There's little we can do to prevent US Airways from cutting back its operations in Pittsburgh or folding up its tent altogether. Its internal struggles aren't something we can affect to any significant degree. Tying our economic fortunes to any company is, at best, a tenuous proposition.
More encouraging, however, is that while the U.S. airline industry, especially the legacy carriers, are struggling, and US Airways has cut back its operations at Pittsburgh International Airport, carriers are finding Pittsburgh an airport that's worth serving. Hooters Air said in December that it would begin service to and from Pittsburgh, and iconic Southwest Airlines tossed its hat into the Pittsburgh ring last month, a good sign considering that the Dallas-based company's fortunes are rising.
And airlines other than US Airways - including four of the majors -- showed a 16 percent passenger increase in Pittsburgh as of last November.
The trick isn't to figure out a way to keep US Airways here or viable; neither of those goals is within our reach. We've been heartened in the past by the arrival of a company, only to be later disappointed by its departure. In truth, we have no reason to expect any company to be our region's savior. To do so only sets us up for disappointment.
The goal ought to be creating a region vital and attractive enough to make Pittsburgh a destination. That means brownfield development, more favorable tax treatment for businesses and individuals, improved infrastructure and a willingness to explore a governmental model, particularly in Allegheny County and the city, that will cut costs and improve services.
Those conditions will encourage anyone who is motivated to do business here, either occasionally or on a permanent basis, to overcome the obstacles to entering or leaving the city via air transport, on US Airways or otherwise. And it should create the competitive environment that will attract airlines and other businesses here, as well.
Then the ring of cash registers will replace the sucking sound.