November 18, 2011

AAA projects 3.5 percent holiday travel rise

Despite continued economic uncertainty, AAA Mid-Atlantic forecasts a 3.5 percent increase in the number of Marylanders taking to the roads, rails and skies this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

AAA projects that 871,000 Marylanders will take trips of 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday -- its standard definition of  travel for many years. Thus, its surveys may not be capturing many travelers who leave on Tuesday or earlier.

The organization predicts that 799,000 of those travelers will go by car -- exactly matching the percentage increase in overall travel. It forecasts a 1.3 percent gain in air travel, to 61,000 passengers -- a second strong showing after a weak 2009.

The biggest surge, according to AAA, will come among intercity  rail and bus riders. It projects a 14 percent gain, though that represents only about 1 percent of travelers.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel, Maryland toll facilities, On the roads

October 3, 2011

BWI to gain new European connection

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will add a second connection to Europe next summer when Germany's Condor Airlines is planning to launch twice-a-week service to Frankfurt.

The seasonal Monday and Thursday Condor flights are scheduled to begin July 2 and continue into October. Currently, the only scheduled trans-Atlantic flights from BWI are the daily departures to London's Heathrow Airport aboard British Airways.

BWI chief executive Paul Wiedefeld said Condor's decision to come to BWO follows years of courtship.

"This is really a big win for BWI to get another international connection directly to the hub of Europe," Wiedefeld said.

Frankfurt is one of the most important international airports in Europe, with connections to many destinations beyond Germany. Wiedefeld said Condor would serve BWI with Boeing 767 jets carrying 270 seats.

Continue reading "BWI to gain new European connection" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:44 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Air travel

September 20, 2011

BWI reports best month ever

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport posted its best month ever in terms of passenger counts in July as 2.2 million fliers landed at or took off from the airport, the Maryland Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

The total represented a 1.6 increase over July 2010, the top previous month for BWI passengers. The airport has been enjoying steady growth in recent years, posting monthly passenger records in 14 of the past 15 months.

Airport traffic has grown for each of the past 17 months and 25 of the past 26 months. For the most recent 12-month period BWI traffic is up 5.2 percent to 22.5 million, airport officials said.

Check out some pictures of BWI through the years.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

August 12, 2011

New BWI scanners avoid 'virtual strip search'

The Transportation Security Administration has replaced the software on its enhanced imaging screening devices at BWI Marshall Airport to avoid the explicit body images that some privacy advocates had labeled a "virtual strip search."

BWI is one of several airports nationally where the new software is now operational. Under the new system, if something suspicious is detected by the scanner, it shows up as a small yellow box on a generic body image that both the TSA screener and the passenger can see. The TSA said it will no longer need to have an officer in a room off checkpoint scanning a projection of each passenger's individual form.

TSA spokesman Kawika Riley said the new technology is being deployed at 40 airports around the country with a total of about 240 machines. BWI now has 10 of the devices, deployed at Piers A, B, D and E.

The new software will be installed in all of the TSA's millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging technology machines. Riley said the agency is still working on developing technology that could be used with another form of advanced imaging known as "backscatter" machines.

Riley said the new program will cost roughly $2.7 million to deploy at the 40 airports, but he said the agency should be able to recoup much of that money through savings in staffing and maintaining the separate rooms for viewing the images.



Continue reading "New BWI scanners avoid 'virtual strip search'" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:53 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Air travel

July 13, 2011

BWI posts traffic record for May

BWI Marshall Airport recorded its strongest May ever as almost 2.1 million passengers passed though its terminals that month --- a 6.8 percent increase over its previous record set in May 2010.

BWI officials said it was their 12th record-setting month in the last 13. They said airport traffic has risen for 23 of the past 24 months -- interrupted only by the blizzard-affected month of February 2010. The gain was largely driven by a 12.5 percent increase in Southwest Airlines traffic over May 2010, officials said. For the most recently available 12-month period, the airport served a record 22.4 million passengers -- up 6.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

BWI officials said May's gains were partly driven by a 12.5 percent increase in traffic at Southwest Airlines, the airport's dominant carrier.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

June 24, 2011

AAA chief calls for expedited air travel security

The chief executive of AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging U.S. officials to rethink their approach to air traffic security and shift their emphasis from airport screenings to prior screening of passengers. In an article in AAA's magazine,

Regional AAA President Donald Gagnon urged an expansion of the Transportation Security Administration's Trusted Traveler Program, under which the agency gather information about ticket-holders before they even get to the airport. 

