Hub Role Drives Miami International Airports Growing International Share
Written by Miami Today on August 10, 2000
Miami International Airport has recorded its 13th consecutive month of increases in international passenger traffic, pushing closer to the day when international passengers outnumber domestic fliers at the airport.
"Sooner or later" that will happen, says Bruce Drum, an assistant director of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.
As of June, the most recent month for which details are available, more than 47% of the passenger traffic was international — 1,315,529 passengers, up 5.5% from June 1999.
Offsetting that hike, domestic travel was down 3.3% from a year ago to about 1.46 million passengers.
"Miami’s place in the world is evolving more and more every day," Mr. Drum said. "We are a global international hub" with long-distance flights and higher-yield routes.
Mr. Drum said hub operations at Miami International by American and United airlines, the resurgence of Latin America and the fact that more Americans are traveling to Europe on vacations because of the strong US economy are combining to boost Miami International’s passenger traffic abroad.
Conversely, he said, domestic passenger loads are flat or declining because the low-cost domestic carriers are centered at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
But at least 1 million of those travelers to Ft. Lauderdale wind up spending one or more nights in Miami-Dade County each year, said Bill Talbert, CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. He said 85% of them are hotel visitors, and that’s "what drives the hotel tax and is the basic sign of health of the industry."
The bureau, Mr. Talbert said, for almost a year has been tracking passengers arriving in Ft. Lauderdale and has found that 12% to 21% each month wind up in Miami-Dade, filling the gap left by declining domestic passengers at Miami International. About 90% of those Ft. Lauderdale arrivals who come to Miami-Dade are domestic passengers, he said.
The gains in Ft. Lauderdale passengers who wind up in Miami-Dade overnight more than offset any domestic passenger loss Miami International is experiencing, said William Anderson Jr., convention bureau planning and research director.
Through the first five months of this year, Mr. Anderson said, Ft. Lauderdale’s air traffic was up 9.2%.
The two largest aviation alliances, American’s One World and United’s Star Alliance, are combining to drive more international carriers to Miami International to link with those two major carriers, Mr. Drum said.
In just the past year, he noted, Swissair and Turkish Airlines both established their first operations at Miami International to link with American.
And, he said, more international carriers are probably on the way — including several Asian airlines. Also, he noted, Finnair now lands at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood but has joined the One World operation and would find it more convenient to be at Miami International.
Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier, has also joined One World — and there is no Irish nonstop now available from Miami International, Mr. Drum said.
New Boeing aircraft have just been announced, he said, that can stay aloft for up to 18 hours, opening the door to nonstops from here to Japan.
"Miami’s future is more and more of an international hub airport," he said.
Mr. Talbert said he agreed. It’s forecast, he said, that Miami International will become this region’s international link while Ft. Lauderdale becomes the domestic airport for the region.
That international role, Mr. Drum said, is a boon to Miami because it does not have a large enough population to support all international services available here. It is the existence of the hubs, he said, that makes possible the breadth of flight schedules.
And the number of flights is growing. Flight operations — the number of take-offs and landings — increased at Miami International 0.1% to 41,452 in June. That’s 1,381 a day, 57.5 an hour and nearly one every minute.
In cargo, said Lauren Gail Stover, associate aviation department director for public affairs, a 10.9% climb in freight volume in June can be traced to increased belly space on American Airlines’ B777 aircraft as well as "a significant increase in UPS operations as it consolidates its acquisition of Challenge Air Cargo."
Close to 24,000 tons of domestic cargo were moved through the airport in June, part of more than 132,000 tons processed at Miami International in the month.
That figure is 2.8% less than it was in June ’99 due to a 5.3% drop in international freight in the period, Ms. Stover says.
Trade observers cite economic slumps in some Latin American countries as responsible for the drop in global freight volumes through Miami.