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State Series: Delaware and Pennsylvania

US Airways Aircraft at Philadelphia International Airport By Erin and Lance Willett (Plane) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Since the creation of the first airport in 1909 by Wilbur Wright, cities in the United States have come together to create one of the most expansive airport systems in the world. Over the next few months, our writers have taken an in-depth look to see what airports each state has to offer, what its history entails, and what changes we can expect in the future that will continue to shape the airline industry.

Although Delaware and Pennsylvania are side-by-side, their airport sizes and popularity vary quite massively. Delaware, as one of America’s original 13 colonies, has struggled attracting airline service due to its proximity to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, the sixth most populated state in the country, has gotten a great deal of attention from US Airways, who operated hubs in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the 1990s and early 2000s.


Philadelphia International Airport – Philadelphia, PA

Located roughly seven miles from downtown “Philly”, the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is one of the largest airports on the eastern seaboard, as well as a major passenger hub for American Airlines and cargo hub for UPS. The airport is also a focus city for the low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines. The airline has traded off hubs with various carriers such as Eastern Airlines and Midway Airlines over the years, with current hub dating back to 1980 when US Airways expanded service at PHL.

PHL is divided into six separate terminals with a total of 125 gates. Since American Airlines operates a hub a Philadelphia Airport, their operations are spread out amongst Terminals A, B, C, and F. Other airlines with a large amount of service to PHL includes Frontier Airlines in Terminal E with 26 nonstop destinations, Spirit in Terminal A with nine nonstop destinations, and Southwest in Terminal E with 12 destinations. Southwest has seen a retraction in service over the last few years, while Spirit and Frontier have rapidly expanded their route map from Philadelphia. Other domestic carriers include Delta, Alaska, jetBlue and United. International flights are offered on Sunwing, Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, and Qatar Airways, who operate out of Terminals A and D. Due to the shear size of the airport, there are multiple American Airlines Admiral Club lounges based throughout the terminals. Other carriers with lounges include a Delta Sky Club in Terminal D, a United Club lounge in-between Terminals C and D, and a British Airways Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal A.

Since US Airways had used PHL as a launching point for flights to Europe and the Middle East, the airport as seen much growth in traffic, and continues to look for success by drawing in overseas carriers such as Qatar Airways. US Airways further cemented their trust in Philadelphia by reducing service at their nearby hub in Pittsburgh, allowing Philadelphia to see expanded service with their two Pennsylvania hubs merged into one. Even as American has acquired US Airways, they have kept their interest in keeping Philadelphia a major hub. Since 2000, Philadelphia has seen a gradual rise in passenger service, rising from 24 million people in 2000 to 31 million people in 2015.

Pittsburgh International Airport – Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is located about 13 miles outside of downtown Pittsburgh, PA and serves as the only major airport in the western part of Pennsylvania. The airport was a hub for Allegheny Airlines and US Airways, but the decline in aviation following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 as well as overlapping routes with Philadelphia led to the decline of the Pittsburgh hub in the early 2000s.

Pittsburgh’s present day terminal was opened in 1992 as a way to allow the airport to expand the USAir hub. The airport is currently in the shape of an X, which is possible to be reached by an underground people mover. The airport has five concourses, Concourses A-D are each branches of the “X” terminal and Concourse E is located airside as a regional terminal. However, parts of Concourses A and B as well as Concourse E are closed due to the loss of US Airways service. Both the landside terminal and center of the airside terminal are equipped with airmails. Although American doesn’t have much of a presence at Pittsburgh, the carrier still operates a 1100 square foot Admirals Club Lounge near American gates. With terminal B being closed off, there are no current plans to expand PIT in the near future.

With the decline of the US Airways hub, low-cost carriers have come in to occupy the empty gates at PIT. Southwest operates routes to 14 year-round destinations, allowing the airport to reopen Concourse A fully. Allegiant Air and Frontier have also recently expanded service, with the focus being on leisure routes to Florida and the West. Delta recently reconnected Europe and Pittsburgh with seasonal flights to Paris being flown on Boeing 757s, giving hope that this once large hub will not just be a shadow of what it once was.


The Pennsylvania state capital’s airport in Harrisburg, which is the third largest airport in the state. The Harrisburg International Airport sees roughly 1.2 million passengers per year with flights offered on Air Canada, Allegiant, American, Delta and United to 12 destinations. Although most of the service in Pennsylvania is based in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, air service is still seen at various other airports across the state. The Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA is an alternative to the Pittsburgh Airport, with Spirit Airlines offering flights to Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Ft. Myers, Myrtle Beach and Tampa. Up in Erie, PA, the Erie International Airport is utilized as a regional airport with American, Delta, and United offering regional jet service year round. Delta however does upgrade the Erie-Atlanta route to mainline service seasonally. With just over 500,000 enplanements per year, the Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, PA has more Allegiant Air service along with regional aircraft on Delta, American and United.

Similar service can be found at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Scranton, PA, but due to less service per day, the airport’s flight numbers are half of Allentown at 200,000 passengers per year. While Pennsylvania sees a large amount of airline service, Delaware remains the only state in the United States to not receive a commercial flight. The Wilmington Airport in Wilmington, DE had Frontier flights offered as “Wilmington/Philadelphia”, but in April 2015 Frontier suspended all Wilmington routes to focus instead on expanding at the Philadelphia International Airport.

Ian McMurtry


  • Ian McMurtry

    Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.

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