 “At AAA Mid-Atlantic, we know that job one is keeping all flyers safe, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that while actually restoring some of the pleasure to the airport and flying experience?” Gagnon wrote.


Continue reading "AAA chief calls for expedited air travel security" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

June 10, 2011

BWI to conduct runway tests Tuesday night

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is warning neighbors that it will conduct flight tests of a seldom-used runway Tuesday night as part of the preparations for a construction project that will put it into service in September.

The airport will put the runway, known as 4-22, into use during one weekend in September when it will close two more active runways in order to pave their intersection. That work is scheduled for Sept. 9-12 but could  be moved to Sept. 16-19 depending on the weather.

BWI officials say residents of neighborhoods to the northeast and south of the airport may notice a temporary increase in air traffic between 10 p.m. and midnight Tuesday as the tests are conducted. The tests are being conducted to help airport, airline and Federal Aviation Administration employees become familiar with Runway 4-22 before it put into active use.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:57 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

May 11, 2011

BWI sets March passenger record

BWI Marshall Airport recorded its busiest March ever as 1.9 million passengers passed through it -- a 3.3 percent increase from the same month of 2010, Gov. Martin O'Malley has announced.

The March figures brought the airport's 12-month rolling total to 22.3 million -- also a record -- according to airport officials. Th represents a 6 percent increase over the same period of 2009-2010.

BWI has set monthly passenger records in 10 of the past 11 months, according to the Maryland Aviation Administration. The March increase exceeds the global average of 2 percent, officials said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

May 6, 2011

BWI passengers: Don't worry, it's a drill

Travelers going through Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Saturday may see a lot more emergency vehicles and people in uniform than they're used to, But don't worry: It's a drill.

Emergency personnel and airport officials will be conducting an exercise simulating the response to an event such as an air crash between about 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Jonathan Dean, a BWI spokesman, said such drills take place every three years under federal rules. He said the drill is not expected to delay flights or cause any other disruptions for travelers.

The exercise will involve state, local and federal agencies, including the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and local fire departments, Dean said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

May 2, 2011

BWI security 'heightened' but no delays expected

Security at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is at a heightened state after the U.S. military's killing of Osama bin Laden but travelers are not expected to face delays, an airport spokesman said Monday morning.

BWI remains "vigilant as always" after the announcement of bin Laden's death, said airport spokesman Jonathan Dean.

"There is a general level of heightened security awareness for airports across the nation," Dean said. He added that airport officials are working closely with federal authorities  on security measures.

"There is no indication of a specific threat here," Dean said. He said the security measures are not expected to create delays or have any other significant effect on travel through the airport.



Continue reading "BWI security 'heightened' but no delays expected" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

April 7, 2011

Airline analyst says passengers will back Southwest

Southwest Airlines enjoys strong brand loyalty among its passengers and is likely to lose little business as a result of last Friday's emergency landing of a jet with a hole torn in its roof, according to a veteran industry observer.

But what do you think?

Tom Parsons, chief executive officer of, which tracks airline industry trends, said that even with last week's incident and the subsequent cancellation of hundreds of flights, Southwest still has one of the strongest safety records in the industry.

"I think you're playing Russian roulette if you think one airline's safer out there than Southwest," Parsons said. He added that the Southwest crew reacted professionally after the incident, in which one of the airline's Boeing 737-300s developed a hole in its fuselage while in the air over Arizona, and landed the plane without an injury.

"They did everything right when something went wrong," Parsons said.



Continue reading "Airline analyst says passengers will back Southwest" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

April 4, 2011

BWI closing ramp to I-195, terminal

A ramp leading to the terminal at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has been closed for a reconstruction and repaving project.

The ramp from northbound Route 170 (Aviation Boulevard) to eastbound Interstate 195 is expected to remain closed through next Sunday if the weather doesn't interfere with the project.

