Southwest to Baltimore: Thank you

Southwest Airlines has been at BWI Airport for 25 years. (Amy Davis & Ulysses Muñoz, Baltimore Sun video)

Regarding your editorial (“Baltimore by Southwest,” Sept. 23), it is truly an honor for Southwest to receive such high praise, and your editorial illustrates some of the principal reasons why the partnership between Southwest and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport over the last 25 years has been such a tremendous success.

I have been a Southwest Employee for over 32 years, and I was there when Southwest began service at BWI on Sept. 15, 1993. Before that time, Southwest had no service on the East Coast. As we have often done throughout our history, we started conservatively, with just 10 daily departures to two cities: Chicago and Cleveland.


Twenty-five years later, BWI is now Southwest’s second largest operation nationally, with roughly 240 daily nonstop departures to 64 cities, including seven international destinations. Today, our 4,800 local employees provide low-cost and high-value hospitality to over nine million annual customers who rely on BWI for their air travel needs.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending several events around Baltimore and Annapolis, including a party held in downtown Baltimore for the sole purposes of thanking our employees and celebrating 25 great years in Maryland.

The visit also provided an opportunity for me to reflect on what makes BWI and the Maryland market so special. In a word, I believe it is consistency.

Southwest’s success at BWI is due mainly to the consistent growth in local demand for Southwest’s service offerings, as well as the consistent level of hard work and dedication to customer service by our local employees. The region’s government and business leaders — including the thought leaders at The Baltimore Sun — also deserve recognition for consistently valuing Southwest and BWI for the economic and consumer benefits we provide the region and state, and helping to pave the way for the necessary capacity enhancements at BWI to facilitate Southwest’s steady growth over the past quarter century.

I am also very grateful for the consistency with which the airport has been so well managed. The experienced professionals at the Maryland Aviation Administration, who operate BWI and are currently led by Ricky Smith, are some of the best in the nation. Southwest’s success at BWI would not have been possible without the consistent, first-rate stewardship of Maryland’s state-owned airport.

Overall, I believe the relationship between Southwest and BWI has been a terrific match. On behalf of Southwest, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the people of the greater Baltimore/Washington region for trusting Southwest to connect them to what’s important in their lives. It has been our privilege to serve you, and we look forward to helping to create the next chapter at BWI.

Gary C. Kelly

The writer is chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines.