Baltimore-Washington airport traffic tops 25 million

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A Southwest jet bearing the unique flag design of Maryland. The airline decorates jets to commemorate its busiest destinations.

A total of 25,122,651 passengers flew through Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) in 2016 – an all-time record for annual passenger traffic at the airport.

The previous record for annual passenger traffic was 23,823,532 passengers, set in 2015.

The airport, which serves passengers from Delaware and other areas of the Mid-Atlantic, still trails Philadelphia International Airport, which recorded 31 million passengers in 2015.

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Figures for 2016 are not yet available for PHL, which is a short drive from much of northern Delaware. BWI is an hour and a half from many Delaware communities.

“This record-setting growth reflects the importance of BWI Marshall Airport to the Baltimore-Washington region and our state,” said Maryland Gov. Governor Larry Hogan. “Our administration is committed to the continued success of BWI Marshall and its role as a vital transportation and economic development resource.”

Both PHL and BWI serve as hubs for major airlines – Southwest in Baltimore and American (formerly US Airways) in Philadelphia. There have been lingering concerns that American might trim service as it merges the operations of US Airways.

Traffic from both Philadelphia and Baltimore has been aided by ultra-low fare carriers that have held down fares of the majors. Both Spirit and Frontier (which operated for a short time from New Castle) have added flights from Philadelphia. At BWI, Spirit has put pressure on Southwest and other carriers.

The ultra-low fare carriers charge for services, such as carry-on luggage, but charge fares that legacy carriers sometimes match.

BWI Marshall Airport also set new monthly records for each month during calendar year 2016. The airport has now broken monthly passenger records for the past 18 consecutive months. International passenger traffic reached 1,233,466 million passengers in 2016, also a new record, and 2016 was the second-straight year with more than one million international passengers.

“New airlines and service to new domestic and international destinations have led to steady growth and new records,” said Ricky Smith, CEO for BWI Marshall Airport. “We continue to emphasize customer service, affordable airline fares, and an efficient travel experience for our passengers. The new passenger record is the highlight of an outstanding year.”

In November, Governor Hogan joined business and transportation leaders from across the region to open the new D/E Connector at BWI Marshall Airport.

This new construction added airline capacity and new passenger amenities. Passenger traffic grew throughout the year for a number of BWI Marshall Airport airlines, including: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Condor, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and WOW air.

WOW, a carrier from Iceland, has brought ultra-low international fares to European cities from BWI.

Delaware passengers have been drawn to the Maryland airport over the years by lower fares, with some crediting BWI with holding down fares out of what some describe as a “fortress hub” for American Airlines.

More recently, Southwest flights from BWI have been favored by business travelers, especially after the carrier pared back its schedule from Philadelphia, due to competition from US Airways, now American.

Southwest does not charge extra for checked luggage or charge extra for flight changes. In some cases, however, Southwest fares are higher than the base fares of competitors.

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