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Lorenzo seeks OK to start airline BWI possible site, despite opposition


ANNAPOLIS -- Former airline executive Frank Lorenzo is moving ahead with plans to launch a new, no-frills carrier, possibly at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, despite continued opposition to the proposal.

Greg Aretakis, a vice president of Mr. Lorenzo's Houston-based investment company, Savoy Capital Inc., said yesterday that the group was seeking federal approval to start a new airline which, if successful, could possibly be based at BWI.

"We have not selected BWI necessarily," Mr. Aretakis said in a telephone interview from Houston. "It is just one of the places in the mid-Atlantic area we've looked at."

He said that BWI and Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia were attractive sites because they have both experienced reduced service and were underused.

Earlier this year, Maryland officials were attempting to persuade Mr. Lorenzo to use BWI as the hub for his airline venture by promising financial inducements, including joint marketing campaigns.

Mr. Aretakis said that Stephen J. Kolski, who recently resigned as president of Continental Express to serve as president and chief executive of the planned new airline, has been visiting the Northeast, trying to gauge the reception the carrier would receive in certain regions. He declined to identify which cities Mr. Kolski was visiting.

Mr. Aretakis said Mr. Lorenzo was also traveling in the Northeast this week looking for support, but also declined to say where he visited.

Maryland's earlier discussions with Mr. Lorenzo came to an abrupt end after an onslaught of opposition from political leaders and labor unions. Mr. Lorenzo emerged as a leading player in the airline consolidation battles in the 1980s but was renowned for strong-arm tactics with organized labor. Ultimately, he was cast out of the industry by creditors and because of questionable tactics in managing Eastern and Continental airlines.

Opposition was evident again again yesterday during a hearing held by the House Economic Matters Committee on a strongly worded resolution urging the state not to spend taxpayers' dollars to assist Mr. Lorenzo, whom it referred to as "the bad boy of the airline industry."

"In my opinion, he's an economic terrorist and a threat to any community where he establishes a business," John D. Jefferies, D-Baltimore, said in presenting the resolution to the committee.

Edward A. Mohler, president of the AFL-CIO in Maryland and the District of Columbia, said he believed Mr. Lorenzo would be a "deterrent to economic development" in the state.

Another witness, United Airlines pilot Robert L. Beck, said "the lives of thousands of airline workers have been devastated" by Mr. Lorenzo's tactics in dealing with labor.

No one testified in favor of Mr. Lorenzo's plan during the brief hearing that the committee chairman, Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, said he wanted to limit to 15 or 20 minutes.

However, Mr. Aretakis characterized Mr. Lorenzo as "an airline builder," and said the company would be looking at "the opportunity to come in and do good things for a community."

Page W. Boinest, a spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said the state was no longer holding discussions with BTC Mr. Lorenzo or members of his venture group regarding an incentive package.

She noted, however, that if the federal government approves the group's application to start a new carrier, the state could not legally prohibit the Lorenzo group from coming to BWI.

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