Tag Archives: Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Random Aviation Photo

3 May

My hometown airport is Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.  You can click on my BWI tag to see my past posts on why I I love my airport.  Every time I depart from the airport, I take a nice pile of pictures.  In the shot below, I saw Southwest Airlines’ Shamu Boeing 737; in the background is a McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Enjoy!

Random Aviation Photo

26 Apr

BWI Airport is my hometown airport, and I love it.  I spend a lot of time in Concourse A, home to Southwest Airlines.  When the airport built this concourse, they put in lots big windows to bring in lots of light.  Below is a shot of one of those windows, decorated. Enjoy!

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

18 Apr
  • Have you seen the April issue of Airline Passenger Experience magazine?  Editor Mary Kirby has been hitting it out of the park with great content, with stories on the science of aircraft boarding, the fun of onboard retail therapy and the ongoing debate on paid versus free WiFi.  Full disclosure — I have a ball writing a regular column for the magazine (this month, I review the food offerings in JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport).
  • Former FlightGlobal reporter Jon Ostrower hit the ground running in his new gig as the aerospace beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal a day early, writing about how tornadoes in Wichita affected aircraft and aerospace manufacturers.
  • My flight instructor, Alyssa Miller, has a great job.  She spent this week writing for the AOPA Pilot Blog about a major photo shoot of the timed departure of 20 B-25 World War II bombers.
  • Was everyone else geeking out over the last “flight” of the space orbiter Discovery as it made its way to the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum yesterday?  I saw a lot of great photos, but the one shot by Steve Trimble of FlightGlobal (from his office in Old Town Alexandria, Va.) was by far the best I saw.
  • I know we all have to get paid, but one has to question the timing of Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines.  Weeks before the carrier filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection on April 2, its board gave two top executives healthy pay raises even as it was asking for employee paycuts, reports USA Today.  Maybe the raises were justified, but the timing was not good.
  • I had to take a flight out of my hometown BWI Airport on Saturday at the crack of dawn.  I was surprised at how crowded both security checkpoints were in Concourse A.  But I saw a small sign posting about a new security line on the baggage claim level.  I scooted down, and the line was practically empty.  I had a good laugh with four other folks who saw me leave and followed me downstairs.  So check and see if your airport has lower level security lines!

I’ll end this rant with the video clip, below.  Mary “Runway Girl” Kirby left FlightGlobal in December and Jon “Flightblogger” Ostrower left last week.  But I always enjoyed their videos from the major air shows.  So enjoy their last one, from the Paris Air Show in 2011.

TSA Works To Speed Security Checkpoint Lines

23 Nov

TSA security checkpoint at BWI Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Regular readers know I covered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a beat for about four years.  I learned the good, the bad and the ugly about an agency that is about as popular as the IRS.  I think we all understand the need for airport security.

But what frustrates me, and many others, is the inconsistency in implementing its policies.  For example, my daughter has been flying since she was 10 days old, but until recently, she still had to take her shoes off.  And a big pet peeve with me, as the daughter and granddaughter of Air Force officers, is why military personnel in uniform have to go through the same screening as the rest of us. I’d hate to have to take off those boots all the time!

So I’m happy to see that TSA is trying to ease the process, just in time for the holidays.  First, TSA is testing expedited screening for military members at California’s Monterey Regional Airport, reports CNN.  Under the pilot, soldiers still have to go through screening, but it would be expedited, similar to the PreCheck program currently being tested with frequent travelers on Delta Air Lines in Atlanta and Detroit and on American Airlines at Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Back in 2008, TSA introduced airport self-select lanes at Denver International and Salt Lake City International airports.  These lanes allowed travelers to choose from 3 lanes — Families & Special Assistance, Casual Traveler and Expert Traveler.  When the lanes worked, they worked very well.  Business travelers well versed in security weren’t stuck behind families with lots of stuff to unload.  And TSA screeners were there to guide travelers to their correct lanes.  But it seemed like a year or so later, the lines seemed to have petered off — until now.

The Hill wrote about a Nov. 15 post on the TSA Blog that is encouraging holiday travelers to use the lanes again.  But it looks like they are only bringing back the family lane, which I guess is better than nothing.  I do hope that they’ll have TSA screeners to guide travelers like they did when the program was first launched.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Airport Concession Confessions-Fast Food

8 Nov

We’ve all been to the airport where we just want to get something quick to eat, and either sit down or take it with us on our flight.  We look for the familiar places — McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. — where we know exactly what we’re getting.  I love the convenience and quickness of fast food, but I also like to get something off the beaten path.  So below are five fast food outlets I suggest you try on your next trip.  Enjoy!

