BALTIMORE, MD – Confusion ensued at MetroAir Virtual Airline’s East Coast hub on Tuesday morning as the Maryland Airport Authority suddenly shut down 4 of 6 gates at Baltimore-Washington’s international terminal. The disruption caused multiple delays of international flights arriving in Baltimore on Tuesday, with many flights diverting to other East Coast airports to have passengers clear customs before proceeding to Baltimore domestically or being reticketed on other flights.
Chaos began when construction crews began moving heavy Earth-moving equipment into the international terminal area, months earlier than planned. The Baltimore Airport is currently undergoing a $105 million construction project, with the majority of funds being used to remodel the international terminal and add two international gates. While the internal renovations have been underway since last year, the closure of the ramp area was not scheduled until at least May 2016. The sudden closure of the majority of Baltimore’s international terminal and gates outraged multiple operators that rely on the international arrivals hall.
Tensions have risen after months of negotiations between MetroAir Virtual and the Maryland Airport Authority regarding MetroAir’s expiring terminal lease at BWI have ended without a solution. With increased service and demand at Baltimore, largely from the upstart of international service by Southwest Airlines, the Maryland Airport Authority has significantly increased the cost of leasing gate space and airport equipment.
MetroAir threatened to take their business elsewhere, strongly suggesting Boston’s Logan International Airport as a viable alternative in their year-end Financial Airline Summary. MetroAir has spent the past year bolstering domestic service in Boston, citing increased travel numbers and untapped markets to and from New England.
Adding validity to their bluff, MetroAir sent many of their diverted flights to Boston. Whether or not this is a message to the Maryland Airport Authority remains to be seen as Boston is MetroAir’s second largest operation in the Northeast, allowing the airline to connect many passengers to their final destinations with little hassle. According to BWI Hub Manager Adam Trylinski, “less than 35% of MetroAir’s transatlantic passengers have Baltimore as their final destination.” To pick up the slack, MetroAir has added multiple frequencies between Boston and Baltimore to connect any displaced passengers.
According to the airline, MetroAir will be forced to operate the majority of their international flights from Boston while the construction is underway. While sudden, this operation was planned to take place over the summer and MetroAir has assured its passengers and shareholders it is capable of adapting to the situation.
“We’re disappointed with the MAA’s lack of communication and the general confusion this entire ordeal has caused,” spoke MetroAir CMO Anders Young, “Somehow, some very important information was lost in communication and there is some accountability on both our parts. For that we have apologized and reimbursed our disrupted passengers.”
The future of MetroAir at Baltimore-Washington looks bleaker than ever, especially with a tentative April 1st deadline for a new lease term suggested by MetroAir executives. Until then, MetroAir will continue business as usual and will work to ensure smooth travel for all of their customers.