Ghana Airways has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide air service from its capital to Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- a move that could jump-start an international terminal that has not been fulfilling its potential.
Ghana's national airline has proposed offering two flights a week from BWI to Accra starting as soon as July, if approval is granted.
"This is wonderful news for BWI," said William D. Castleberry, senior vice president of marketing, development and communication for BWI. "If approved, this is a huge deal. What this does is it opens up the floodgates. It shows the world that BWI is a viable international gateway."
A spokesman for Ghana Airways could not be reached for comment.
Recently, Aer Lingus also sought approval for trans-Atlantic service. Ireland's state-owned airline wants to fly regular service between BWI and two stops in Ireland -- Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport. That request also is pending before the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Aer Lingus has authority to fly between Ireland and five cities in the United States -- New York; Newark, N.J.; Boston; Chicago; and Los Angeles.
Maryland officials have been working with officials from Ghana since October to establish direct air service. The airline's sole entry point to North America is New York, Castleberry said. That service began in 1996.
A substantial West African community in the extended area that BWI serves offers a good foundation for the international flights, he said.
"What this really does is open up opportunities for trade, tourism and educational exchange between our region and Ghana," Castleberry said.
Ghana Airways and Aer Lingus are the only two airlines to file applications for international flights into BWI in the past 10 years, Castleberry said.
But discussions are in the works with two or three other airlines in Europe, Castleberry said.
"Getting those kinds of airlines there gives us such an opportunity to spread the word to countries that in the past we wouldn't have thought of," said Carroll R. Armstrong, president and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.
"It now makes them touchable. It's one more thing that lends itself to thinking of Baltimore as an international city."
Although BWI's domestic service has seen double-digit growth, with major carriers adding several new routes a year, international service has been largely stagnant.
The airport built a $140 million terminal for international flights in 1997, but the promised growth in business has not materialized.
Until now, most of the international travel at BWI has been service to the Caribbean, military "It's one more thing that lends itself to thinking of Baltimore as an international city."
Carroll R. Armstrong, president and CEO, BACVA
na flights or charter service offered as part of a vacation package.
Other carriers serve Europe from BWI. British Airways flies direct to London, and Icelandair flies direct to Reykjavik. But airport officials have long said that securing routes to Europe and the Far East is a priority.
Economic impact numbers have not been calculated for service by Ghana Airways, Castleberry said, but added that the numbers could be significant.