Smiles begin $79 Bermuda flight

Smiles begin $79 flight to Bermuda from BWI

Maiden: USA 3000 inaugurates a cheap, twice-a-week flight to Bermuda from BWI.

May 08, 2004|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Even with drizzle outside yesterday, the mood was sunny inside Baltimore-Washington International Airport as 100 passengers prepared to board USA 3000's maiden flight to Bermuda.

The low-cost airline plans two flights a week to the island in the Atlantic on a 268-seat Airbus A320, and expects to add flights with demand. Fares begin at $79 each way, before taxes and fees.

The cheap, two-hour flights are good news for airport officials seeking to fill BWI's international terminal, which has been underused since it opened in 1997. BWI now has eight international carriers that fly to 11 foreign destinations, lagging far behind service offered by rivals such as Washington Dulles International Airport and Philadelphia.

Customers often have asked for more international flights, specifically to Bermuda, said Paul J. Wiedefeld, executive director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, which runs the airport.

"The No. 1 thing people ask me is, when are we going back to Bermuda," he said. "And [USA 3000] has a really good price."

The price was enough to attract Chae Powell, a Bermudan who goes to college in New Jersey.

Powell said it was cheaper for her to take Amtrak to Baltimore and take USA 3000's flight than to fly directly from Newark International Airport.

For Dan and Diane Howes of Boulder, Colo., the new flight meant that they could visit with family in the Baltimore area and then fly on to Bermuda to see other relatives.

The airline said surveys show Bermudans want more service because they typically come to the United States four times a year to shop in Washington and New York and seek medical care at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

USA 3000 also flies to the Dominican Republic and to Mexico from Baltimore, and plans to add flights to Fort Myers, Fla., in October.

"When we announced this, no one operated the route to Bermuda," said Christy Ortiz, an airline spokeswoman.

While business has boomed in the past 10 years at BWI since the low-fare giant Southwest Airlines moved in, the airport has struggled to expand international business.

Another start-up, SkyLink Airways, is planning to offer low-cost service to London and Paris next year, but has yet to get the operation up and running.

BWI's international numbers have shown some gain, though they remain a fraction of the airport's passenger load.

For instance, there were 54,897 international passengers in January 2002 out of a total of 1.3 million.

In January 2004, the latest data available, international passengers were 76,163 out of 1.42 million.

In 2003, the airport handled about 18.8 million domestic commercial passengers and close to 886,000 international passengers.

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