ⓘ Baltimore–Washington International Airport

Baltimore–Washington International Airport

ⓘ Baltimore–Washington International Airport

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is an international airport in the eastern United States. It serves Baltimore, Maryland, and with Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is one of three major airports serving the Baltimore–Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Located in an unincorporated area of Anne Arundel County, the airport is 9 miles south of downtown Baltimore and 30 miles northeast of Washington D.C.

It is the busiest airport in Maryland, and the busiest airport in the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. It is commonly referred to as BWI or BWI Marshall. The airport is named after Thurgood Marshall, a Baltimore native who was the first African American to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. This airport also draws large numbers of travelers from the Richmond, Harrisburg and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. BWI covers 3.160 acres 1.279 ha of land.


1.1. History Early years

Planning for a new airport on 3.200 acres 1.300 ha to serve the Baltimore/Washington area began just before the end of World War II. In 1944, the Baltimore Aviation Commission announced its decision that the best location to build a new airport would be on a 2.100-acre 850 ha tract of land near Linthicum Heights. The cost of building the airport was estimated at $9 million. The site was chosen because it was a 15-minute drive from downtown Baltimore; close to the Pennsylvania Railroad line, the Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad line, and the proposed Baltimore–Washington Parkway; and visibility was generally good. An alternate site along Gov. Ritchie Highway at Furnace Branch was rejected by the United States War Department, and another possible site at Lipins Corner was deemed too far from Baltimore. The State Aviation Commission approved of the Linthicum Heights site in 1946.

Much of the land was purchased from Friendship Methodist Church in 1946, and ground was broken on May 2, 1947. Friendship Methodist Church held its last service on Easter Sunday in 1948. Friendship Methodist Church was razed to make room for the new airport. In addition, several pieces of land were bought, and 170 bodies buried in a cemetery were moved. Baltimore-Fort Meade Road was moved to the west to make way for the airports construction.

Friendship International Airport was dedicated on June 24, 1950, by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Truman arrived in the then official presidential plane Independence from nearby Washington National Airport carrying the Governor of Maryland, William Preston Lane Jr., and Baltimore mayor Thomas DAlesandro Jr. on his first aircraft flight. The total cost to construct the airport totaled $15 million. The following month the airlines moved to the new airport from the old Baltimore Municipal Airport Harbor Field in southeast Baltimore at 39.25°N 76.53°W  / 39.25; -76.53. Eastern Airlines flew the first scheduled flight, a DC-3, into the airport at 12:01 am on July 23, 1950. Seven minutes later, the same plane was also the first flight to depart from the airport. 300 people came to watch the first flight arrive and depart.

The Official Airline Guide for April 1957 shows 52 weekday departures: 19 Eastern, 12 Capital, 8 American, 4 National, 3 TWA, 3 United, 2 Delta, and 1 Allegheny. Miami had a couple of nonstop flights, but westward nonstop flights did not reach beyond Ohio; Baltimores reach expanded when jet service started. The early Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s could not use Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport did not open until 1962, so Baltimore became Washingtons jet airport in May–June 1959 when American and TWA began transcontinental 707 flights.


1.2. History 1970s–1990s

The Maryland Department of Transportation purchased Friendship International Airport from the City of Baltimore for $36 million in 1972. Under MDOT, the Maryland State Aviation Administration took over airfield operations and grew from three employees to more than 200. Plans to upgrade, improve, and modernize all Maryland airport facilities were announced almost immediately by the Secretary of Transportation, Harry Hughes.

To attract passengers from the Washington metropolitan area, particularly Montgomery and Prince Georges counties, the airport was renamed Baltimore/Washington International Airport, effective November 16, 1973. Its IATA code, originally BAL, didnt reflect its new name for seven years until the International Air Transport Association assigned BWI to the airport on April 20, 1980, with the change becoming official six months later on October 26. The BWI code had previously been used by an airport in Bewani, Papua New Guinea.

The first phase of the airports modernization was completed in 1974 at a cost of $30 million. Upgrades included improved instrument landing capabilities and runway systems, and construction of three new air cargo terminals, expanding the airports freight capacity to 2.53 acres 1.02 ha.

