Flying the BWI Hub to London

January 09, 1992

USAir has not escaped the merciless impact of the recession. But the Baltimore-Washington International Airport's dominant carrier made a decision recently that should position the airline for long-term growth and boost the Baltimore region's economy.

Pending the approval of federal regulators, USAir has agreed to buy Trans World Airlines' routes to London from Baltimore-Washington International Airport and from Philadelphia. If the purchase is approved, the London route should strengthen Baltimore's position as one of USAir's key hubs. Although the sluggish economy has forced the airline to decrease its service through Baltimore in recent months, USAir still operates more than 100 jet flights a day from BWI.

Those flights provide healthy pass-through traffic. It is not unusual to see vacationers from, say, Sweden first land at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, then take a flight to Baltimore and continue from here to destinations in Florida. That's how hubs operate.

For several years, TWA's Baltimore-London route was a mainstay of BWI's international service. It was a red-eye special: it originated from Dulles Airport, far outside of Washington, stopped in Baltimore, flew to London's Gatwick Airport and then took one last skip to Frankfurt, Germany. Although the load factor has been quite good, TWA says the six flights a week have not made much money. But, then, TWA lacks a solid domestic feeder service.

In contrast, USAir's hub concept and its extensive domestic routes ought to make the London route an attractive choice for full-fare customers from the mid- and south-Atlantic regions as well as the Midwest. If that happens, BWI's rapidly growing international service -- which has been its economic strength during the recession -- should be in for further growth. And the more that overseas traffic grows, the more passengers are likely to use BWI on their domestic routes.

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