Trying to take advantage of an expanding European market, BWI Airport officials are trying to lock in new routes to give passengers more choices and boost freight shipments abroad.
"Europe 1992 is just six months away," said Walter T. Atkinson, vice president of Continental Airlines cargo division, referring to plans for unifying the economies of Western Europe.
"One definite reality is that this market of 320 million consumers is shaping up as the international proving ground for the air cargoindustry."
Atkinson, speaking Wednesday at the airport's Air Cargo Expo, said there will be a fierce battle between airlines to securethe European market. "It would seem only logical that East Coast airports such as BWI should concentrate on U.S.-European trade."
Maryland's airport seems to be heeding Atkinson's advice. KLM Royal DutchAirlines, which flies three flights a week to Amsterdam, will start June 19 adding 80,000 pounds of freight to three of its flights.
Starting June 22, Icelandair will fly to Reykjavik five times a week, offering passenger and freight service. Also in June, TWA will offer daily service to London and Frankfurt.
And last month, the state signed the Maryland-Kuwait Partnership, which designates BWI as the preferred airport for shipping goods to the war-ravaged Middle Eastern country.
Russ Scherer, manager of cargo development for the Maryland Aviation Administration, which owns and operates BWI, said the agreement could bring thousands of new jobs to the state, as well as provide an additional market for Maryland products.
Scherer, who flewfor Kuwaiti Airlines from 1979 to 1987, said the effects of the agreement are just now being felt and could last for another 10 to 15 years. "We are just starting to see some shipping come through," he said.
Under terms of the agreement, signed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer on May 2, companies in the U.S. shipping cargo to Kuwait will benotified by Kuwaiti officials to route the shipments through the Port of Baltimore or BWI whenever it is economically feasible.
In order to ensure that Maryland companies get a part of the rebuilding action, 25 state corporations currently are in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for a "Made in U.S.A." trade fair, the first major trade fair in the Middle East since the end of the war.
What all this means to BWI, officials say, is more jobs for Maryland residents, both for workers handling the freight and those who will be producing items for overseas consumption.
While the combined total pounds of freight shipped out of BWI in the first four months of 1991 decreased nearly 5 percent compared to the first quarter of last year, international freight increased 4.2 percent, from 6.2 million to 6.4 million pounds.
International freight shipped out of BWI rose 63 percent last year, from 17.5 million pounds in 1989 to 28.7 million pounds in 1989.
"This is one of the few airports that really promote international cargo," Atkinson said. "BWI is a major player in the international cargoarena."