Future arrives Aug. 29 for MIA with terminal opening
By April M. Havens
Miami International Airport's $1.1 billion 1.7 million-square-foot South Terminal should be open by Aug. 29, officials say.
The terminal, 10 years in the making, will contain Concourses H and J, three security checkpoints, 19 airlines, 150 ticket counters, 30 gates, 61 food and retail outlets and decor by local artists.
The terminal's greatest feature will be its accommodation of international flights, said Max Fajardo, deputy director of operations and maintenance for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. All gates on Concourse J will be international, and only a few gates on Concourse H will remain domestic, he said.
A new federal inspection service area will be able to process 2,000 international passengers an hour, and a corridor ties Concourse J to Concourse H, which means international passengers can catch connecting flights without re-entering a security checkpoint, Mr. Fajardo said.
The terminal "has all of the latest technology in it, but what makes it unique in terms of facilities is its sheer size," Mr. Fajardo said. "It's our model for future terminals. It has higher ceilings, higher quality concessions and more room for passengers, all of the amenities one could want."
The baggage facility, which will allow all baggage to be processed by the Transportation Security Administration behind the ticket counter, will benefit both the passenger and airline, he said.
"As a passenger, you don't have anything to do with it after you drop it off," Mr. Fajardo said. "It allows for faster processing of the baggage, and if there is a problem, it's identified quicker."
Having three entry checkpoints will also allow for speedy traveling, he said.
The terminal, when fully operational, will handle 25% of Miami International Airport's total traffic. Airport spokesman Greg Chin said the airport processed 32.5 million passengers last year.
The terminal's 1,000-foot connection corridor will include such retail shops as Sunglass Hut, Palm One, Taxco Sterling, Perry Ellis, Hugo Boss, Cubavera, 10 Minute Manicure, Brookstone and Navarro Discount Pharmacy.
Food sellers will include Famiglia Pizzeria, Island Chicken-N-Grill, McDonald's, Gilbert's News Café and Sweet Factory, according to Mr. Chin. All vendors will not be open when the terminal opens later this month. They will be "built out as more of the 19 airlines are introduced," Mr. Chin said.
Additionally, the terminal will contain a new cruise and tour bus station.
Concourse J will also include a gate that can accommodate the new Airbus A380, a double-deck, 525-passenger airliner manufactured by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company. The A380's full economy-class design can accommodate up to 853 passengers.
Mr. Fajardo said it would take approximately 18 months to modify the gate to accommodate the A380, so the airport needs a "two-year head start" and a commitment from an airline before proceeding. Both Air France and Lufthansa have expressed interest in flying the A380 into Miami International.
Lufthansa spokeswoman Jennifer Urbaniak said the airline is considering Miami among other possibilities. "Miami is certainly one possibility," she said. "Other cities we are studying include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC. We'll take delivery of our first A380 in 2009 but are yet to decide where this first plane will operate to. Key hubs in North America and Asia are the priorities."
Air France did not respond to inquiries.