Pittsburgh International Airport

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

New artwork to greet passengers at Salt Lake City Int’l Airport

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) already has several large-scale artworks by artist Gordon Huether, including the 400-foot Canyon (above).

Coming soon: the completion of his 90-foot outdoor art piece echoing the mountain peaks for which Utah is famous.

SFO Airport is celebrating Dia de Los Muertos

San Fransisco International Airport (SFO) is celebrating Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) with an altar, a mural, and live cultural performances through November 7 in Harvey Milk Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

In Harvey Milk Terminal 1, look for the “Tree of Life” altar created in partnership with the Mission Center for Cultural Arts, and feel free to add the names of your loved ones to the altar.

In Terminal 2, artist Adrian Arias will paint a mural titled “Ancestral Hummingbird with Moon,” influenced by his Peruvian background.

Pittsburgh International Airport’s new terminal progressing nicely

These airports are adding childcare centers

Airports wooing employees with onsite childcare

(Our story about childcare centers opening at airports first appeared on NBC News)

Trudi Shertzer can’t wait to bring her 8-month-old to work every day.

An operations duty manager at Pittsburgh International Airport, she is counting the days until she can drop off her son at a 61-slot child care center opening there next month — the only such facility housed in a U.S. airport terminal.

“I’m just waiting for them to give us the list of stuff I need to start packing up for my son Hunter,” said Shertzer, whose husband, Ben, works as a wildlife manager at the airport. “This will be so convenient. With the facility right here, we’ll be able to pop in and check on him, which will give us peace of mind.”

While the airport authority’s 475 employees get first dibs on enrollment, the child care center is also open to kids of other staffers at PIT’s 6,000-person campus, including concessionaires, cleaners and construction workers.

The Pittsburgh facility comes as the airline industry continues its hiring push to meet resurgent travel demand in a still-tight labor market.

(PIT Airport day care. Courtesy NBC News)

At least three other U.S. airports are working on new child care plans of their own. They will join the growing ranks of employees trying to expand access to a service that remains a costly barrier for many caregivers in their prime working years.

(Trudi Shertzer at PIT Airport, courtesy NBC News)

Shertzer said a babysitter has been looking after Hunter while she and her husband are at work, and enrolling him in the on-site center will offer “significant savings” to the family’s bottom line.

Allegheny County Airport Authority, with operates PIT, has set the facility’s tuition at about 10% below area market rates and made sure it qualifies for state subsidies, CEO Christina Cassotis said. The hope is that employees in lower-paying, hard-to-fill jobs like those at the airport’s food, beverage or retail shops will also be able to enroll their children.

“We are trying to build in ‘sticky’ and foundational benefits so that people feel like we’re investing in them as people,” she said, “as opposed to just someone needed to fill a job.”

The center, operated by the national daycare company La Petite Academy, will have its own entrance in a surplus part of a terminal once used by US Airways. Hours will initially be weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but Cassotis eventually wants it operating 24/7 to accommodate later shifts.

“Child care has always been a challenge for working parents,” said Annie Russo, chief political and congressional strategy officer for Airports Council International-North America. But she said airports present an added challenge because many are far from urban centers and services.

“Having child care centers on or near airport property could solve that logistical problem for working parents and help airports recruit and retain employees, especially women,” she said.

A survey this spring of 10,000 U.S. mothers by well-being brand Motherly found 43% of women who changed or left jobs over the prior year cited staying at home with children or a lack of child care for their decision. Fifty-two percent of at-home moms said it would take affordable child care to lure them back.

Many caregivers have already returned to the workforce since the pandemic, as competition for labor drove up wages and inflation squeezed household finances over the past year. After Covid-19 disrupted child care and schooling for more than two-thirds of U.S. parents, the labor force participation rate for mothers with young children snapped back to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

But child care issues have remained enough of a workforce headwind to draw attention from the Biden administration, which issued over 50 directives to federal agencies in April aimed at reducing costs and improving access. In a visit to PIT this month, first lady Jill Biden praised on-site child care as allowing workers to “pursue the careers they want without having to worry about finding care for their kids.”

Some airport directors had discussed expanding their child care offerings before the pandemic, but “it has now become a larger focus,” said ACI-NA’s Russo.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which in the 1960s offered an in-terminal nursery so parents could dine or shop kid-free before boarding flights, is now in the final design phase of a child care facility for employees.

“Businesses at Sky Harbor continue to have challenges hiring and retaining staff,” said Matthew Heil, deputy aviation director for the city of Phoenix. Developing on-site child care, coupled with a $4 million pool of city and federal funds to help workers find care locally, “allows us to support those people with children in a direct way,” he said.

Denver International Airport is currently conducting a child care needs assessment, Deputy Chief of Staff Andrea Albo said. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which is home to cargo hubs for DHL and Amazon, is looking into developing on-site or nearby child care facilities, too.

“When my children were young, I was blessed to have stable, safe, dependable child care, and I know what a difference it can make,” airport CEO Candace McGraw said. “I’d like to see that happen at CVG.”

KinderCare said several major carriers, including American Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, provide tuition credits at its facilities. Delta Air Lines said it offers up to 25 days a year of subsidized child care for situations like school closures and family emergencies. But many airport workers have few such benefits, and while some U.S. airports have experimented with child care services for decades, only a handful of programs still exist.

Miami International Airport opened a child care center near its main terminal in 1987 with room for more than 100 employees’ children, but it closed in the early 2000s. There are no plans to bring it back, partly owing to space constraints, a spokesman said. Boston Logan International Airport and New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport had similar programs at earlier periods, but spokespeople said there are no plans to reintroduce them.

