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Looking to the Future in Florida - Miami International Airport's $5 billion modernisation

Miami is notable for a number of things, one of which is its international airport. A gateway to Central and South America for decades, it has been home for two of the United States' most historic and pioneering airlines, Pan American and Eastern.

Since those days the airport has undergone numerous changes and is set to see more as it plans for the future.

With the help of the Miami-Dade County Aviation Department, Kevan James takes a look at the airport today and what is to come.

The Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners last month (June 2019) adopted an ambitious new series of capital improvement programmes at Miami International Airport (MIA) that will fund up to $5 billion in airport-wide modernisation projects over the next five to fifteen years, paving the way for future growth in passenger and cargo traffic at MIA - projected to reach 77 million travellers and more than four million tons of freight by the year 2040.

The plans are designed to address all of the airport’s future capacity and operational needs through five sub-programmes that include: a redevelopment of Central Terminal concourses E and F; an expanded South Terminal (concourses H and J); renovated Concourse D gates to accommodate additional wide- and narrow-body aircraft, as well as larger regional jets; two new hotels (one which will include a business and conference centre with exhibition space) and other miscellaneous landside projects; and expanded aircraft parking positions and warehouses for cargo operations.

Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos A. Giminez, said: 'MIA is Miami-Dade County’s leading economic engine and busiest gateway, generating nearly $31 billion in business revenue and welcoming 96 percent of all visitors to our community. The goal of this new capital program is for MIA to provide even greater value, convenience and efficiency to our visitors, airline partners and cargo operators'.

The multi-billion-dollar program is the latest in a string of historic milestones for MIA, which celebrated its 90th anniversary last September. In 2018, MIA surpassed 45 million annual passengers for the first time ever - an increase of nearly one million over the previous year. The airport served 21.8 international passengers in 2018 – retaining its position as the busiest airport in Florida for international travellers and third-busiest U.S. gateway in that same category. MIA continues to maintain its ranking as the busiest U.S. airport for international freight as well, setting a new record of 2.3 million total tons of freight in 2018 - up 60,000 tons from its 2017 total.

Lester Sola, MIA Director and CEO added: 'I appreciate the support and leadership of Mayor Gimenez, Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson, and the Board of County Commissioners, as we turn the page to this next chapter in the transformation of MIA. Because of the program’s phased structure, we look forward to delivering to our passengers and business partners new and improved airport facilities.'

The airport continues to offer more flights to Central and South America, along with the Caribbean that any other US airport and almost sixty per cent of international visitors to Florida arrive at the airport.

As if to further boost that aspect to the airport's operations, also last month,LOT Polish Airlines began nonstop service to Warsaw, the only direct flights between Eastern Europe and Florida and LOT's first ever route to MIA.

LOT now operates four weekly flights with thier Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, seating 252 passengers.

Passenger traffic through the first three months of 2019 grew by 583,073 over the same period last year, representing a five-percent increase in the airport’s first quarter. MIA’s growth included an additional 306,421 (+5.5 percent) international passengers and 276,652 (+4.6 percent) domestic passengers year over year. The airport expects continued growth in the second quarter of 2019, thanks to the launch of four new international routes: low-cost carrier Norwegian’s daily flights to London Gatwick Airport began on April 1; Royal Air Maroc commenced three weekly flights to Casablanca on April 3; LOT Polish Airlines’ four weekly flights to Warsaw on June 1 mentioned above and Corsair’s four weekly flights to Paris Orly Airport on June 10.The Casablanca route provides MIA’s first passenger flights to Africa since the year 2000 and Florida’s only nonstop service to the continent.

Above - LOT's inaugural arrival at Miami receives the traditional water-cannon salute, as does Norwegian's first flight from London Gatwick (below).

Below - Corsair's A330s operate the service from Paris Orly.

All images courtesy of the Miami-Dade County Department of Aviation

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