  1. TIE! The Salt Lick, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport AND Arthur Bryant BBQ, Kansas City International Airport — I come from a long like of grill masters on both sides of my family (shout out to Uncle Charles), so I know my barbecue.  Both of these iconic barbecue places have outlets in the airport, and you can smell them before you even see them. Get the brisket at the Salt Lick and the Sausage sandwich with sweet heat sauce at Bryant’s.
  2. Dish D’lish, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — I once had to spend almost 6 hours at this airport (another story for another time). Of course, I was hungry and I had plenty of time to look at post-security food outlets.  I also saw people flocking into the airport branch of this outlet for its sandwiches and salads. I had a chicken salad sandwich that i still dream about 4 years later!
  3. California Tortilla, BWI Airport — I have to commend my hometown airport for having such a great selection of fast food outlets, especially in the A/B Concourse. And my favorite is this outlet, which serves a great variety of TexMex burritos, tacos, fajitas, quesedillas and salads, along with chips and a fantastic selection of hot sauces. My favorite was a Thai chicken burrito, but it’s no longer on the menu. So instead, I recommend the Crunchy BBQ Ranch Chicken Burrito. Ole!
  4. Deep Blue Sushi On The Fly, JFK Airport, Terminal 5 — I’m a big fan of the food options JetBlue has in its signature terminal. I’m a big sushi lover, and I always go to  the carry-out version of this great restaurant. Splurge a little on one of their signature rolls.  I’m partial to the King Crab California Roll, myself!
  5. Krispy Kreme Donuts, Orlando International Airport — I love these donuts, and they taste just as good in the pre-security food court at the airport.  And you even get the iconic Hot Donuts sign!

So, dear readers — what is your go-to fast food joint at the airport? What can I try the next time I fly?

The Truth About Free vs. Paid Airport WiFi

20 Oct

On Sunday, I was checking my Facebook account when I saw a post from my friend Michelle, who was upset about having to pay for WiFi at Los Angeles International Airport.  She had left her hotel early (which DID have free WiFi), so she could do work at the airport.

I explained that just like at home, or if you own a WiFi card, it costs airports to provide that service.  And in the past 10 years, airports have been squeezed on the revenue side thanks to airline mergers and service cuts, paying for unfunded mandates and underfunded Federal Aviation Administration programs that cover a facilities.

So with that, airports have to find a way to cover those costs.   Some, like Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, offer free WiFi in exchange for looking at on-screen advertising.  Some have a company or companies sponsor their WiFi.  Others, like Boston Logan, ask you to fill out a survey or watch a video to get free WiFi for an hour, then switch you over to a provider where you pay  from there.

Others — including LAX, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and my hometown Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport — partner with companies like Boingo for paid WiFi.

So before your next trip, check out the websites below to see if you’re getting free WiFi or if you’re going to be shelling out for the privilege!


Best of Aviation Queen: Airport Concession Confessions-The Wine Edition

4 Aug

Editor’s note: I’m in Philadelphia this week attending the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention. I won’t fool myself into thinking I’ll actually post this week since I’m presenting and hosting several other side events. The post below first appeared on my blog on Jan. 11, 201.  Enjoy!!

I covered the airports beat for almost four years.  There was never a dull moment, and among my favorite stories to write were about concessions in the airport.

Remember the old days when most airports’ concessions consisted of “restaurant,” “snacks,” and “news stand?”  Well, those days are over, for most airports, anyway.  The light bulb went on and airports realized that they had a captive audience that had time to kill and was willing to spend money to pass the time away.  I’m a big wine fan, and several of the  dozens of airports I’ve visited have some great wine concepts. Below are four of my favorites. I’ll share more of my favorite concessions, by category, in the coming months.

  1. Vino Volo – what a perfect concept.  Drink world-class wines by the glass or a flight, eat savory snacks and sit at a roomy table with an outlet. What’s not to love? And bonus-you can buy their wines by the bottle and take them with you to your final destination.

