Baltimore/Washington International Airport

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Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
BWI Logo.svg
BWI airport terminal.jpg
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorMaryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA)[1]
LocationAnne Arundel County, Maryland, United States
Focus city forSouthwest Airlines
Elevation AMSL143 ft / 44 m
Coordinates39°10′31″N 076°40′06″W / 39.17528°N 76.66833°W / 39.17528; -76.66833Coordinates: 39°10′31″N 076°40′06″W / 39.17528°N 76.66833°W / 39.17528; -76.66833
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
Direction Length Surface
ft m
10/28 10,503 3,201 Asphalt
15L/33R 5,000 1,524 Asphalt
15R/33L 9,501 2,896 Asphalt
Number Length Surface
ft m
H1 100 30 Asphalt
Statistics (2021)
Aircraft operations200,821
Cargo618,809,261 lb (280,687 t)
Sources: BWI Airport[2]

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (IATA: BWI, ICAO: KBWI, FAA LID: BWI), commonly referred to as BWI or BWI Marshall, is an international airport in the Eastern United States serving mainly Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. With Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, it is one of three major airports serving the Washington–Baltimore metropolitan area. Located in an unincorporated area of Anne Arundel County,[3] the airport is 9 miles (14 km) south of Downtown Baltimore and 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Washington, D.C.[4][5]

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, a base for Southwest Airlines, is the 22nd busiest airport in the United States and the busiest in the National Capital region.[6] It is named after Thurgood Marshall, a Baltimore native, who was the first African American to serve as an Associate 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.[7]


Early years[edit]

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.[8][9] The cost of building the airport was estimated at $9 million.[9] 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.[9] An alternate site along Gov. Ritchie Highway at Furnace Branch was rejected by the United States War Department, and another possible site at Lipin's Corner was deemed too far from Baltimore.[9] The State Aviation Commission approved of the Linthicum Heights site in 1946.[10]

Much of the land was purchased from Friendship Methodist Church in 1946,[11] and ground was broken on May 2, 1947.[12][13] Friendship Methodist Church held its last service on Easter Sunday in 1948.[14] Friendship Methodist Church was razed to make room for the new airport.[14] In addition, several pieces of land were bought,[15] and 170 bodies buried in a cemetery were moved.[16] Baltimore–Fort Meade Road was moved to the west to make way for the airport's construction.[17]

Friendship International Airport was dedicated on June 24, 1950, by 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., as well as Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. on his first aircraft flight.[18] The total cost to construct the airport totaled $15 million.[19] The following month the airlines moved to the new airport from the old Baltimore Municipal Airport (Harbor Field in southeast Baltimore at 39°15′N 76°32′W / 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.[19] Seven minutes later, the same plane was also the first flight to depart from the airport.[19] 300 people came to watch the first flight arrive and depart.[19]

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; Baltimore's reach expanded when jet service started. The early Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s could not use Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport did not open until 1962, so Baltimore became Washington's jet airport in May–June 1959 when American and TWA began transcontinental 707 flights.[20]


Aerial of BWI Marshall Airport with Downtown Baltimore in background

The Maryland Department of Transportation purchased Friendship International Airport from the City of Baltimore for $36 million in 1972.[21] 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 George's counties,[22] the airport was renamed Baltimore/Washington International Airport, effective November 16, 1973.[23] Its IATA code, originally BAL, didn't 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.[24]

The first phase of the airport's 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 (1.02 ha).[23]

The terminal renovation program was complete in 1979, the most dramatic work of the airport's modernization, which was designed by DMJM along with Peterson & Brickbauer.[25] 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.[23]

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.[26] In particular, the station provided rail transit access to Washington, D.C., something that Dulles will not have until 2022 at the earliest. In 1997 a new international terminal (Concourse E), designed by STV Group and William Nicholas Bodouva & Associates,[27] was added,[28] 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. The first transatlantic nonstops were on World Airways about 1981; British Airways arrived at BWI a few years later. Aer Lingus,[29] Air Jamaica,[30] Air Aruba,[31] 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 Force's Air Mobility Command, continue to have a significant presence at BWI.[citation needed]

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 airline's 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[32] and subsequent expansion in the early 2000s. Southwest is the airport's largest carrier, accounting for 56.12% of passengers carried in 2011.[33] Southwest Airlines currently serves on average 245 daily departures to the US, Mexico and the Caribbean.


