A mixed blessing for Baltimore's airport

US Airways merger: Lost flights could give local airport capacity to meet requests from other airlines.

May 28, 2000

THERE'S little good news for local air travelers from the planned merger of US Airways and United Airlines.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport will lose at least 31 flights that carry more than 1.9 million passengers a year.

United's announcement that it plans to add four daffy long-distance flights hardly makes up the difference.

And if United decides to focus even more of its new regional operations at Dulles International. Airport, BWI could see additional flights depart.

Of course, the merger -- actually a buyout by United -- is far from a fait accompli. Anti-trust concerns of government regulators cofild doom this attempt to create a giant, dominant U.S. airline. Opposition from labor unions, led by the pilots' association, could be strong. And competitors may try to scuttle the deal with counter-of-fers for US Airways.

If there is a silver lining for BWI, it's that any diminutiorf of US Airways flights could create space for other airlines to expand their serv-ice and for new airlines anxious to fly into BWI.

Right now, BWI needs four more gates to accommodate re-quests from airlines seeking more flights. The airport is not only short of gates but also of ramp space to park planes overnight.

So US Airways' pullback of its Metrojet service creates an opportunity. It is likely Southwest Airlines, and others, will move quickly to replace the lost Metrojet flights with their own. In the end, BWI could wind up with more, not less, business.

That's because BWI offers less-congested service at good prices than other nearby airports. Indeed, it is fast running out of room to meet the growing demand. That's a problem state officials must confront soon, especially if they want to turn US Airways' lost flights into BWI's gains.

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