USAir and BWI

October 23, 1991

The recession has not been kind to USAir. Currently it is losing more than $1 million a day and has asked its workers, including 2,500 based at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, for temporary pay cuts and other measures to stem the losses and help return the carrier to profitability. The airline has also announced it will cut 14 flights from its schedule at BWI by January, in addition to some deletions earlier this year.

USAir carries more than 60 percent of BWI's passengers, and is key to the airport's health. The airport, in turn, is playing an increasingly important role in the region's economy. Obviously, then, both the airport and the region have a stake in USAir's recovery. With aggressive efforts to stem its losses, combined with ambitious plans to enhance profitability, the company expects to be able to recover without cutting out hubs or otherwise significantly shrinking its operations.

Even so, despite the importance of USAir, BWI has other strengths. Especially now with a new, convenient garage, it is considered a user-friendly airport, particularly when compared to the crowds and confusion of National Airport in Washington. Not surprisingly, more than 30 percent of BWI passengers now come from the Washington area. The airport also draws passengers from southern Pennsylvania. All in all, the Baltimore area is a strong local market -- larger than, say, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, two of USAir's other hubs.

BWI also has a number of other airlines, including all of the nation's major carriers, as well as several smaller carriers. Often, when one airline drops a route at BWI, another carrier will pick it up, and that may well happen to some of the USAir flights. International service is growing as well. One recent addition is Ladeco, the Chilean airline, which now offers service to South America.

Convenient air transportation has become as important to regional economies as good rail connections once were -- and as efficient highway systems still are. USAir's problems give plenty of cause for worry about the airport. But there are reasons for optimism as well.

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