Southwest Airlines planes at Concourses A-B

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 for their major operating base. 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.[34][35]

On August 5, 2014, little-used runway 04-22 was permanently closed.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] In 2009 the airport had a six percent increase in air travelers due to the proliferation of discount flights.[39] In a 2009 survey of airport service quality by Airports Council International, BWI was the world's top ranking airport in the 15-to-25-million-passenger category.[40] BWI also ranked seventh, in medium-sized airports, based on customer satisfaction conducted by J.D Power and Associates.[41]

In early 2016 a partnership between the airport and Towson University's WTMD Radio Station announced a new concert series that will take place at the terminal's baggage claim on the lower level.[42] The local bands of Wye Oak, Arboretum, and Super City. This new series follows the release event of Animal Collective's 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, five-gate expansion of terminal A for Southwest Airlines.[43] The new expansion began operations in 2021.[44] 2018 also marked a new annual record for passenger traffic at BWI Marshall Airport with over 27.1 million passengers.[45]

In 2021, commuter airline Southern Airways Express ended its hub at BWI and switched its east coast hub to Washington Dulles International Airport.[46] In addition, the airport's international growth continued with the addition of a twice-weekly flight to Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar, Senegal via a stop in New York-JFK.[47]



BWI Airport has three active runways:[48]

  • 10/28: 10,503 ft (3,201 m) x 150 ft (46 m). Runway 28 is the main takeoff runway, unless wind conditions require takeoffs from Runway 15R. Runway 10 is equipped with ILS category IIIB, and runway 28 is equipped with ILS category I.
  • 15R/33L: 9,501 ft (2,896 m) x 150 ft (46 m): Runway 33L is the main landing runway, unless wind or fog conditions require landings on Runway 10 with its higher ILS rating. Thomas A. Dixon Aircraft Observation Area at Friendship Park overlooks Runway 33L. Equipped with ILS category I in both directions.
  • 15L/33R: 5,000 ft (1,500 m) x 100 ft (30 m). Main runway for general aviation and smaller commercial aircraft. Originally 3,200 ft (980 m), it was extended in the 1990s and is able to handle emergency landings by Boeing 737 aircraft, by far the most popular plane at the airport. Equipped with ILS category I in both directions.
  • Runway 4/22 (defunct): 6,000 ft (1,800 m) x 150 ft (46 m). Closed in 2014, this runway is now part of taxiways and aprons.


International terminal (Pier E)

Baltimore/Washington International Airport has five concourses with 78 gates. Of these, 14 are international (all 11 gates in Concourse E are international gates, four of E's gates are arrival-only, and three gates in Concourse D are also international gates).[49]

  • Concourse A/B has 30 gates. Both are of exclusive use for Southwest.[49]
  • Concourse C has 14 gates. Used by Southwest, American and Contour.[49]
  • Concourse D has 23 gates. Used by all non-Southwest and American domestic flights, and Air Canada.[49]
  • Concourse E has 11 gates. Used for all international flights; international flights from Southwest and Spirit arrive here.[49]


The airport's cargo concourse covers a 395,000 sq ft (36,700 m2) area. Its facilities include a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) cargo building in the Midfield Cargo Complex, including a 200,000 square feet warehouse used for Amazon Air, 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 eight freighters.

Ground transportation[edit]

Light rail train at BWI station

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 just outside its main terminal.[50]

Passenger van service to and from the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland is available through BayRunner Shuttle[51] 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 WMATA's 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.[52] 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 high-speed Acela Express, and the MARC Penn Line commuter rail service. Travel time by train is about twenty minutes to Baltimore's 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 significantly higher numbers of departure times during rush hours.[53]

In August 2014, BWI piloted a new bicycle-sharing system with the Boston-based company Zagster.[54] Located adjacent to the light rail station, the bike sharing service connected terminal passengers to the nearby BWI Trail, as well as other local destinations.[55] This service has been discontinued.

Other facilities[edit]

Thomas A Dixon, Jr. Aircraft Observation Area

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 airport's 15R-33L runway.[56] 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.

