More than 1.8 million passengers flew out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport in July, making it the busiest month in the airport's 50-year history.
BWI has been logging double-digit increases in monthly passenger totals all year, putting the airport on track to easily beat projections of 18 million passengers this year. BWI handled 17.4 million passengers in 1999, shattering the previous year's record of 15 million.
July's total was 10.4 percent more than July 1999 and marked the third consecutive month the airport broke its all-time, single-month record. For the first half of the year, the airport handled 13 percent more passengers than during the like period in 1999.
The trend at BWI is in keeping with what's happening nationwide as airports struggle to handle a record number of leisure travelers. The numbers also bolster the state's plan to spend more than $1.3 billion on new airport parking facilities and more gates, among other improvements. For the past few years, BWI has ranked among the fastest-growing major airports in the nation.
"We certainly don't want to just wait until all that growth arrives. You want to kind of anticipate and prepare for it," BWI spokesman John L. White said.
Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at BWI, continues to set the pace for growth by adding more flights and winning a larger share of the regional market for leisure travelers. The no-frills airline carried 626,020 passengers in July, a 25.3 percent increase over July 1999. The airline will add seven daily flights from BWI to Buffalo, N.Y., this year and recently added flights from BWI to Indianapolis.
US Airways, the airport's second-largest carrier, handled 421,273 passengers in July, 6.8 percent more than in July 1999. Overall, US Airways reported a 2.2 percent increase in passengers for the first half of this year.
"This summer, despite all its apparent troubles, was a period of extraordinarily heavy traffic and travel all across the country," said Rick Weintraub, a spokesman for US Airways, referring to the high number of delayed and canceled flights at airports nationwide during the summer.
Other airlines posting large passenger gains at BWI include Frontier Airlines, a discount airline that offers two daily flights between BWI and Denver, and America West Airlines, which flies to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio. Frontier reported a 73 percent increase in passengers in July and America West grew by 38.6 percent.
"We've been reporting record traffic over the past couple of months," said America West spokeswoman Patty Nowack.