Pittsburgh International Airport

Travel Tidbits for trains, planes and cars

Oktoberfest at Pittsburgh International Airport

Oktoberfest kicks off at Pittsburgh International Airport this Friday with live oompah tunes, classic German brews and dishes, complimentary pretzel bites and more.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Friday Grammy-nominated accordionist Kevin Solecki will be playing oompah tunes in the Center Core.

And throughout the month, the classic German brews at the airport’s Penn Brewery will include Great American Beer Festival medalists, Penn Oktoberfest and Penn Gold. On the menu will be classic dishes like Bavarian Pretzels with German Obatzda dip, Wurst Baguette on a Pretzel Roll and the German Reuben Sandwich.

More Oktoberfest parties are planned at PIT during the weekends of Sept. 20-22 and 27-29.

Amtrak’s BOGO sale

Amtrak has extended its Buy One Get One (BOGO) Saturday companion fare sale for destinations in the Northeast.

The sale applies to tickets booked on Saturday trips on either the Acela service in business class or Northeast Regional service in coach. (Three day advance purchase required).

These trains have stops in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Rhode Island and Richmond, Virginia. Use the discount code “C222.”

Rather drive?

The premium rental car brand Silvercar by Audi has partnered up with activewear brand Outdoor Voices in Austin to offer renters a cool deal.

Now through October, all Silvercar by Audi rentals at the Austin location come with Outdoor Voices apparel, a “Doing Things” local guide and a discount good for $100 off a purchase of $250 or more at Outdoor Voices.

Should an airport be named for a city or a celebrity?

City or celebrity? Branding goals fuel airport name changes

Louisville, Kentucky is well known for bourbon, the Kentucky Derby and Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

It’s also the city the late, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali called home.

In his honor, Louisville International Airport (SDF) was recently renamed Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport and a new logo honoring The Champ and his famous praise, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was adopted.

In addition to honoring a native son, the airport name change is expected bring economic benefits to Louisville and both built on and boost Ali-related tourism to the city.

“Even three years after our city’s most famous son’s passing, Louisville continues to see people coming from across the globe to discover and trace Ali’s legacy,” Karen Williams, President and CEO of Louisville Tourism said in a statement, “The airport rebranding supports current marketing efforts to engage in Ali’s ‘Footsteps of Greatness’ as a reason to inspire visitation to Louisville.”

Location, Location, Location

While Louisville added the name of a local icon to its airport’s name, other airports are moving away from celebrity names in favor of stronger geographic branding.

In 2016, the Allegheny County Airport Authority declined to change the name of Pittsburgh International Airport to the Fred Rogers International Airport.

 An online petition seeking to honor the late star of the locally produced “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” PBS TV program was signed by more than 15,000 supporters. But airport representatives said vacation planners were more likely to search online for “Pittsburgh Airport” than for “Fred Rogers.”

In southern California, regional Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is now Hollywood Burbank Airport.

The switch came in 2017 after airport officials realized that while the general public knew that the late Bob Hope was a comedian, few outside the region knew the airport was so located so close to Hollywood and many top Los Angeles-area attractions.

“Some thought the airport was in Palm Springs,” said airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf, “Others thought it was in Vietnam,” because Hope had hosted annual USO Christmas tours to entertain troops during much of the Vietnam War.

To help solve BUR’s identity problem, “We studied what other airports had done and why,” said Michael Fiore, cofounder and chief brand officer of the Anyone Collective, “And for the most part we found the same answers: those with a geographic identifiers attached to them were performing better than others.”

The name-change, coupled with branding and marketing efforts that include everything from new signage at the airport and on highways to online advertising, has garnered the airport national awards and, more importantly, more passengers, said Fiore.

Some other airports have gently tweaked their names in the interest of better branding.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) was renamed St. Louis Lambert International Airport in February 2017. The move was made “to improve marketing positions locally and globally while also expanding connections with the St. Louis region,” according to the airport’s strategic plan.

And Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) now uses the brand name Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

“This decision was made to better identify our geographical location to travelers who are not from this region,” said MKE spokesman Harold Mester, “Our new brand adds the name of our anchor city while still honoring our namesake, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, who is considered to be the father of the U.S. Air Force.”

Next up may be Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport .

“As we continue to market the airport in international and west coast markets, we have found that these populations are challenged to locate us,” said Kevin A. Dillon, Executive Director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, “Accordingly, we are undergoing a review to be completed by the end of the year to determine if it is feasible to change the airport name, and, if so, how we can continue to preserve the memory of Eugene Bradley at the airport.”

Bucking the Trend 

While the benefits of geographic branding are convincing some airports to change or tweak names, at least one airport is bucking the trend.

In 2017, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) changed the name of Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

The much-beloved Inouye served as Hawaii’s first representative in Congress in 1959 and went on to represent the Aloha State in both the House and Senate for a combined 53 years.

This is the fourth name change in the airport’s history, notes HDOT.

When it opened in 1927, HNL was named the John Rodgers Airport. After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1947 the airport was renamed Honolulu Airport. “International” was added to the name in 1951.

It is too soon to tell if the name change will boost the local economy or increase tourism to Honolulu. But HDOT pegs the cost of new signage, parts, materials, labor and other tasks associated with this latest name change at one million dollars.

What do you think? Should an airport be named for a city or a celebrity?

Airport amenity test: self-driving wheelchairs + collision-alert suitcases

Here’s are some tools that may prove helpful in airports and other spaces.

Self-driving wheekchairs

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) and the Panasonic Corporation are testing self-driving electric wheelchairs at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT).

The wheelchairs are designed to navigate the airport independently.

As they move, they detect and avoid people and obstacles. And that could make them a useful mobility solution for passengers heading to connecting flights a ong distances away; a common issue in many sprawling international airports.

For the test, the wheelchairs will follow a leader to a common destination, with a staff person on hand to serve as a guide.

Smart luggage

What about their luggage?

Perhaps the self-navigating wheelchairs might be paired with self-driving suitcases or the smart suitcase being developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

Their smart suitcase is designed with blind users in mind and both helps to clear the way and warn of impending collisions. The researchers are also working on a wayfinding smartphone app to help people with visual disabilities navigate airport terminals.

The rolling suitcase sounds alarms (beeps) when users are headed for a collision with a pedestrian. The navigation app provides users with turn-by-turn audio instructions on how to reach a departure gate, a restroom or a restaurant.

Both proved effective in a pair of user studies conducted recently at PIT airport.

The smart suitcase, called BBeep, has a camera for tracking pedestrians in the user’s path.

“A [standard] rolling suitcase can help clear the way and can serve as an extended sensing mechanism for identifying changes in floor texture,” say project researchers. With its camera and system of beeps, “BBeep can also sound an alarm when collisions are imminent — both warning the user and alerting people in the area, enabling them to make room. “

Sound promising?

Travel Tidbits from PIT Airport

From art to bees, therapy dogs and the “refreshing” of some statues, Pittsburgh International Airport is keeping busy.

First up: a charming video to announce that the PIT Paws therapy dog team has joined others across the country hand out trading cards to fans.

PIT Airport also shared a video about the more than 700,000 bees that reside on property:

PIT airport said goodbye – temporarily – to the statues of George Washington and former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris.

And the airport made room for a new – and somewhat large – piece of art.

Pittsburgh Airport getting a swank makeover

Pittsburgh International Airport is getting a $1.1 billion makeover that includes a new terminal with 51-gates, a modern check-in concourse and a new bag-claim system.

The pictures look so appealing that when the new terminal opens in 2023, they may have to seriously consider trading in the PIT airport code for something, well, prettier.

The new airport terminal will be built next to PIT’s current airside facility, between Concourses C and D, and is designed by award-winning architect Luis Vidal, who designed Heathrow Airport’s T2, and by San Francisco-based Gensler.

While some things may change as the project gets underway, airport officials say the new terminal building will have an emphasis on sustainability, with both indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces.

The new terminal brings together check-in, ticketing, security and baggage operations into one facility, with a separate level for departing and arriving passengers. There will also be an expanded TSA checkpoint, shorter walking distances and additional space for artwork, concessions and other amenities.

“This new terminal, inspired by the beauty, tech renaissance and people of our region will integrate seamlessly into the great design of the existing Airside Terminal,” said Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “In considering this design, we looked at function first, then form, to construct a building that will be both iconic, practical and affordable and that can be easily adapted as the technology and transportation needs of our community change.”

Let’s just hope PIT keeps the dinosaur, the Calder mobile, the shrine to Mister Rogers and the other amenities that make PIT a bit quirky and endearing.

(All photos courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport)