The Allegheny County Airport Authority could end up paying Qatar Airways nearly $1.5 million in exchange for twice weekly cargo flights to and from Pittsburgh.
Under the terms of the one-year agreement, the authority is obligated to pay Qatar a guaranteed “support fee” of $15,500 per flight for the first six months of the service. That works out to about $744,000.
The payments would be made even if Qatar, which began service at Pittsburgh International Airport last month, didn’t meet the goal of 60 tons of cargo, imports and exports, for each flight.
In the second half of the year, if the airline meets the goal, the required support fee would be decreased “based on calculations agreed to by the parties.” Those are not included in the agreement, and Alyson Walls, an authority spokeswoman, said they are to be negotiated.
Should Qatar fall short of the tonnage goals in the second half of the year, the authority would be required to pay $15,500 per flight to the airline for each month they are not met.
That means the authority could end up on the hook for nearly $1.5 million over the life of the agreement.
Airport authority officials refused to release the incentives in announcing the start of the service, claiming it was not public information.
After the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette filed a right-to-know request, the authority provided a copy of the agreement with the support fees and tonnage goals redacted.
It argued that the information was protected from disclosure under the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Secret Act.
The Post-Gazette appealed the denial to the state and the authority agreed this week to release the information.
Ms. Walls said the authority still believes the fees are competitive information and their release could hinder negotiations with airlines in the future. But after consulting with legal counsel and the airline, it decided “it’s an appropriate time” to release the information, she said.
Qatar is the first international carrier to begin cargo service at Pittsburgh International and the authority has touted it as a game changer and a tool to spur more development around the airport.
The Persian Gulf airline, based in Doha, has said it plans to transport 200 tons of cargo to and from Pittsburgh each week.