Vehicles that would normally use I-195 to reach the terminal from northbound Aviation Boulevard can instead get there using Terminal Road about a half-mile farther north. Detour signs will be in place.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel, On the roads

Impact of Southwest delays at BWI called slight

A round of flight delays at Southwest Airlines to allow inspections of airliners for possible fuselage damage has so far had a minimal impact at BWI Marshall International Airport, according to airport spokesman Jonathan Dean.

Southwest said it expected to cancel about 70 flights nationwide today after grounding about 300 over the weekend. The airline acted after a Southwest flight over Arizona was forced to make an emergency landing Friday after a yard-long hole opened in its fuselage at 36,000 feet. Since then the airline has acknowledged finding cracks in at least two other Boeing 737-300 jets.

Dean did not offer specific numbers of flights canceled at BWI and referred a reporter to the airline. Southwest spokeswoman Christie McNeill said the airline was not releasing information about the impact at specific airports but urged passengers to check before going to the airport to book a flight.

Getting There is interested in hearing from passengers who have been affected by the cancellations at BWI. Please call us at 410-332-6175 or email




Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:52 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Air travel

March 8, 2011

BWI eligible to provide charter flights to Cuba

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has been authorized to  become one of the United States' gateways to Cuba under new policy allowing charter flights to the island nation.

BWI announced Tuesday that it had been selected as one of eight airports with permission  to join Miami, New York and Los Angeles in providing the charter flights, which will be allowed after the Obama administration decided to relax the previous ban on direct flights to  the Communist country. The new rules announced in January allow expanded travel to Cuba for religious, academic, journalistic and cultural travel to Cuba. In 2009, the administration eased restrictions on family reunification travel.

BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said the designation was only a  "first step" and that it was not  clear yet if or when the service could begin. He added that it was possible that charter service -- not regularly scheduled commercial flights -- could begin late this year.

Continue reading "BWI eligible to provide charter flights to Cuba" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

January 26, 2011

Air Tran adding San Francisco flight out of BWI

AirTran Airways will add a daily nonstop flights from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to San Francisco this May, giving travelers  an alternative to United Airlines' flight to that city.

The airline will launch the spring-to-fall service to San Francisco on May 26 with a daily 8:14 p.m. departure. The return trip will be a red-eye flight leaving San Francisco at 11:59 p.m. 

The airline will also resume seasonal service to Los Angeles on May 8 and Seattle on May 4.

AirTran had previously announced plans to add a nonstop flight out of BWI to San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 5. It is also adding a second daily flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Feb. 26.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

January 19, 2011

Shuttle service from BWI to serve Western Md.

A Salisbury-basee shuttle service that now serves the Eastern Shore from BWI Marshal Airport and other transportation hubs has expanded its service to Western Maryland, the company has announced.

Bayrunner Shuttle is now providing round-trip van rides serving Frederick, Hagerstown, Hancock, Cumberland, Frostburg and Grantsville from BWI airport and train station as well as the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Baltimore. The service is financed with the help of a Federal Transit  Administration grant.

Continue reading "Shuttle service from BWI to serve Western Md." »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:12 PM | | Comments (3)

December 27, 2010

BWI gradually returning to normal

Flight operations at BWI Marshall Airport are gradually returning to normal after a weekend of flight cancellations because of conditions in other cities and unrealized fears of a major snowfall in Baltimore.

BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said New York's airports are  expected to remain closed until about 4 p.m. after that city was struck by a fierce snowstorm. Other hubs on the East Coast, including Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., were also affected, he said.

Dean said Southwest Airlines, BWI's largest carrier, essentially suspended operations in Baltimore Sunday and kept its jets in other cities out of a  concern they could be snowed in here. As it turned out, Baltimore received only minimal snow, and  Southwest began to restore operations here about 9 a.m., he said.

Continue reading "BWI gradually returning to normal" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel

November 1, 2010

BWI ranked among airports with cheapest fares

Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport ranked 84th among 100 American airports in terms of average fares during the second quarter of this year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The average fare for the second quarter at BWI was $289.25, up 13.7 percent from the year before. That increase, only a little more than the national average of 13.1 percent, reflects increased demand and lower capacity compared with the depths of the recession in 2009.

The ranking reflects BWI's status as busy location for low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines and Air Tran, the No. 1 and No. 2  carriers at the airport.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:32 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel

October 18, 2010

BWI weather really has been lousy

As The Sun reported Saturday, BWI Marshall Airport's on-time percentages for both arrivals and departures have taken a tumble this year. February's twin snowstorms were a big part of the reason, but data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that weather was also a big factor this summer.

