KLM weighs move to end BWI service Flights could be shifted to Dulles

January 14, 1993|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is considering ending its service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and shifting its flights to BWI's chief international competitor, Dulles International Airport, near Washington in Northern Virginia.

The move would be a significant setback for BWI, which is relying heavily on growth in international traffic as its volume of domestic passengers declines. The Dutch airline now offers three nonstop flights each week to Amsterdam but no service out of Dulles.

On Monday, the U.S. Transportation Department gave final approval for KLM and Northwest Airlines to integrate their services and operate as a single carrier. An open-skies agreement between the two countries gives KLM the right to fly to any point in the United States.

"That means KLM is not as tied to BWI as it once was," said Jay Hierholzer, head of marketing and development for BWI. "If they thought they could make more money by moving somewhere else, they could."

BWI officials said yesterday that although they were aware that such a move was under consideration, they had not received final word from KLM.

KLM said yesterday that the move from BWI was under review but that no decision had been made.

"There's no formal announcement on this yet," said Odette Fodore, spokeswoman for KLM in New York. "The decision is under review."

The airline has offered service at BWI since June 1990 but has made no attempt to increase flights, except during the summer, when it increases its schedule to four flights a week, BWI officials said. In addition, they said, KLM has turned aside offers by BWI to conduct joint marketing efforts, which can indicate a strong commitment from an airline.

If KLM decides to pull out of BWI, it would become the second disappointing decision by international carriers for BWI within a month.

In December, British Airways withdrew its offer to invest $750 million in financially troubled USAir after the Transportation Department indicated that it would block the deal unless Britain eased restrictions on U.S. carriers flying in that country.

That alliance, which is still being negotiated on a smaller scale, was seen largely as a boost for BWI because USAir is the largest carrier there, handling more than half the airport's 27,000 daily passengers.

KLM's departure would leave BWI with only two carriers flying to Europe. USAir operates a daily flight to London. Icelandair, which flies three times a week to Iceland, plans to begin daily flights this summer.

In 1994, BWI plans to build an international terminal to accommodate significant growth in international passengers.

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