BWI loses another overseas carrier, Icelandair

The Baltimore Sun

Icelandair became the latest international carrier yesterday to pull its service at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, another blow to the airport's efforts to bolster its international service.

When Icelandair stops its Baltimore flights Jan. 13, six international carriers would remain at BWI.

Icelandair will keep its North American headquarters in Columbia.

The airline said the departure of thousands of Americans from a NATO military base in Iceland, coupled with escalating costs and decreasing revenues, prompted its decision. It had operated at BWI since 1990, except for a two-month hiatus from January to March this year.

"Icelandair probably found a better place to put that airplane," said Michael Boyd, an aviation analyst for the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo. "If you're going to go to the Washington area, Baltimore is not the access point internationally."

Icelandair said it is shifting its trans-Atlantic operations toward Canada. Flights between Toronto and Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, will start in May. The airline will maintain service from Boston, New York and Orlando, Fla., with seasonal flights also offered in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Other international carriers have come and gone since BWI opened the $147 million international terminal in 1997 in a bid to attract more carriers.

Mexicana Airlines suspended flights from BWI to Mexico City in May, just 16 months after re-launching service. Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline, abandoned its once-daily flight from BWI to Shannon in late 2004.

Three years after Air Ghana was grounded in 2004, North American Airlines began limited scheduled service to Ghana and Nigeria.

British Airways offers a daily flight to London's Heathrow Airport, a rare bright spot in BWI's international roster. "London Heathrow is the single most important international destination in the world," BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said yesterday. "BWI will continue to work with other airlines to boost international air service opportunities."

Air Greenland, for example, just began spring and summer service at BWI in May.

Domestic discounters Southwest Airlines Co. and AirTran Airlines Inc., the airport's largest carriers, have both expressed interest in launching service to Canada and the Caribbean. Southwest also expects to offer connections to Europe through Baltimore by 2010, the carrier's chief executive, Gary C. Kelly, has said.

"BWI would encourage the expansion, into the international arena, of these two airline partners," said Dean, the BWI spokesman.

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