The terminal renovation program was complete in 1979, the most dramatic work of the airports modernization, which was designed by DMJM along with Peterson & Brickbauer. The BWI terminal more than doubled in size to 14.58 acres 5.90 ha; the number of gate positions increased from 20 to 27. The total cost was $70 million. To continue the work, the BWI Development Council was established to support initiatives for airport development.

The BWI Rail Station opened in 1980, providing a connection for passengers on the Northeast Corridor through Amtrak. BWI was the first airport in the U.S. with a dedicated intercity rail station. In particular, the station provided rail transit access to Washington, D.C., something that Dulles will not have until 2020 at the earliest. In 1997 a new international terminal Concourse E, designed by STV Group and William Nicholas Bodouva & Associates, was added, though Dulles continues to hold the lions share of the regions international flights, and BWI has not attracted many long-haul international carriers. The first transatlantic nonstops were on World Airways about 1981; British Airways arrived at BWI a few years later. Aer Lingus, Air Jamaica, Air Aruba, Air Greenland, El Al, Ghana Airways, Icelandair, KLM, Air Canada Ladeco, and Mexicana previously flew to BWI. Military flights, operated by the U.S. Air Forces Air Mobility Command, continue to have a significant presence at BWI.

In the first half of the 1990s runway 15L/33R was extended 1.800 feet 550 m from 3.199 ft 975 m to its current length of 5.000 ft 1.500 m, allowing it to be used by small passenger jets like the Boeing 737.

Beginning in the 1980s and for much of the 1990s BWI was a hub for Piedmont Airlines and successor US Airways, but that airlines financial problems in the wake of the dot-com bust, the September 11 attacks, and low fare competition forced it to cut back. The airport has been a haven for low-cost flights in the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan Area since Southwest Airlines arrival in September 1993 and subsequent expansion in the early 2000s. Southwest is the airports largest carrier, accounting for 56.12% of passengers carried in 2011. Southwest Airlines currently serves on average 245 daily departures to the US, Mexico and the Caribbean.


1.3. History 2000s–present

To accommodate Southwests extensive presence at the airport, in 2005 Concourses A and B were expanded, renovated, and integrated with one another to house all of that airlines operations there. This new facility, designed by URS Corporation, opened on May 22, 2005. On October 1 of that year, the airport was renamed again, becoming Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, to honor former US Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, who grew up in Baltimore.

On August 5, 2014 little-used runway 04-22 was permanently closed. It was 6.000 feet 1.829 meters long and used primarily when the main runways needed to be closed for repairs. The last operation on the runway was a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago Midway that arrived at 4:18 AM.

The airport has been a backdrop in numerous films, including The Silence of the Lambs, Goldfinger, Broadcast News, Home for the Holidays and Twelve Monkeys.

In late 2008 Health magazine named BWI the second healthiest airport in the United States. In 2009 the airport had a six percent increase in air travelers due to the proliferation of discount flights. In a 2009 survey of airport service quality by Airports Council International, BWI was the worlds top ranking airport in the 15-to-25-million-passenger category. BWI also ranked seventh, in medium-sized airports, based on customer satisfaction conducted by J.D Power and Associates.

In early 2016 a partnership between the airport and Towson Universitys WTMD Radio Station announced a new concert series that will take place at the terminals baggage claim on the lower level. The local bands of Wye Oak, Arboretum, and Super City. This new series follows the release event of Animal Collectives new album Painting With on November 25, 2015, where the new album was streamed throughout the airport.

In late 2018 construction began on a $60 Million, 5 gate expansion of terminal A for Southwest.


2.1. Facilities Terminal

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has five concourses with 70 total gates and 4 arrival only gates, though Concourses A and B were essentially merged into a single concourse in the renovations completed in 2005, a merging section joining Concourse C with Concourses A/B was completed in 2013, and then Concourse D was merged with Concourse E in the renovations completed in 2017. The Maryland Aviation Administration has its headquarters on the third floor of the terminal building. The airports international gates are located in Concourse E.

  • Concourse C has 14 gates.
  • Concourse D has 24 gates.
  • Concourse E has 7 gates.
  • Concourses A and B have 25 gates

The USO operates a lounge on the lower level of the Terminal between the Concourses D and E baggage claim for United States military personnel and their families. A lounge called The Club is located near Gate D10 and is accessible to Priority Pass members. British Airways contracts the Chesapeake Club Lounge in Concourse E, near entrance to the concourse, for use by its elite and Club World passengers.


