Airline's new BWI wing is declared `gorgeous'

Still only half-finished, $264 million terminal is flaunted by state officials

Southwest Flying High

July 02, 2004|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

The new $264 million terminal being built exclusively for Southwest Airlines at Baltimore-Washington International Airport is still a steel and concrete shell, with none of the counters or tiles or even walls completed. But that didn't deter Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan yesterday from declaring it "gorgeous."

Flanagan took part in an early-morning tour for local business people of the roughly half-done, 350,000-square-foot terminal.

Expected to open next May, the building will become Southwest's largest facility. It will include 10 gates, five baggage carousels, moving sidewalks and initial capacity for 210 daily flights. Southwest, already BWI's dominant carrier with close to half the airport's flights, currently has 162 daily departures.

The new terminal is part of a larger, $1.8 billion expansion at the airport, which also includes a larger ticketing and roadway area, skywalks to the hourly parking garage, expanded parking and a new rental car facility. All are due to be completed by the end of 2006.

BAA Maryland, a division of a British airport and concession management company, plans to open a large food court inside the Southwest terminal with seating for 325. New shops and restaurants also are planned throughout the airport.

"Everything will be easy for customers," said Don Ostler, Southwest's project manager. "Everything will be behind the security gates, transportation will be easy and connecting passengers to other flights will be easy."

The terminal could also be expanded to add five more gates to accommodate up to 250 daily flights by the airline, a profitable and fast-growing carrier that has already expanded into nearby Philadelphia International Airport.

Paul Wiedefeld, executive director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, who led the tour, pointed to the sweeping glass window that overlooks new airfield improvements as the crowning aesthetic feature of the new terminal. Together, the runway work and new roadway upgrades will cost about $95 million.

The $264 million terminal project was financed through a bond, although Southwest, the federal Transportation Security Administration, BAA and its tenants will contribute about $40 million.

Wiedefeld said construction is on schedule.

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