Some 200 workers who faced losing their jobs got a reprieve today when Northwest Airlines announced plans to move into a reservations center being vacated by another airline near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Northwest will open its mid-Atlantic reservations center by Feb. 10 at the site in Hanover, near the airport. America West, a once-promising carrier now struggling through bankruptcy, said in September it was moving its reservations operation to Kansas City, Mo. The center was to close Jan. 15.
Mark Wasserman, Maryland's secretary of economic and employment development, said today the center will open with about 200 jobs, but could eventually employ up to 500 workers. Workers losing their jobs at America West will get first crack at the Northwest jobs, he said.
"I was ecstatic when I heard the news. It's a wonderful Christmas present," said Anne Marie Vinores, a reservation agent and Pasadena resident.
Although rumors had circulated for months that their office might be bought by another airline, most of the workers received the news when they went to work this morning.
Reservation agent Bettye Derryberry said she learned about Northwest's plans yesterday when she answered a call from a Northwest official. She said she kept the secret to herself, but said "I was very, very excited." She said she had planned to move to Kansas City to work for the America West office there. Now she said she does not know what she will do.
Hanover was in competition with nine other sites, including a shuttered USAir center in Northern Virginia. A combination of
state incentives and Anne Arundel County cooperation persuaded Northwest to opt for BWI, Wasserman said.
Northwest officials said they liked the 2 1/2 -year-old Hanover facility because of its "state-of-the-art" equipment and readily available, trained work force.
The Minneapolis-based Northwest will receive:
* State grants totaling $150,000 for worker training.
* State and county financing of $1 million to purchase the $5 million facility and equipment.
* Another $4 million in Maryland taxable bonds to help finance
the purchase of the building and equipment.
* Recruitment and screening services provided by the state.
"Maryland has clearly made a commitment to creating economic opportunity for its citizens," said Fay Beauchine, Northwest vice president for reservation, sales and service.