Overseas from BWI

International pier: Aer Lingus, Ghana Airways fill counter space but more flights are needed.

July 18, 2000

YESTERDAY'S welcoming ceremony for Aer Lingus at Baltimore-Washington International Airport comes six weeks too soon: Its thrice-weekly flights to Shannon and Dublin don't begin until early September. But premature popping of the champagne corks is understandable, given the importance of these new flights to BWI.

Added to the launch earlier this month of twice-weekly flights to Accra by Ghana Airways, the Aer Lingus takeoffs give BWI's international pier some much-needed new destinations. While BWI has been a smashing success with domestic air travelers, it has had great difficulty luring overseas flights to its $140 million international pier, which opened in 1997.

The new flights should prove popular with travelers from the Baltimore-Washington area seeking greater convenience and less-expensive flights. Together, the arrival of these two airlines is expected to produce a $120 million economic benefit for the state annually. They also bring ticket-counter space at the international pier to capacity. Things should be humming at nights on this pier.

But the airport still lacks critical connections to Asia, Latin America and to most major cities in Europe. There is room for expanded counter space to handle any new carrier, and even greater space could be part of a major expansion program for BWI that the governor is expected to announce next month.

The problem is persuading overseas airlines to pick BWI. If Ghana Airways and Aer Lingus succeed in filling their flights, other international carriers may start lining up at the gate. Airport officials had better be ready to handle such a chain-reaction.

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