Check-in ban curbs skycaps' business FAA's restriction at BWI coincided with gulf war


The skycaps at Baltimore-Washington International Airport are not very happy these days.

Jethro Jackson, regional manager with the Huntleigh Corp., the contractor for BWI's skycaps, said business has been cut by 25 percent because of a month-long ban on curbside baggage check-in.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the ban for security reasons when the Persian Gulf war broke out.

Curbside check-in, which gave ticketed passengers a chance to avoid long counter lines, was the skycaps' most lucrative source of revenue, Jackson said.

Since the ban took effect, 30 of the 100 skycaps working at BWI have been furloughed. Jackson said his company laid off "call-ins and temporaries," some of whom have second jobs.

"We've tried to focus on the guys who have to do this for a living. We also tried to cut the work week down from five days to four days," he said.

While the skycaps have been hit in their pocketbooks, BWI is thriving in the midst of the recession. Adrienne Pittman, spokesperson for the Maryland Aviation Administration, which runs the airport, said there were 642 flights a day in December, the last month for which figures are available. This was up slightly from 637 flights a day in December 1989.

BWI initially lost six flights a day when Eastern Airlines folded last month. But USAir picked up one of those flights -- to Ottawa -- and even added four other flights (a second to Ottawa, two to Montreal and one to Las Vegas).

There have been small reductions in the international flights from Baltimore -- by a few a week for Trans World Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch. All major international carriers have been curtailing flights because of slow traffic.

But BWI will see no major change until May 2, when USAir reduces its flights from 155 to 123 a day, said David Shipley, a spokesman from USAir. USAir, by far the dominant carrier at BWI, will also lay off 3,585 employees nationwide. The company hasn't said how the layoffs will affect BWI employment.

The food and beverage concessions inside the airport are doing well, said Rick Sneed, manager of public relations for Mariott's Host International. Marriott has the food, beverage and merchandise contract for BWI.

"We're doing very well and running well ahead of last year and this year to date. We're [ahead] about ten percent in sales over last year," Sneed said.

He said the food business is booming because passengers must arrive at the airport earlier than normal for security checks.

He added that food concessions have not been hurt by the new prohibition of non-passengers beyond the security checkpoint. In Baltimore, food concessions are located both inside and outside the security checkpoint.

"Eighty percent of our customers is the person with the ticket. That person does have access to secured areas," he explained.

While food sales are up, merchandise sales are down all over the country, a sign of the poor economy, he said.

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