To put it bluntly, the weather this summer at BWI stank -- even when compared with nearby airports.

Nationwide, the percentage of delayed flights in which weather was listed as the cause hovered iin the 35-40 percent range in June through August. However, at BWI weather-related delays accounted for more than 50 percent of the total in both June and July and were about 45 percent in August. Even Washington's Reagan National Airport didn't come close.

Continue reading "BWI weather really has been lousy" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

October 6, 2010

State starts '511' service for travelers

The State Highway Administration has announced it will launch a free. round-the-clock "511" telephone service to provide real-time traffic information to travelers in the state.

The new system, provided by Televent of Rockville, under a five-year contract with the state worth $4.7 million, will start up in fall 2011, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The SHA wil manage the statewide service, under which the contractor will collect traffic information from a variety of sources and provide it to travelers who place calls to 511. The informatiion will also be  made available through social network operators and a website. The 511 system is later expected to add a personalized service that will alert subscribers to traffic conditions via text messaging.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM | | Comments (3)

August 12, 2010

Get breaking news on traffic, transit here

Has a four-vehicle crash closed the Jones Falls Expressway? Did a light rail train jump the tracks? Are hundreds of passengers stranded on a MARC train?

You can find out fast by receiving text message alerts from The Baltimore Sun's Breaking News Desk. Just click here to sign up to receive traffic alerts and other news as it happens. These are not routine announcements or advisories about everyday congestion but the type of major developments that can help commuters get to home or work faster.

There is no charge for the service from The Sun, though standard test-message charges from cell phone providers may apply.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:28 PM | | Comments (0)

August 2, 2010

BWI sets June passenger record

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport set a record for June traffic this year as 2,085,293 commercial passengers passed through the airport that month, according to the Maryland Aviation Administration. That total represents an 8.9 percent increase over June 2009.

It was the second-busiest month ever at BWI, falling just short of the record set in August 2001 -- the month before 9/11 sent the airline industry into a  prolonged slump.

More than half of BWI's June passengers -- 1,111,896 -- flew on Southwest Airlines, which tallied a 14.9 percent increase over the previous year. Southwest is now making 182 daily departures from BWI, its highest level since it began operations there.

AirTran, BWI's second-busiest carrier, posted a 9.9 percent increase in passengers for June.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

June 24, 2010

Friendship anniversary spurs memories

Jim Sweeney of Reisterstown still remembers the day exactly 60 years ago when President Harry S. Truman came to Anne Arundel County to dedicate the new Friendship International Airport, now known to us as BWI. I'll pass along his memories in a a very lightly edited form:

my name is jim sweeney, me and several of my friends rode our bikes from brooklyn, we were all twelve yrs. old.we arrived before the president and stood by our bikes right up front next to a roped off area. after a couple of minutes two big black car arrived and trunk of one was opened and a speakers podium removed and set up right in front of me. the president spoke a very short time and when finished came up to me and (shook) my hand. we talked and i told him that I was a paperboy and he said that he had been also. he then asked if he could ride my bike. he rode it out about fifty feet and circled back and thanked me for the bike ride.

there were very few people to hear the president. i believe there were as many people behind the president as in front. times were very different.

Sweeney also recalled that  "security that day was not more than 4 or 5 people including the drivers. the world has changed -- not for the better."

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

May 27, 2010

Air Tran offers nonstops to San Antonio

AirTran Airways says it will begin offering one nonstop flight a day between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall and San Antonio starting May 27.

Flights will depart BWI at 1:25 p.m. and arrive in San Antonio at 4:20 p.m. Return flights will leave Texas at at 4:12 p.m. and arrive at BWI at 8:40 p.m. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel

February 7, 2010

BWI flights resume with flight from London

Here's the latest from BWI. The fact the airport opened for arrivals is not a surprise. The reference to departure is -- because there were almost no planes in the airport when the airport opened its runways at about 5 p.m. Here's the 7:30 p.m. release:

BWI Runway Opened at 5:00 PM;

British Airways with First Arrival

Airport Expects Only Limited Flight Operations Tonight

Passengers should contact airlines to confirm ticketing and flights status before coming to Airport BWI

Thurgood Marshall Airport reopened one major runway, Runway 10-28, at about 5:00 PM Sunday for flight operations. The Airport expects only limited commercial flight operations from airlines Sunday evening. The airlines will slowly resume flight operations.

