Allegheny Executive Fitzgerald traveling to Asia in effort to boost air travel

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the CEO of the county’s airport authority are among those who left for China on Wednesday in the latest quest to bring more flights to Pittsburgh International Airport.

Accompanying Mr. Fitzgerald on the five-day trip are three airport authority officials — Christina Cassotis, CEO; Bryan Dietz, vice president of air service development; and Vince Gastgeb, vice president of community and government affairs — as well as Craig Davis, VisitPittsburgh CEO, and Michael Matesic, president and CEO of Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that works with Chinese families and students to encourage educational ties and investment.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said Mr. Fitzgerald and the others will meet with airlines and tour operators “to explore tourism and educational opportunities” with “the goal of building eventual airline service.”

Bob Kerlik, an authority spokesman, declined to say which airlines the delegation would be meeting with to discuss potential flights.

“We know that there can be many more opportunities available to residents of both China and Pittsburgh, and I am hopeful that this visit can be fruitful in connecting our two countries through air travel as well,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The county said more than 20,000 Chinese-Americans live in the Pittsburgh region.

The group is expected to return Sunday. The airport authority is paying for Mr. Fitzgerald and its three officials making the trip. The cost is $3,345 for air fare and hotel for each of those four. VisitPittsburgh is paying for Mr. Davis and Idea Foundry for Mr. Matesic.

“Planning service is a multi-year process,” Mr. Kerlik said. “We need to be talking to and taking advantage of business opportunities now, whether that’s with tour operators, charters, or other opportunities. We want to make sure we’re looking at all of that.”

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1504. Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.