  2. Vintage Washington Wine Bar – this is a nice little oasis at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  I like ths place because it showcases Oregon and Washington state wines.
  3. La Bodega Winery - my family is from Texas, and they are quite fond of Texas wines.  They’ve become a favorite for me too.  And this little slice of paradise at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is a favorite for me.  And don’t worry-if you’re scared to try Texas wines, they have a great selection of wines from around the world.
  4. Cibo Bistro and Wine Bar - I had an unexpectedly long layover once in Philadelphia International Airport when one of my fellow passengers told me about this place.  It has a great wine selection by the glass and some really great bistro food.

The Inflight Gourmet

19 Jul

A lunch served to me on a private aviation flight (it was delicious!)

Last week, I took the child for a royal visit to San Antonio to see the grandparents.  The good thing for us is that our friends at Southwest Airlines have 2 non-stop flights a day between Baltimore and San Antonio.

We’ve been doing this flight since my daughter was a month old, so we have our routine down pat.  Any parent of a child under age 18 (and especially those 6 and under) like to have their food.  And we all know the state of food on domestic airlines these days.

So I prepare in advance for what we’re going to have.  First, I pull out the Food Bag.  It’s a Ralph Lauren shoulder bag with inside pockets that carries what we need.  I also carry inside it an insulated bag with a thin frozen gel pack for items that need to stay cold.

If it’s a morning flight, I carry hard-boiled eggs (no yolk) pre-salted and peppered.  It’s a filling, high-protein snack that my kid loves.  If it’s an afternoon or evening flight, then it’s a sandwich.  I also have peanut butter crackers, trail or granola mix, mixed nuts, potato chip, Pecan Sandies or Lorna Doones and a candy treat, usually Snickers or Chewy Lemonheads.  I also carry napkins, hand wipes (handy for cleaning the tray table) and a sippy cup with a lid to avoid spills.

I always bring plenty, because it’s inevitable there’s a parent who didn’t prepare and has a child that is hungry.  So if you see me on a flight and you’re hungry, don’t hesitate to ask for a bite!

GUEST POST: Cranky Flier Mulls Service Prospects for BWI Airport

11 Jul

Editor’s note: I’m on vacation this week, so I have some of my aviation/airline/travel geek friends doing guest posts here this week.  First up is my good friend Brett Snyder, aka the Cranky Flier.  Brett and I became friends back in June 2001, when I moved to Phoenix to work for Mesa Air Group and he was working at what was then America West Airlines.  His blog is a must-read.  Today, he posts about air service prospects for my hometown airport (which I’m sure he did to annoy me). Enjoy!

With the Queen on vacation and today being her birthday (long live the Queen!), I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at her hometown airport.  I believe BWI may officially have the longest airport name on Earth.  At last check, it was Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, though they may have thrown Cal Ripken in there at some point.  In reality, they should just name the place Southwest Airlines Airport.

Southwest Airlines' Shamu Boeing 737 All BWI photos by Benet J. Wilson

BWI started as a beach-head for Southwest on the east coast back in 1993.  As a student at George Washington in D.C., I used to take Southwest back to Phoenix to visit my family during breaks.  At that time, it usually required taking two stops through one of the few gateways served from the airport.  Since that time, BWI has become Southwest’s primary east coast destination.  In fact, as of the end March, BWI was Southwest’s fourth busiest airport with 187 flights a day to 45 different cities.

This has been good for BWI, which traded a dying US Airways hub operation for what is now a strong Southwest presence that serves Baltimore and the DC area well.  There appeared to be a threat to BWI’s status in the Southwest network when the airline decided to start flying to Washington/Dulles a few years ago, but that effort has really fizzled.  Today, Southwest serves only two cities with 8 flights a day from Dulles; hardly a threat.
With Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran, BWI will approach fortress hub status for Southwest.  For the year ending March 2011, Southwest carried 55.76 percent of passengers at the airport while AirTran carried 15.31 percent</a>.  That’s right.  The combined airlines will now have more than 70 percent of BWI passengers.  As we’ve seen at other airports with similar standing in the Southwest system (Houston/Hobby and Chicago/Midway, for example) this is a double-edged sword.
It’s great for an airport to have a strong presence from a “low fare” airline even if the fares aren’t as low as they used to be.  But people love Southwest, and that’s been excellent for BWI over the last twenty years.

The Southwest Airlines Concourse at BWI Airport

It does, however, effectively kill the chance of any other airline increasing service at the airport in any significant way.  All other airline service at the airport goes to hubs (except for a couple of 9-seaters on essential air service routes), and the airlines have been using smaller and smaller airplanes on those routes.