The first arrival Sunday at BWI Marshall was the daily British Airways flight from London Heathrow, which arrived shortly after the Airport’s runway was opened. Several subsequent flights have since arrived and departed at BWI Marshall Airport.

Customers should continue to check with their airlines for current, updated flight information. Those travelers impacted by flight cancellations this weekend are encouraged to re-book flights by telephone or airline website before heading to the Airport.

The airlines will have to position aircraft and flight crews before all flights will resume. BWI Marshall Airport employees and contractors will continue working to clear the Airport’s two other major runways, as well as taxiways and other aircraft movement areas.

With the possibility for further winter weather later this week, those travelers planning to fly in coming days should consider parking under cover in one of BWI Marshall Airport’s two garages.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Air travel

February 4, 2010

BWI hunkers down for another snowstorm

Baltimore/ Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has gone on full alert in anticipation of the snowstorm forecast to hit Maryland Friday and Saturday.

According to BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean, the airport is recommending that travelers check with their airlines for information on their flights before going to the airport. Dean suggests monitoring airline web sites for flight information or checking the airport web site at

If the storm arrives as predicted, potentially bringing up to 2 feet of snow, BWI Marshall Airport will call in all emergency and essential staff and will activate snow removal crews. Those teams will work to remove snow and ice from runways, taxiways, ramp areas, public roadways, parking lots and sidewalks. BWI expects to muster more than 350 airport workers and contractors along with 200 pieces of specialized snow removal equipment. The airport has on hand more than 220 tons of sand, 170 tons of salt, 100 tons of solid chemical deicer, and 55,000 gallons of liquid chemical deicer, according to Dean.

BWI recommends that passengers consider using covered parking in the Daily Garage or the Hourly Garage rather than uncovered long-term or satellite lots.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel

February 3, 2010

BWI gets its own brewpub

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport now has own its own brewpub -- or at least a branch thereof -- with the opening of DuClaw Brewing Co. near the Southwest Airlines ticket counter.

DuClaw, a local restaurant chain with its brewing operations in Abingdon, has outlets in Arundel Mills, Bel Air and Bowie Town Center. The BWI outlet is its first airport location.

DuClaw is the producer of such beers as Misfit Red, Venom Pale Ale, Hellrazer and Kangaroo Love.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

February 2, 2010

AirTran adds BWI flights to Jacksonville

AirTran Airways has  announced that it will begin new nonstop service between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Jacksonville, Fla. starting May 4. The airline will offer two daily nonstop flights between the two cities.

AirTran will offer flights to Jacksonville departing BWI at 10:30 a,m. and 7:55 p.m. Flights bound for BWI will depart Jacksonville at 7:40 a.m. and 3 p.m. Introductory fares will be as  low  as $74 one-way but must be booked by February 25 for travel through June 9.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

January 28, 2010

BWI posts gain in passenger traffic

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport reported Wednesday that its passenger traffic had grown six straight months last year to post a 13 percent gain between November and the same months a year earlier. According to airport officials, the airport served 1.7 million commercial passengers in November alone.

Southwest Airlines led the airlines serving BWI with 896,000 passengers in November – a 17 percent increase over the previous year. AirTran Airways brought 270,000 passengers through BWI that month to post a 20.1 percent increase.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 7:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

January 15, 2010

BWI for sale? Not quite

A report in, the Financial Times' web site, saying Gov. Martin O'Malley had expressed interest in the sale of BWI Marshall Airport or an initial public offering of stock in a privatized BWI may have been a tad exaggerated -- at least in terms of its impact in the blogosphere. But it certainly was interesting enough to send us in search  of an explanation from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

So what's changed? According to MDOT spokesman Jack Cahalan, not much. Apparently a reporter asked the governor whether the state would be open to a deal at the airport similar to  that recently concluded deal at the port of Baltimore for a long-term lease of Seagirt Marine Terminal. O'Malley, in response, didn't close the door on privatization, but Cahalan said he didn't open it any wider than it already was.

