A woman with more than two decades of air service experience was introduced Tuesday as the new CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority.
Christina Cassotis, 50, of Boston, will take over in January as CEO of the authority, which manages the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay and Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.
Although she doesn’t see Pittsburgh becoming a hub for air traffic again, Cassotis said she wants to attract airlines to the city and add more nonstop flights.
“We’ve got to be able to demonstrate that the seats will be filled,” Cassotis said. “We’ve got to demonstrate that there is a commitment to having the airlines who are already here continue to be successful, and those that we are trying to attract, that they will be successful.”
Cassotis takes over at a time when Pittsburgh International faces dwindling passenger traffic. From 2002 to 2013, the number of passengers traveling through the airport dropped approximately 60 percent, according to airport reports.
Passenger traffic, as well as the number of flights and destinations, declined tremendously in 2004, when US Airways pulled its hub from Pittsburgh.
But in the past year, Allegheny County has noticed improvements at the airports, according to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
“We know there’s been some great things happening at the airport with some of the flights we’ve added this year, passenger traffic being up, adding destinations as well as more airlines, and we’re very excited about doing that,” Fitzgerald said.
Cassotis said that when nonstop destinations are available to a community, the community thrives.
“I think of airlines and airports like railroads in the old days. When you’ve got the right service, you’ve got communities that prosper,” Cassotis said. “My job is to work with the already-great team in place, build on the success that’s been happening and to take the airport to the next level.”
Before coming to Pittsburgh, Cassotis served as Managing Officer of ICF SH&E’s Airport Services Practice, where she led a team of airport consultants. She also has transportation experience with the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan Airport.
Cassotis was chosen from among four finalists for the position.
“[Cassotis] certainly has the domestic and international airline experience and exposure to really lead our airport and move it forward,” said Ashley Henry Shook, board member for the authority.
Cassotis will replace Bradley Penrod, who was dismissed by Fitzgerald earlier this year. She will sign a three year contract with an additional two year contract. Her base salary will be $295,000.