MIAMI — The five airports that make up the county of Miami-Dade received the thumbs-up to a $5 billion improvement plan by the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners.

The plan will focus mainly on the Miami International Airport (MIA), which for the first time, logged 45 million passengers transiting through its terminals in 2018.

Miami International Airport is currently ranked as the third busiest airport in the US for international passengers, also hosting 102 domestic and international airlines—the largest in the country. It is also ranked as the country’s first international cargo handler, with 2.3 million tons of freight carried by 41 cargo airlines.

The 15-year expansion plan also includes smaller-scale upgrades on the four other airports of the county, with a projected completion date of 2035.

According to the airport, the project brings “the ability to stop or adapt as necessary,” keeping it flexible to unforeseen macroeconomic and geopolitical fluctuations.

Concourse Optimization

Planned improvements include a “gate optimization” for MIA’s 23 gates in the North Terminal to better handle larger aircraft and upgrade terminal frontage for aircraft visibility and reduce congestion.

The airport’s Southern Terminal would add three jumbo jet gates, including an apron expansion allowing three more wide-body planes to park.

The future American Eagle commuter facility • Source: Miami International Airport

The current American Eagle commuter facility located by gate D60 will be upgraded. “The new commuter terminal will create an experience for passengers consistent with the rest of the airport,” which will also see the outdated Concourse F completely re-designed.

According to MIA, the commuter terminal will be designed to accommodate narrow body American Airlines planes.

Source: Miami International Airport

Also earmarked are renovations to MIA’s central terminal including demolition of an outdated Concourse G, a larger security checkpoint, new concession areas, and a partially raised roof to allow for more natural light, and expansion to its cargo facilities.

New Hotels

Two new on-site luxury hotels are also in the works as part of the airport improvement, with one hotel being built directly east of the airport’s Dolphin Garage and across from the North Terminal, and the second to be built on the airport’s short-term parking deck and former heliport.

Source: Miami International Airport

The largest hotel, which will be located by the central portion of the airport, will be connected to the MIA Mover, which links the terminals to the rental car center and the local metro and bus station.

According to MIA, the new hotel will also feature an exhibition room, a business center, and an auditorium.

“I appreciate the support and leadership of Mayor Gimenez … and the Board of County Commissioners, as we turn the page to this next chapter in the transformation of MIA,” said Lester Sola, MIA Director, and CEO.

“Because of the program’s phased structure, we look forward to delivering to our passengers and business partners new and improved airport facilities.”

Prime Freight

Handling more freight to Latin America and the Caribbean than any other U.S. airport, expanding and modernizing cargo efficiency is vital to a growing operation.

The airport set a new record of 2.3 million total tons of freight last year—up 60,000 tons from its 2017 total, and making it the nation’s busiest airport for international freight.

Handling more than two-thirds of all U.S. air trade in 2018 and expected to double by the year 2040 with a projected 4.8 million tons, improving cargo capacity would include projects like an added taxiway, fuel tender, fumigation facility and expansions to a building and apron.

“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,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez.

On top of this, MIA is one of the State’s largest direct and indirect job providers, with over 270,000 people holding jobs that are related to the airport’s operation.

“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.”

Photo: BriYYZ

Profitable cargo operators like Amazon Air have already set up onsite facilities to sort packages and maintain twice-daily freighter service with a Boeing 767-300F aircraft to destinations across the U.S. MIA became part of Amazon Air’s flight operations back in October 2018.

This project will ensure that the projected 77 million passengers that the airport expects to handle by 2040 are well catered, with an increase from the current 418,000 aircraft movements to a projected 646,000.

The multi-billion-dollar program is the latest in a string of historic milestones for MIA, which celebrated its 90th anniversary last September.