The Maryland Aviation Administration has its headquarters on the third floor of the terminal building.[57]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Air Canada Express Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson [58]
Air Senegal Dakar–Diassa [47]
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma [59]
Allegiant Air Asheville, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Knoxville, Punta Gorda, Sarasota, Savannah [60]
American Airlines Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami [61]
American Eagle Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, New York–JFK (ends November 2, 2022)[62] [61]
Avelo Airlines New Haven (CT)
Seasonal: Orlando, Wilmington (NC)
Boutique Air Altoona (ends September 30, 2022), Massena [64]
British Airways London–Heathrow [65]
Condor Seasonal: Frankfurt [66]
Contour Airlines Macon/Warner Robins (GA) [67]
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City [68]
Delta Connection Boston, New York–JFK [68]
Frontier Airlines Atlanta, Cancún, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando [69]
Icelandair Seasonal: Reykjavík–Keflavík [70]
JetBlue Boston [71]
PLAY Reykjavík–Keflavík [72]
Southwest Airlines Albany, Albuquerque, Aruba, Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham (AL), Boston, Buffalo, Cancún, Charleston (SC), Charlotte, Chicago–Midway, Chicago–O'Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus–Glenn, Dallas–Love, Denver, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Grand Rapids, Greenville/Spartanburg, Hartford, Houston–Hobby, Indianapolis, Jackson (MS), Jacksonville (FL), Kansas City, Las Vegas, Long Island/Islip, Los Angeles, Louisville, Manchester (NH), Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montego Bay, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Norfolk, Orlando, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Providence, Punta Cana, Raleigh/Durham, Rochester (NY), Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San José de Costa Rica–Juan Santamaría, San Juan, Sarasota, Savannah, St. Louis, Syracuse, Tampa, West Palm Beach
Seasonal: Grand Cayman, Liberia (CR), Nassau, Panama City (FL), Pensacola, Providenciales, San Jose del Cabo
Spirit Airlines Atlanta, Cancún, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Houston–Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Myrtle Beach, New Orleans, Orlando, San Juan, Tampa [74]
Sun Country Airlines Minneapolis/St. Paul [75]
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles, San Francisco [76]
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental [76]
  • ^a : Air Senegal's flight to Dakar makes a stop in New York–JFK. However, the airline does not have eighth freedom rights to transport passengers solely from Baltimore to New York.


Amazon Air Atlanta, Chicago/Rockford, Cincinnati, Houston–Intercontinental, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Ontario, Portland (OR), Riverside/March ARB, Sacramento, St. Louis, Tampa, Wilmington (OH)
DHL Aviation Cincinnati, Hartford/Springfield
FedEx Express Columbus–Rickenbacker, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, Memphis
FedEx Feeder Newark, Salisbury
UPS Airlines Chicago/Rockford, Louisville, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from BWI (April 2021 – March 2022)[77]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Atlanta, Georgia 643,000 Delta, Southwest, Spirit
2 Orlando, Florida 635,000 Frontier, Southwest, Spirit
3 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 449,000 Southwest, Spirit
4 Denver, Colorado 358,000 Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United
5 Charlotte, North Carolina 334,000 American, Southwest, Spirit
6 Tampa, Florida 329,000 Southwest, Spirit
7 Miami, Florida 303,000 American, Frontier, Southwest
8 Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 259,000 American, Southwest, Spirit, United
9 Las Vegas, Nevada 243,000 Southwest, Spirit
10 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 213,000 American, Spirit
Busiest international routes from BWI (2019)[78]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Cancún, Mexico 279,111 Southwest, Spirit
2 Montego Bay, Jamaica 278,611 Southwest, Spirit
3 London–Heathrow, United Kingdom 135,462 British Airways
4 Toronto–Pearson, Canada 113,494 Air Canada
5 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 100,736 Southwest
6 Oranjestad, Aruba 77,732 Southwest
7 Frankfurt, Germany 40,125 Condor
8 Montréal–Trudeau, Canada 30,617 Air Canada
9 Nassau, Bahamas 25,189 Southwest
10 Liberia, Costa Rica 15,476 Southwest

Airline market share[edit]

Largest airlines at BWI (April 2021 - March 2022)[79]
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 Southwest Airlines 13,768,000 71.65%
2 Spirit Airlines 1,676,000 8.72%
3 Delta Air Lines 1,252,000 6.51%
4 American Airlines 996,000 5.18%
5 United Airlines 542,000 2.82%
6 Other 982,000 5.11%

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at BWI airport. See source Wikidata query.
Annual passenger traffic at BWI
Year Passengers Year Passengers
2006 20,698,967 2016 25,122,651
2007 21,044,384 2017 26,369,411
2008 20,488,881 2018 27,145,831
2009 20,953,615 2019 26,993,896
2010 21,936,461 2020 11,204,511
2011 22,391,785 2021 18,868,429
2012 22,679,987 2022
2013 22,498,353 2023
2014 22,312,676 2024
2015 23,823,532 2025

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • 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.[82]
  • 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.[83]
  • On May 6, 2009, a World Airways DC-10-30 with registration N139WA operating as Flight 8535 from Leipzig, Germany for the Military Airlift Command experienced a hard landing at BWI. As a result of the captain's response to the hard landing, the plane's nose wheel struck the runway hard two times. The aircraft blew one of its front tires and had to execute a go-around before landing successfully. Several passengers were injured, including the first officer, who suffered back trauma. The age of the aircraft (29 years 11 months at the time of the accident) and the extent of damage to the front landing gear and fuselage resulted in the aircraft being written off. The aircraft was parted out and is now used on-site for fire/rescue training and practice purposes.[84]
  • On December 17, 2020, Spirit Airlines Flight 696 skidded off the taxiway while turning a corner after landing due to icy conditions. There were no injuries or deaths among the 111 passengers and crew.[85]


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