Drop in international passengers linked to Canada, Bahamas
By Sherri C. Ranta
The number of international passengers using Miami International Airport dropped 7.5% in January compared to the same month in 2000, a decrease Miami-Dade aviation officials attribute to fewer visitors from Canada and the Bahamas.
Airport consultant Peter Reaveley said the number of passengers going through US Customs in Miami only decreased by 0.5%.
That, he said, must mean the decline in passenger traffic was caused by a fall-off in the number of Miami-bound tourists from Canada and the Bahamas.
Most Canadian and Bahamian travelers, he said, go through US Customs before boarding planes at airports in Montreal, Toronto, Nassau or Freeport.
International passengers arriving from countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe must go through US Customs when they debark at Miami International.
If traffic from Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe had significantly decreased, Mr. Reaveley said, the corresponding number of customs inspections would have gone down.
Mr. Reaveley said other reasons for the plunge include the possibility that more South Florida-bound Canadian and Bahamian travelers are flying through other airports, such as Hartsfield International in Atlanta or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Broward County.
"Miami is becoming a Latin American city. Canadians are more comfortable in an American city," he said.
These days, Mr. Reaveley said, Canadians are more likely to vacation in Broward and West Palm Beach than Miami, as they did in the past.
On the domestic front, Miami International saw a 10% increase in passengers for January compared to the same month last year.
Mr. Reaveley said that increase is more likely an adjustment than a true rise. Last year, Y2K concerns kept many people on the ground at the start of the year, he said.
Despite the drop in the number of international passengers passing through Miami International in January, Mr. Reaveley said it was too soon to tell if the trend will continue.
He said he sees a 1% increase in the number of domestic passengers arriving here this year and a 2.5% increase in international passengers in 2001.
The numbers, Mr. Reaveley said, should be led by strong showings from Europe, Brazil and Chile.
Former Hartsfield airport director Angela Gittens was recently selected by the Miami-Dade County Commission to run Miami International and is expected to start work March 19. She said one issue at the Miami airport is keeping up with demand for international service.
Other Miami International Airport statistics show combined domestic and international freight tonnage up 9.3% in January compared to a year ago.
International totals increased 6.5% but the big news is a 25.2% increase in domestic freight the ninth straight month of increases in that category largely due to a 90% hike in domestic freight shipped by UPS, Mr. Reaveley said.
UPS, he said, acquired Challenge Air Cargo and is assimulating Challenge operations, a project that includes a 205,954-square-foot facility on 19.7 acres to be built at an estimated cost of $30 million.