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Flight ready

If you're traveling through Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport this holiday season, you may notice a few new additions.

As BWI embarks on a $100 million expansion project, fliers will notice differences in airline locations, security screening machines, shuttle transportation and more.

The changes not only reflect a busy and growing airport, but also the recent intergration of two of BWI's leading carriers.

The airport's largest carrier, Southwest Airlines, recently took over operations of AirTran Airways, which has led to major alterations at BWI as the two merge operations.

"Southwest and AirTran account for more than 70 percent of air travel at BWI," airport spokesman Jonathan Dean said. "The two big airlines will be put together at the same concourse."

Other airlines have been affected by the moves, including Delta, which has relocated to the concourse formerly used by AirTran.

In addition to a bit of musical chairs among the airlines, BWI has also welcomed two bars — one is for juice — and a new lounge for travelers.

But that's not all.

Here are 10 new things to know before you go to BWI for your holiday flight.

1. AirTran has moved all of its operations to the Southwest terminal. If you're used to catching AirTran flights at Concourse D, the new gates are at Concourses A and B. You can find the airline's flights at gates B1-B11. Baggage claim for AirTran is at carousel No. 6, which is adjacent to Concourse B on the lower level. In addition, 16 new automated ticketing kiosks are positioned at Concourses A and B for faster check-in.

2. Delta Air Lines has moved from Concourse C to Concourse D. Fliers can claim their baggage at carousel No. 14 on the lower level.

3. Security screening update. Fliers will be greeted with new security screening tools on the lower level of Terminal A/B. BWI and the Transportation Security Administration have assembled a four-lane security checkpoint that will allow easier access to Concourses A and B. The security checkpoint includes new screening software that does not rely on a detailed outline of the passenger, putting an end to the unpopular idea of a "virtual strip search."

Instead, when travelers walk through security, the screen displays a cartoonlike image of the person's body. If there's an area that needs to be checked further, a small yellow box will appear. In the past, the machine only gave verbal instructions to TSA officers about the questionable area, which took more time. Airport officials said the new security system helps to reduce congestion and cuts down on the time it takes travelers to go through the process.

4. Under construction. As part of the expansion, travelers will begin to see the construction of a walkway connector that will link Concourses A, B and C. The goal is to provide passengers with convenient and direct access to different parts of the airport without having to go through security multiple times. The addition will include two sets of moving sidewalks, more restrooms, and almost 8,500 square feet for new eateries and shops.

5. Airport shuttles. With the goal of reducing traffic backups on the terminal roadway, the airport has introduced several new offsite airport shuttle pickup zones. Passengers can find hotel shuttles in Zones 1 and 3, off-airport parking shuttles in Zone 2, and a mix of both in Zone 4.

6. Get recharged. For eco-friendly travelers, BWI has installed eight charging stations for electric vehicles. Four stations are in the daily garage and another four are in the hourly garage. The charging stations, which are medium-grade, add close to 12 miles of distance per one hour of charge time. During the introductory period, there will be no fee to charge vehicles.

7. Get around. Increased bus service to and from the airport will benefit fliers this holiday season, as the Intercounty Connector route that links Interstates 270 and 95 (exit 31) is now open. Bus service on Route 201 provides transport from Gaithersburg to BWI. The bus operates seven days a week on an hourly schedule and charges one-way fares that are no higher than $5.

8. Lounge time. The Airspace Lounge opened earlier this year, and whether you're looking to enjoy a meal, work on business, or sit back and catch a game, this place has it all. Located on Concourse D, the lounge is available to all travelers, no matter which airline or class of service you are flying. Day passes start at $17.50 per person and monthly memberships are also available. American Express cardholders get free access. The cost includes complimentary food and nonalcoholic drinks, wireless Internet, power outlets and private restrooms. The lounge is open every day from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

9. Take the bar. Coffee, juice or wine? Doesn't matter. Passengers can enjoy a range of drinks at new concessions in Terminal A/B, including Obrycki's "A" Bar, Jamba Juice and Mayorga Coffee.

10. Get a massage. Be Relax Spa has opened two locations at the airport, with a small shop on Concourse A and a larger unit on Concourse D. The condensed spa offers massages, facials, manicures and oxygen aromatherapy. Chair massages start at $25 for 10 minutes and table massages are $65 for 30 minutes.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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