"There is no proactive effort by the administration to change the staus of BWI Marshall," Cahalan said.

Continue reading "BWI for sale? Not quite" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:37 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Air travel

January 14, 2010

BWI could be sold or go public, O'Malley says, the web site of the Financial Times, is reporting that Gov. Martin O'Malley told a conference he's open to the sale of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport -- or a public offering of stock in the facility.

To put this  in context, this  was not a gubernatorial announcement but a response  to a question.

Sun Business Editor Laura Smitherman elaborates:

O’Malley was asked the question at the conference and responded that he would be open to it. But they arren’t proactively seeking bidders, and any deal would take more than a year to hammer out -- so it’s not a short-term budget fix. The governor has been open to privatizing other assets  and apparently would consider an airport offer if the price is right.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:20 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Air travel

January 4, 2010

This is your body on an airport scanner

Transportation Security Administration   

Here's an example of the images that would be seen by a Transportation Security Administration officer operating one of the TDA's advanced whole-body image screening devices.

Some folks think such technology will bring the end of civilization as we know it. I don't see what the big deal is. If it will do a better job of detecting explosives than a conventional screening device -- and experts say it will -- why not use whole-body scanners on every passenger? That way there will be no questions about discrimination or profiling.

More on the issue in this morning's Getting There column in the Baltimore Sun.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Air travel

December 23, 2009

BWI update: busy but moving briskly

Here's the day-before-the-day update from Jonathan Dean, spokesman supreme for BWI Marshall Airport:

At BWI, it's a beehive of activity, with customers coming and going for the holiday.
It's busy, but the airline ticketing and the security checkpoints are moving well.  There aren't any long lines at this point.

The Washington Metro system has added service on its B30 / BWI Express Metrobus line for the holiday.  See this link for details--

BWI is providing complimentary Wi-Fi for those customers traveling with laptops this holiday.  It's a holiday gift from BWI to make connecting with family and friends while traveling a little easier.

BWI expects an up-tick in business for the holiday.  While I don't have any specific data, passenger traffic has been on the rise at BWI since the spring months.  We expect that growth trend to continue for the holiday season.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:15 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Air travel

Top 10 Md. transportation stories: 2000-2009

Apart from disasters, transportation stories tend to unfold over the course of many years. Some of the ones that garner big headlines at the time will be all but forgotten in a few years time. So in choosing the Top 10 Maryland transportation stories of the past decade, it helps to project forward to 2020 or 2030 and look back at what made a lasting difference.

A little disclosure is in order. I have covered transportation for The Sun since 2004 and before that followed many transportation-related stories as a State House Bureau reporter. So there might be a bias in favor of the stories I covered. (Thanks to my colleague Scott Calvert to reminding me of the Howard Street Tunnel fire, which occurred before my time on the beat.)

With those caveats, I present my top 10 in the bottom-to-top format made wildly popular by David Letterman:

10. Light rail double-tracking project completed. When Baltimore's light rail system opened early in the 1990s, it soon became clear that the system had been built on the cheap. The decision to run trains on a single track over long stretches led to constant delays and operational difficulties. Thus, under the Glendening administration, the decision was made to add a second track. The Ehrlich administration then made a tough decision to expedite the work by closing down the southern and northern stretches of the system for periods of about a year. It was a rough time for light rail users, but the project was finally completed in early 2006, and the result has been much more reliable service on this still image-impaired system.


                                                                                                 Sun photo/Amy Davis/2006      

Continue reading "Top 10 Md. transportation stories: 2000-2009" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:33 AM | | Comments (7)

December 22, 2009

Md. cost of weekend snow removal: $26.9 million

Last weekend’s record December snowfall cost the Maryland Department of Transportation a budget-busting $26.9 million for snow removal, Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said Tuesday. The storm, which dumped an estimated 16-26 inches on various parts of the state, required a massive and expensive response by all of the transportation department’s operating agencies – from the State Highway Administration to the Motor Vehicle Administration.

The largest share was accounted for by the highway agency, with $20 million in costs. After several earlier snowfalls, the SHA’s spending on snow removal has reached $27 million this season -- exceeding its budget of $26 million with more than two months of winter to go, according to MDOT. Snow removal at BWI Marshall Airport cost $2.7 million, while the Maryland Transit Administration spent $2.3 million to keep its buses and transit lines rolling. The Maryland Transportation Authority spent $1.1 million to clear thhe state’s toll facilities, while it cost the port of Baltimore $533,000 to keep its terminals operating..

