USAir's inaugural flight from Baltimore to London took off last night from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, carrying with it the airport's hopes for continued growth in international traffic.
In December, USAir reached a $50 million deal with TWA to buy two London routes, one from Philadelphia and the other from Baltimore. That sale assured the continuation of BWI's service to London.
TWA carried about 30,000 passengers on its BWI-London route last year. "It's one of our most key markets," Linda Greene, a BWI spokeswoman said yesterday.
Much of BWI's hope for growth rests on international service. During the last two years, when total traffic dropped at BWI, international travel boomed, rising by about a third in each of the last two years.
And USAir might be able to provide better service than beleaguered TWA, which has been operating under bankruptcy law protection.
"I think it will be better," said Bridget Peirson, the owner of Peirson Travel Service. "TWA's service went down a bit with all their problems."
TWA usually operated as many as six flights a week. But during the Persian Gulf war, when many people were afraid to fly, TWA was providing just one flight a week. And last month, the service again was down to just one flight a week. USAir will offer daily service.
USAir hopes that its extensive connecting service to Baltimore will enable it to feed more traffic to the London flight than TWA could manage with its limited domestic system. USAir has 88 jet flights and 102 commuter flights from BWI daily, and carried about two-thirds of all the passengers who flew out of BWI in 1991, more than 20 times greater than TWA's share.
USAir will not continue TWA's service from London to Frankfurt, Germany. It doesn't have enough planes to offer daily service to London and fly to Frankfurt too, said an airline spokeswoman.
John Caldwell, president of a business travel consulting firm in Washington, said the new USAir service has potential. International travel should account for much of the growth for airlines and airports in the next few years, he said.