class customers get treated!

  21. This route Is a restart and as pointed out before on BA articles you have run San Diego isn’t a new route. It’s been running for 7 years plus and was a restart at that time also.

    These routes to “secondary” US gateways are great example of why the 788 is such a good fit for BA.

  22. @PIT fan
    US Airways did not do PIT dirty back in the early 2000’s. People in PIT did it do themselves. They refused to accommodate US Airways repeated requests and proposals to decrease fees and operational expenses, believing that US Airways was captive because it was too costly for US Airways to change the hub. But US Airways left …
    Now, PIT is wasting the money it could have used to accept US Airways’ proposal, on subsidies for a couple of China Eastern charter flights, etc.

  23. As a PIT flyer, I’m really excited. Surely the airport is paying BA a lot in subsidies/waiving fees for this flight, but PIT has proven demand for new international service. Condor and WOW’s flights out of PIT have had quite high load factors, so I bet they’ll stay whenever their generous terms with the airport run out. Delta upgrading the summer Paris flight from a 757 to 767 is also a good indicator of the demand out of PIT. I’m looking forward to seeing how this flight turns out as well as the Shanghai flight. I imagine if they can time future Shanghai flights with important University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University dates, then the flight could be a success. As a Pitt student, I can tell you there is a large market for a direct Chinese flight coming from the education and tech markets in Pittsburgh.

  24. BA J class might have fallen far and be behind some of the world’s best airlines, BUT it is still miles better than Delta Airlines! I suspect a few of the comments on here are from DL HQ or DL fanboys using the new tactic of bashing without fawning over DL…just knock the new service. We see you.

    BA will do well!

    As for world’s nastiest FA’s?. They will treat you exactly as per the energy you are giving off! How about when you enter the aircraft you smile at them, they will soften and be nicer to you. No one ever mentions how off putting they are as passengers, but I see it all the time. Barking and ordering the FA’s around like they are servants. British people will not tolerate American nonsense. Simple as that.

  25. To be fair, people who get bad service from British people in customer service roles have generally deserved it. Be nice to us and you’ll get great service, get on our wrong side and you’ll get the bare minimum.

  26. Well well @Lumma, you are a typical Brit who has a chip on his/her shoulder since you guys are no longer the colonialists that you once were. I have never met a single Brit who is not snotty or arrogant. Must be something in your water.

  27. sigh that it’s not CVG… maybe VS would start a LHR-CVG soon? they would at least have some connection opportunities at CVG

  28. So I live not too far away from PIT and I am absolutely not getting this.

    a) Very few will actually travel directly from PIT and even less will see LHR as their end destination.
    b) If you´re either connecting from somewhere to PIT or from LHR to somewhere, so have at least 1 stop anyways, what edge does any of this have? I could connect in a million other airports.

    On top of that and to make matters even more absurd: PIT has ridicolously cheap economy fares to many places in Europe most of the time where United, Delta, WOW, sometimes AA and all sorts of other airlines heavily compete. I absolutely struggle to see what BA is finding there except for subsidies…

  29. This should do well, as a former Londoner and former yinzer I’d been predicting/hoping for this flight for years.The fact that this will be year round is one up on Delta.

    I think there will be enough corporate demand to make this work, the city was starting to do well in 2013, when I left and is doing even better now. Uber and google have big offices there now and I’m wondering if securing this flight is part of Pittsburgh’s campaign to attract Amazon HQ2. There’s good leisure demand that sustains there delta, condor and Wow flights and a big overseas student base as well as a large local Indian population.

    I’m in London right now and BA have a lot of advertising on Taxis for the Nashville flight they launched recently; I’m intrigued to see how they will promote Pittsburgh.

  30. @Miz

    There is the other side of the story too. It was US Airways who screwed PIT first, they wanted the terminal that way but refused to pay up. PIT was also stupid in thinking they could hold US ransom. After that PIT becomes this sad sad airport.

    Same story goes if DL were to ditch DTW. The terminal was custom built FOR NW.

  31. @ Matt

    “I have never met a single Brit who is not snotty or arrogant.”

    In my experience, most English FAs are culturally similar to Dutch and German FAs: they won’t pretend to be your bestest buddies, and they certainly won’t fawn over you, but on first encounter they’ll usually treat you reasonably and well – and their subsequent behaviour will largely reciprocate what you’re giving them.

    Some Americans have learned the trick of getting those NW Europeans on their side. Al Gore, after his failed presidency bid, was giving a lecture on environmental issues to a tough London audience. He stood up at the lectern and said “Hello, my name is Al Gore, and I used to be the next President of the United States”. The audience immediately loved him: self-deprecation and a bit of humility are all that is necessary to win over most of that group.

    Whereas if you behave like a swaggering dick you may find people not responding well.

  32. @The Nice Paul, it is job of the BA flight attendants to treat me with respect and according to my cultural norms if they are doing their jobs. They fly everywhere and need to learn the customs. So as a customer on an international biz class, I need to learn the culture of British, Canadian, Singaporean, Malaysian, etc FAs and great them accordingly? Basra! If the British FAs act like they are the heirs of a once-sprawling but now second class empire, then they don’t get to complain. Once again, I have not once met a Brit who was not jealous of the fact that the US is now the super power and not them anymore.

  33. @ Matt

    Well, I guess it depends: are you travelling because you want to experience the world in all its glorious cultural diversity?

    Or do you just want everything to be like it is back in the good ole’ US of A?

    I would suggest that having a variety of cultural offerings open to all of us is a good thing. We can choose what suits us best. But it’s probably either madness or raging egomania to assume that your own cultural behaviours are the only good ones in the whole damn world, and *of course* everyone else should treat you as the God-like figure you have decided you are.

    Bizarrely, I don’t think I have *ever* met a “Brit” who is “jealous of the fact that the US is now the super power and not them anymore”. Maybe you and I are meeting different sorts of people? Having seen some of the Brexiteers in action I freely accept there are some deluded British people who seem to hanker after a Lost Golden Age (which was actually a pretty shitty age, as far as I can see, for most people). But outside the rabid ranks of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, I’m not sure that many people share their prejudices.

  34. @The nice Paul

    “But outside the rabid ranks of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, I’m not sure that many people share their prejudices.”

    Yeah, expect for the majority of Brits that voted for their nonsense.

  35. @ Tenerife

    Different prejudices! Will be interesting to see if those who voted for it are content with what they get in the end…

  36. Why does BA fly to Pittsburgh and New Orleans from Heathrow, but not Orlando? There’s hundreds of thousands of passengers (maybe over 1 million) that fly between the UK and Orlando every year to every major UK airport, except Heathrow!

    BA is the only airline that would make sense on an LHR-MCO route because LHR would mainly be connecting passengers to other flights in Europe & Africa (currently Lufthansa is only major European carrier at MCO). I’ve lived in Central Florida for almost 20 years and there are hundreds of high tech companies on the Space Coast and Tampa/Orlando areas (especially compared to Pittsburgh or New Orleans) that would benefit from BA’s connecting flights and from the London areas better served by Heathrow.

  37. Is the London to Pitt flight usually full? I would hate to pay to reserve a seat with a half empty plane.

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