When USAirways (then just good old USAir) was in its heyday, people in the western suburbs of Pittsburgh merely referred to it as “the company.”  That’s because thousands of residents were employed by the airline which maintained a hub in Pittsburgh and blackmailed the county into building it a showplace of an airport terminal. I know more about this than I wish I did because I worked as airport communications manager for the Greater Pittsburgh Office of Promotion – charged with promoting the new airport opening.  So I actually believed the press backgrounders I wrote and stories I sold to the likes of USA Today, NBC News and countless others. From how the airport would stimulate growth in the new corridor built just for it (still hasn’t happened) to the way baggage would meet you at the carousel before you even arrived (never happened) to the dedication of USAirways to the Pittsburgh market (no comment needed).  So why wouldn’t we all believe that USAir was there to stay?

However, even before 9-11, there were signs of cracking in the hub that was Pittsburgh.  Today, USAirways is an afterthought in Pittsburgh as far as flights that fly anywhere directly.  The beautiful airport has been almost half-shuttered – with a wall blocking off half the gates in each of two concourses.  It’s truly sad to see for someone who was so involved in the airport opening – remembering walking through the construction site before the roof was even complete. USAirways moved its hubs – and all the jobs that used to be in Pittsburgh – to Philadelphia and Charlotte.

Enter Southwest Airlines, now with the most flights out of Pittsburgh.  Allegheny County begged them to come.  Flyers begged them to come.  So they did.  And they grew.  And grew.  But the people of Pittsburgh didn’t really appreciate what this all meant.  The biggest competitive route between USAirways and Southwest was probably Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.  And instead of jumping on the Southwest flight (I know I did every single time I flew that route sometimes for as little as $75 round trip) the people of Pittsburgh let their “loyalty” to USAirways cloud their judgement.  And they flew USAirways. After all, each airline was offering tickets right around $100 round trip.  So what does it matter.  Well. It mattered.

And now, Southwest has stopped that route giving USAirways back the monopoly on PIT-PHL and a pricetag for a random upcoming date of $454. So to all the Pittsburghers who thanked Southwest for coming by continuing to fly to Philly via USAirways, shame on you.

I know this is old news but I’m ranting now because I’m trying to book a flight to Europe this summer and for my family to fly from Pittsburgh will cost more than $300 per person than if I drove 5-plus hours to Philadelphia or Toronto.  And that just honks me off.  When I traveled almost constantly for business I was thankful that I could generally get from Pittsburgh to anywhere I needed to be on a nonstop.  Today, that is largely impossible save for a few select markets that Southwest or JetBlue serve.

Wish there was a fix but I fear that ship has long since sailed and it’s time to figure out where to drive to get my flight to Europe. Given the choices are USAir or Air Canada I think I know which way I am leaning.