Gary C. Kelly

Southwest Airlines has been a boon to BWI and Maryland's economy for 25 years

Southwest Airlines has been a boon to BWI and Maryland's economy for 25 years

Jay Hierholzer remembers the exchange with Southwest Airlines executives as he offered the low-cost airline two gates at BWI Airport in 1993.

“What if we need more?” Southwest officials replied.

“Well, we have these other four … ” Hierholzer said.

“What if we need more?” they repeated.

That’s when Hierholzer, then the airport’s development director, realized the upstart airline was serious about BWI’s role in its future. “And it was going to be really big.”

Twenty-five years after the first Southwest flights landed at BWI on Sept. 15, 1993 — greeted by the Phillips Restaurant ragtime band and the Oriole Bird — the airline that grew into the largest U.S....