In the last 10 years, Continental used to fly jets as large as a 757 from Cleveland to BWI.  Now there are four 70-seat turboprops a day.  United used to fly widebodies to O’Hare.  Now it’s a mix of regional jets and narrowbody mainline aircraft.  The numbers show the same thing.
Back in 2002, airlines other than Southwest and AirTran carried 47.5 percent of traffic at the airport compared to the less than 30 percent today.  That loss of share hasn’t been solely due to growth by Southwest.  Those same airlines carried a quarter fewer passengers this past year than they did in 2002.
As we’ve seen elsewhere, as Southwest gets stronger, others shy away and that means that the future of BWI is largely rooted in what Southwest does.

A stained-glass window at BWI Airport

There was some excitement recently when CEO Gary Kelly suggested that BWI would be the natural jumping off point for long haul low-cost service sometime in the future, but that’s far from a done deal.  If Southwest tries something like that, then BWI is the right place to try it, but it’s far from clear that a service like that can make money.  And nobody else is coming in anytime soon.

Outside of AirTran’s Caribbean service, BWI has had a very difficult time attracting and retaining international flights.  Sure, there’s Air Canada to Toronto, but come on.  Canada doesn’t count.  That leaves the daily British Airways flight to London, but that doesn’t come cheap.  In fact, BWI has had to pay up to keep that service flying.
So BWI is an airport with a mixed future.  As Southwest’s largest east coast gateway, it’s in a very good position to succeed in the future with growth to new cities.  That growth however, will undoubtedly come at the expense of other airline service, which has already shrunk significantly over the years.

Top 10 Reasons To Stop In Baltimore This Summer

23 Jun

Back when I moved to Washington, D.C., Baltimore was that city that had another airport and was a stop along I95.  But since being introduced to the city in 1999 and moving here in 2006, I can’t say enough good things about this city.  We have great neighborhoods, wonderful tourist attractions, plenty of shopping and food to die for.  If it’s good enough for John Walters, it’s good enough for me. Below are my top 10 reasons why you should make a stop and spend some time in Baltimore, hon!

  1. The Baltimore Museum of Art/Walters Art Gallery — yes, D.C. has all those great Smithsonian museums, but Baltimore has two world-class museums that are worth a visit, and they’re free.  And here’s a fun fact — did you know BMA has the world’s largest collection of Monets?
  2. Crabs — Maryland Blue Crabs, to be specific.  If that’s too messy, then whole lump crabcakes are a good substitute.  People in Baltimore are very loyal to their crab houses.  When I’m getting them to go, I love Conrad’s Crabs in Parkville.  If I’m sitting down, there’s no place better than Obrycki’s.  They even have an outpost in Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.  And get your crabcakes at Faidley’s in Lexington Market.
  3. Lexington Market — this historic market sells food and other items; and it’s the home of Faidley’s.
  4. Festivals — Baltimore is home to many ethnicities, and because of that, we have some really great festivals.  St. Nicholas has one of the best Greek festivals I’ve ever attended.  And check out Artscape, a huge free arts festival, scheduled for July 15-17.  There’s also the African American Festival, a free family celebration of life, music and culture July 2-3.
  5. Oriole Park at Camden Yard — the days of my beloved Baltimore Orioles as a baseball contender are gone, but the park is a great place to see a game.  Camden Yard was one of the first new/retro ballparks built, back in 1992, and is still seen as the standard for other facilities.
  6. Little Italy — Baltimore has a large and vibrant Italian section that has some of the finest food outside of Rome.  One of my favorites is Sabatino’s - and you must order the Bookmakers Salad, a Baltimore institution.  And wherever you eat, stop by Vaccaro’s for dessert!  The neighborhood offers free outdoor movies every Friday in the summer.
  7. The National Aquarium — this facility is right downtown and has an extensive collection of sea life.  And your visit is not complete without taking in the dolphin show.
  8. The Washington Monument — yes, kids, Baltimore has its own monument.  It’s near the Walters Art Museum.
  9. Fells Point — Baltimore is crazy about its neighborhoods, and Fells Point, on the waterfront, is one of its oldest.  It has great shops, restaurants, food markets and night clubs. Plus there’s a water taxi that takes you to the Inner Harbor.
  10. Fort McHenry — this is the place where Francis Scott Key saw the American flag waving during the Battle of Baltimore and was inspired to write “The Star Spangled Banner.” It’s a great walk and plenty to see, but wear comfy shoes.

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