Schaefer to seek marketing tips at Pittsburgh airport

January 16, 1993|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

Governor William Donald Schaefer will visit the new $750 million Pittsburgh International Airport on Monday to see how Baltimore- Washington International Airport might be operated more effectively.

The governor recently visited the Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto, where a new terminal was built with private money and is operated by Lockheed Air Terminal Inc. A joint venture of Lockheed and the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum wants the state to allow it to lease and manage BWI.

Although Mr. Schaefer appears to have ruled that out, he is still looking for ways to privatize more at BWI.

"They [Pittsburgh officials] promote the airport," the governor said yesterday. "We've never really tried to market it. I just want to see how they did that and what they did."

The governor's Commission on Privatization, which studied turning more government operations over to private business, recommended last month that Maryland retain control of BWI, long considered a key economic development tool. But the commission said the state should privatize even more functions there. Half the airport operations are now contracted out.

BWI faces intense competition from National Airport in Arlington, Va., and from Dulles International Airport, near Washington in Northern Virginia. According to a report issued last week by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, the BWI has been losing market share to Dulles.

The report, however, attributed that fact largely to the lengths of BWI's runways, which it said are inadequate for carriers flying to Europe and the Pacific Rim. Runways at the state-owned airport are scheduled to be expanded later this year.

In contrast to BWI, the Toronto airport faces little competition, according to Page W. Boinest, a spokeswoman for the governor. She said Mr. Schaefer is visiting Pittsburgh because "he wanted to see something a little more comparable."

The Pittsburgh airport, owned and operated by the local county government, opened in October. It is a major hub for USAir, with more than 80 percent of its traffic handled by that carrier. BWI is also a hub for USAir, although it has been scaled back in recent years.

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