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Editorial: A good flight path for BWI

Editorial: A good flight path for BWI

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Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport added new meaning to two of the key words in its lengthy moniker last week. And that was good news for the flying public.

On July 2, Condor Airlines began service from BWI to Frankfurt Airport in Germany, a major European hub, adding to BWI’s international offerings.

Condor, a subsidiary of Thomas Cook Group PLC in London, caters to vacation travelers and will fly the Baltimore-Frankfurt route twice weekly until October. The flights will resume next summer, according to airline and airport officials.

About 260 passengers were on the first flight from Frankfurt. Paul J. Wiedefeld, BWI’s executive director, says he expects the new service to generate $500 million in revenue for the airport by October.

The day after the Condor announcement, Mr. Wiedefeld was back with more good news. Spirit Airlines is moving to BWI on Sept. 6, leaving Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after nine years.

A discount carrier that charges passengers for snacks, drinks, meals, checked bags and even some carry-on bags, Spirit will offer more options for travelers going to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Spirit’s presence in the market will provide more competition for Southwest Airlines, another low-cost airline that is BWI’s dominant carrier, and that competition may drive the prices of some fares even lower.

These two developments illustrate the natural strengths and advantages of BWI and its continued potential for growth.

As with real estate, it all starts with location, location, location.

With its proximity to Washington, BWI was attractive to Condor, which already flies to Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas and Seattle but has no foothold in the potentially lucrative East Coast market, with its dense population, major cities and mass transit.

From BWI’s perspective, Condor’s arrival helps the airport increase its international service, which is still not what it should be.

Proximity to Washington was also a factor in Spirit’s move, but in a different way. Spirit was well-established at Reagan National, but its prospects for expansion there were dim because of crowded facilities and a lack of additional takeoff and landing times.

So Spirit is moving 50 miles up the road to BWI’s Concourse C, which just happens to be undergoing a $100 million renovation, also recently announced.

Not only will Spirit get larger, renovated facilities, but it also says it will reduce its operating costs as a result of the move because “BWI is by far the lowest cost airport to operate at.”

There you have it – great location, updated facilities, low air fares and low operating costs. That’s a prescription for continued growth as one of Maryland’s key economic engines.

It’s no wonder that even with the Great Recession, BWI set records for traffic in 2010, 2011 and in the first quarter of 2012. It is well-positioned to keep doing the same.


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