BWI Calling on Ryanair

One More Thing: Having failed recently to land Aer Lingus with a package of incentives worth $11 million, Baltimore Washington International (BWI) now has Ryanair on its radar after Michael O'Leary said he was pondering the launch of transatlantic services.

A meeting between the two sides has been pencilled in for late May to discuss potential opportunities. "We're excited for sure," said James Walsh, BWI's deputy executive director.

"We believe we're the right airport for this type of service and that we can offer an attractive package to Ryanair."

BWI was one of the airports mentioned by O'Leary recently as a possible destination for Ryanair's transatlantic services from Europe. "We have begun working on a plan.We're going to be sitting down with Ryanair staff in late May and we'll look at what markets are feasible and at cost structures," Walsh said.

BWI handles about 21 million passengers a year, putting it on a par with Dublin airport. This traffic is predominantly domestic, however, with just one million passengers a year using international flights. The airport estimated that Aer Lingus could have carried about 100,000 passengers a year.

Aer Lingus quit the airport in late 2004 and recently decided to operate instead from nearby Washington Dulles as part of its Open Skies expansion in the United States.

Its loss could be O'Leary's gain. It might also throw up the mouth-watering prospect of Ryanair going head-to-head with Southwest Airlines, the original low-cost airline whose model was copied by O'Leary.

Baltimore is a major hub for Southwest, which accounts for roughly half the airport's annual traffic. The city could be the launch pad for the US airline's own transatlantic services, which are likely to take flight in 2009.

If so, it would be a heavyweight contest of Ali-Foreman proportions.