2.2. Facilities Cargo

The airports cargo concourse covers a 395.000 sq ft 36.700 m 2 area. Its facilities include a 60.000 sq ft 5.600 m 2 cargo building in the Midfield Cargo Complex, a foreign trade zone, a 17 acres 6.9 ha air cargo ramp, and ramp parking for 17 aircraft with direct nose-in access for 8 freighters.


2.3. Facilities Ground transportation

BWI is located at the southeast terminus of Interstate 195, a spur route providing connections to the Baltimore–Washington Parkway and Interstate 95.

BWI was ranked one of the "Top 10 Easiest U.S. Airports to Get to" by in 2007 and has a light rail station located in its main terminal.

Passenger van service to and from the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland is available through BayRunner Shuttle with services to and from BWI to Kent Island, Easton, Cambridge, Salisbury, Ocean Pines, and Ocean City for the Eastern Shore and Grantsville, Frostburg, Cumberland, Hancock, Hagerstown, and Frederick for Western Maryland. There are also numerous private car, rental car, and cab services, as well as shuttles that go to and from BWI to local hotels; Baltimore and Washington and their suburbs; and Central and Western Maryland.

Bus service between BWI and the Greenbelt station of the Washington Metro and MARC Camden Line is provided by WMATAs Metrobus on Route B30 every 70 minutes from 6am-10pm on weekdays. No weekend or holiday service is provided as it was discontinued on June 25, 2017. The regular fare is $7.50, and the disabled/senior citizens rate is $3.75; exact fare or the use of a WMATA SmarTrip card is required.

BWI Rail Station is located about a mile from the airport terminal; the free BWI Marshall Airport Shuttle connects the train station and airport terminals. The station is served by Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains, including the partially high-speed Acela Express, and the MARC Penn Line. Travel time by train is about twenty minutes to Baltimores Penn Station and thirty-five minutes to Union Station in Washington, D.C. Trains depart at least once an hour seven days a week, with departure times during rush hours and business hours being significantly more frequent.

In August 2014, BWI launched a new bicycle sharing system with the Boston-based company Zagster. Located adjacent to the BWI Airport Light Rail Station, the bike sharing service connects terminal passengers to the nearby BWI Trail, as well as other local destinations.


2.4. Facilities Other facilities

In 1985, the BWI Business District was established as a way to formalize businesses and hotels operating adjacent to the airport. The district comprises two smaller districts located to the north West Nursery Hotel District and west Stoney Run District of the airport. Numerous traveler resources and employment centers are located within both districts, such as the BWI Rail Station and BWI Rental Car Facility in the Stoney Run District, and the BWI Business District Light Rail Station, the NSA Friendship Annex, and dozens of hotel facilities in the West Nursery District.

A DHS facility is located in the lower level of the main terminal, near the international arrivals area / Concourse E Baggage Claim. This facility also includes a Global Entry Enrollment Center, as well as a TSA PreCheck enrollment facility.

In the early 1990s, BWI Airport opened the Thomas A. Dixon Aircraft Observation Area at Friendship Park. The observation plaza features a playground and a terrace overlooking the southern approach to the airports 15R-33L runway. From this vantage point, several planes can be viewed simultaneously as they prepare for landing. The southern loop of the 13.3 mile BWI Trail travels through the park, providing cyclist and pedestrian access to the park.

In addition to the Thomas A. Dixon Aircraft Observation Area, which provides spotters with views of aircraft landing on runway 33L, spotters can use one of several parking garages to view arrivals to runway 15R, with some arrivals appearing to be below the spotter.


3. Accidents and Incidents

  • On December 10, 1992, a Volpar Turboliner operated by Connie Kalitta Services crashed 3 miles 4.8 km west of BWI in Elkridge due to a shift in cargo in the aircraft during final approach. The sole occupant, the pilot, was killed.
  • On February 22, 1974, Samuel Byck entered BWI, shot and killed an aviation police officer and stormed onto Delta Air Lines Flight 523. He killed the first officer and severely wounded the captain. He intended to hijack the plane and crash it into the White House. A gunfight ensued, and Byck was mortally wounded by a police officer from outside the aircraft. Byck killed himself before police stormed the aircraft.