Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport serves the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area (U.S.). It is commonly called BWI or BWI Airport, its IATA Airport Code, an initialism for "Baltimore/Washington International," or as BWI-Marshall. The airport is located in Linthicum, Maryland, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Baltimore and 30 miles (48 km) north of Washington, D.C. It is a focus city for both Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways.
A record 21.04 million passengers passed through BWI in 2007, representing a 1.7% increase in annual traffic. In 2006, traffic grew by 4.8%, to 20.7 million people.
The State of Maryland, through the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), 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. The airport was renamed Baltimore/Washington International Airport in 1973. However, the IATA code remained as "BAL" because "BWI" was already used by another airport until 1982 when it was changed to "BWI." The new name was part of an effort to grab a portion of the Washington-area travel market.
The first phase of BWI 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 airport's freight capacity to 2.53 acres.
The passenger terminal renovation program was complete in 1979, the most dramatic work of the airport's modernization. The BWI terminal more than doubled in size to 14.58 acres; the number of gate positions increased from 20 to 27. The total cost of project was $70 million. To continue the work, the BWI Development Council was established to support initiatives for airport development.
BWI Rail Station opened in 1980, providing a rail connection to passengers on the busy Northeast Corridor. BWI became the first airport in the U.S. to be served by a dedicated intercity rail station. In particular, the station provided relatively easy transit access to Washington, D.C., something Washington Dulles International Airport currently lacks. In the late 1990s, a new international terminal (Concourse E) was added, though Dulles continues to hold the lion's share of the region's international flights, and BWI has not attracted many long-haul international carriers. Air Jamaica and British Airways have had a presence at BWI for many years. AerLingus, Air Aruba, Air Greenland, El Al, Ghana Airways, Icelandair, KLM, Ladeco, and Mexicana previously flew to BWI. Military flights, operated by AMC, continue to have a significant presence at BWI.
For much of the 1990s, BWI was a major hub for US Airways, but that airline's financial difficulties in the wake of the dot-com bust and the September 11 attacks forced it to significantly reduce its presence at the airport. The airport has been a major haven for low-cost flights in the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan Area since the arrival of Southwest Airlines in September 1993, and in the early 2000s Southwest significantly increased its operations there. Southwest is now BWI's largest carrier, accounting for about 52.5% of passengers in 2007. The other major airlines with a significant presence at the airport are AirTran (11.82%), Delta Air Lines (6.56%), United Airlines (6.44%), and US Airways (6.40%).
To accommodate Southwest's extensive presence at the airport, in 2005 Concourses A and B were expanded, renovated, and integrated with one another to house all of that airline's operations there. This new facility opened on May 22, 2005. On October 1 of that year, the airport was renamed again, to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, to honor the former US Supreme Court justice, who grew up in Baltimore. The more recent renaming has not resulted in a change to the IATA and ICAO locater codes.
The Air Mobility Command also has a post in Concourse E flying active service troops out to worldwide destinations.
Planes arriving at BWI can often be seen from West River, Maryland, before they land.
BWI Rail Station is located about a mile from the airport terminal; a free shuttle bus brings passengers to and from the train station and airport terminal. The station is served by Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains and, on weekdays, by the MARC Penn Line. Travel time by train is about ten minutes to Baltimore's Penn Station and thirty-five minutes to Union Station in Washington, D.C. MARC tickets are $4 to Baltimore and $6 to Washington; Amtrak tickets are $17-$22 to Baltimore and $17-$36 to Washington. Trains depart at least once an hour seven days a week, with departure times during rush hours and business hours being significantly more frequent.
The Maryland Transit Administration's Light Rail line has a stop just outside the entrance to the airport's International Terminal. Passengers can take the Light Rail to a variety of destinations in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County, and can transfer to the Metro Subway in Baltimore, or to either of MARC's Baltimore terminals. A one-way ticket costs $1.60; an all-day pass, which provides access to bus, light rail, and Metro Subway travel throughout greater Baltimore, costs $3.50. A ride downtown takes approximately 30 minutes. Trains run every 20 minutes during peak hours, and 30 minutes all other times.