San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport still support nearby child care centers for employees’ kids.

Since 1993, SFO has been subsidizing extended-hour child care at a Palcare-run center in a county-owned building about 3½ miles from the airport; 36 of its roughly 110 slots are filled by children of SFO staffers. The current $7 million five-year agreement provides tuition subsidies for the kids of low- and middle-income airport workers, plus two meals per day for all enrollees. It also includes additional funds to handle enrollment growth.

Last October, the operator of LAX reopened the First Flight Child Development Center, which offers child care at discounted rates to on-site workers, after a pandemic closure. First opened in 1998, the center is located a few blocks north of the airport and run by La Petite Academy, which will also manage PIT’s.

Sean Sondreal, chief business development officer of the Learning Care Group, La Petite’s parent company, said, “We hope to work with many more air transportation organizations to plan and execute on their vision for creating greater opportunities for an ever-evolving workforce.”

First Flight — whose subsidized rates range from $240 to $404 a week for LAX workers’ kids — is “a great recruitment tool,” said Becca Doten, chief airport affairs officer for Los Angeles World Airports, whose child has attended it.

“Many people are re-evaluating what they want from their workplaces and, post-pandemic, seeking better work-life balance,” Doten said. “As they choose new places to work, we know how important it is that we can offer a safe place for their children.”

Kristen Owens, a consultant for a project management contractor at LAX, has been bringing her son, Jack, 1, to First Flight since he was 4 months old.

“This day care costs a little more than half of what other daycares in the area are asking,” she said. “If I was not an employee of the airport and had to go to a different center, it would be so much more expensive and so much less convenient.”

Owens added, “This is definitely a benefit that makes me want to stay.

Statues at PIT Airport Now on View for All

Photo by Beth Hollerich

Among the amenities at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) are three statues.

The lineup includes legendary traveler and early investigative journalist Nellie Bly, founding father George Washington, and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris.

All three statues are here on loan from Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center. And they are popular stops for selfies. But because the statues have been located lost post-security in the Airside Terminal, only ticketed passengers could pay the statues a visit.

Not anymore.

This week PIT moved all three historical to the pre-security Landside Terminal so that all travelers and all visitors can see the statues.

The relocation of the statues was prompted by the recent passing of Franco Harris. He died on December 20, just days before he and football fans were to mark the 50th anniversary of Harris’ now-legendary football play that became known as the “Immaculate Reception.”

After Harris died, “fans flocked to his lifelike figure in Pittsburgh International Airport’s Airside Terminal to pay their respects,” said PIT spokesman Bob Kerlick. “We received a lot of requests after Franco passed away for non-travelers to visit the statue which we could not accommodate. Now the statues are open to all.”

Want to see Nellie Bly, George Washington, and Franco Harris at Pittsburgh International Airport?

You’ll now find them behind the Information Desk near the primary TSA checkpoint in the Landside Terminal.

If you go, take a selfie and send it along to Stuck at the Airport and we’ll add it here.

Help PIT Airport Mark the 50th Anniversary of Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception”

Football fans making their way through Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) love seeing the statue of former Pittsburgh Steeler fullback Franco Harris posed making the iconic “Immaculate Reception” on December 23, 1972, in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders.

That game – and the play voted the biggest play in NFL history – was 50 years ago. And when the now-Las Vegas Raiders visit Pittsburgh to play the Steelers this year on December 24 – five decades and a day after that famous catch – the play will be honored during the game’s halftime and the Steelers will retire Franco Harris’ jersey.

To celebrate the play and the milestone, the NFL and PIT Airport are encouraging people to Franco” in front of the airport statue by mimicking the catch and sharing the photos on social media with the #Francoing tag.

Here are PIT’s firefighters “Francoing.”

8,000 lost items up for auction at PIT Airport

Items left behind at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) make their way to the lost and found, where they are held onto for 30 days.

And if no one claims the lost item, it’s a good bet it will show up in the Allegheny County Airport Authority’s (ACAA) annual auction, an event that’s been held annually since 2011.

This year’s auction is scheduled for Saturday, October 22 and there will be more than 8,000 items up for grabs. The rolling stock and cars can be bid for online, but for everything else, you’ll need to be there in person.

PIT officials say this year’s list features 300 pieces of electronics ranging from computers to Kindles, as well as musical instruments, including a Yamaha flute and a mandolin, Apple watches galore, and more than 350 bracelets, rings, and necklaces.

Over the past year, passengers also left behind sports helmets with GoPro cameras, a security surveillance system, a baker’s rolling pin and apron, flippers, and goggles. There’s a rice maker on the list, along with car seats, a Canon camera, an Alienware game system, and golf clubs.

On Saturday it will all be up for auction.

And it’s not just stuff. There will also be cars up for sale.

If the airport can’t find the owner of a car left too long at the airport, it becomes abandoned property and goes into the auction pool.

This year there are 11 cars in the pool, including a Sonata, two Honda Civics, and a Nissa Ultima.

Who gets the auction money?

Proceeds from the auction of left behind items go to the ACAA Charitable Foundation, which helps support PIT’s Art in the Airport program as well as aviation scholarships and workforce development. Last year, the auction raised more than $75,000 for the foundation.

For bidders, there will be a 15 percent buyer’s premium with 5 percent waived for cash or check purchases. Cash, checks, and credit cards will be accepted. Find details on the auction location and instructions for bidding here.