"Combating a storm like the one Maryland faced this weekend is a necessary but expensive proposition," Swaim-Staley said. "Agency administrators understand that they will have to make adjustments in other areas of their operating budgets to cover any overage of their annual snow removal budget."

December 21, 2009

Reporter finds himself at center of story

Since I started on the transportation beat more than five years ago, it has mostly been my privilege to report on other people's woes. Or, if I knew of an onerous situation, there were occasions when I willingly subjected myself to discomfort. But that was always voluntary.

Over the weekend, my luck ran out. After a week of enjoying blue skies and warm weather in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (I can feel your sympathies draining away, dear reader), my wife and I were scheduled to return on an Air Tran flight out of Cancun International Airport Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. -- arriving at BWI at 8 p.m.

Obviously it didn't work that way. This time, instead of interviewing people who were forced to stay in an airport overnight, I was one of those people. It seems BWI had been shut down tight because of some little snowstorm.

Continue reading "Reporter finds himself at center of story" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:46 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel

November 23, 2009

Semper lie? BWI fraudster is rotten to the Corps

Charles Beckman of Towson offers the following heart-warming travel tale for your Thanksgiving inspiration:

My 17 year old son and I got in from Colorado (at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport) about midnight on November 15, and I left him to get the bags and wait for me curbside while I got on the bus to go get our car.

When I drove around a few minutes later, he was standing with a guy with very short hair, a red windbreaker, and obvious dog tags, and both approached my car. The guy was in great shape with not an ounce of fat on him, with a brutally chiseled face that looked a little like the transformed Jim Carrey in Mask. He said he was a sergeant in the Marines, had just gotten back from Iraq, and had five other guys with him who needed to get back to Quantico, but he’d locked his keys in the van, and a cab trip to Quantico was going to run $250.

I asked him what he needed and he said he needed $21 for an airport locksmith to jimmy the window so he could get to his keys. While I was getting the money, he said, “You have a fine young man here, and I told him I’d buy him a steak dinner on the government if he could help us out.”

I gave him my money and my business card with the address on it and asked him to send reimbursement. That was eight days ago . . . I’m assuming I won’t see this money again. My son and I agreed that if he wasn’t a Marine, he ought to be in Hollywood, his acting skills were so convincing.

I offer this story just in case others traveling through BWI meet this same ‘Marine’ this holiday season.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and make sure the turkey isn't you.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:49 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Air travel

May 22, 2009

Relations between controllers and FAA thawing

Could it be that peace may be breaking out in the nation's air traffic control towers?

For the entire eight years of the Bush administration, relations between the managment of the Federal Aviation Administration and the union representing air traffic controllers could be described -- without exaggeration -- as toxic.

FAA managers and union leaders engaged in public hostilities. Negotiations went nowhere, and management imposed work rules unilaterally. Controllers voted with their feet, retiring at much faster rates than projected and leaving control towers understaffed.

 It was a mess along the lines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, minus only Hurricane Katrina.

Now there are signs the breach is being mended. Instead of recrimination, the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association are in mediation. President Obama has nominated a new head of the agency, Randy Babbitt, who has been well received by controllers.

 Babbitt's confirmation for a five-year term Thursday night brought a statement of congratulations from  union President Patrick Forrey that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago.

I don't think it matters if you're a Democrat, a Republican or an independent: An end to civil war in the FAA is good news for the flying public. I want the people guiding my plane to a landing to be happy, well-rested and at peace with their bosses.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

May 12, 2009

AirTran offers WiFi

AirTran Airways, one of the leading carriers serving BWI, said today that it will become the first large airline to provide wireless, broadband Internet access on every flight.

AirTran said it will join with Aircell, a top player in airborne communications, to offer passengers full inflight Internet service across its entire fleet of Boeing 737 and 717 aircraft.

According to the airline, all 136 of its jets will be fully wired for Internet service by mid-summer. AirTran will charge what it called a "small" fee for Web access, e-mail and instant messaging through laptops, smartphones and personal digital assistants.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:16 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel
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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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