Spirit Airlines begins service from BWI with three daily flights

Just days after Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport learned it would lose three daily Southwest flights early next year, it rolled out the welcome mat for three new daily flights by Spirit Airlines.

The first flight arrived Thursday morning at Concourse C, making the low-cost carrier the ninth domestic airline at BWI. The Florida-based airline is offering twice-daily round-trip service to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and a single daily flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"We have the legacy carriers — United, Delta, American — and we have the low-cost carriers that now includes Spirit. That's the beauty of BWI," Paul Wiedefeld, the airport's executive director, said Thursday. "The more choices the customer has, the better for them and the better for the state."

The Spirit flights were relocated from Reagan National Airport, which had the service for nine years. Airline executives said they sought to take advantage of BWI's central location in the region.

"We have much more growth potential," Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said. "We can add destinations and we have scheduling flexibility. We are a growing airline and we need to put those planes somewhere. BWI is certainly one of those options to serve our customers."

The flights on 178-seat Airbus A320 planes start at $77 round-trip to Fort Lauderdale and $88 round-trip to Dallas. From those two points, passengers will be able to connect to flights to Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Last week, Southwest announced it would discontinue service from BWI to Newark, N.J., beginning March 10. That decision was preceded by a July announcement that Southwest would eliminate three daily flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport in January.

BWI had a record year in 2011, serving 22.4 million passengers. July was the busiest month in airport history, with 2.2 million passengers.