Like many airports, Orlando International Airport has been under construction during the pandemic. Altered travel patterns will not only make the MCO the seventh busiest airport in the world in 2021, but it will also continue construction of a new $2.8 billion terminal, which will open next month.
The new terminal will cover 300 acres with 15 additional gates and an estimated airport capacity increase of 10 million to 12 million passengers. In 2021, the airport will be ranked seventh in the world with 40.3 million passengers. In 2019, it ranked 31st in the world with 50.6 million visitors. Pandemic restrictions on travel patterns have sharply reduced international travel, while domestic leisure travel has resumed rapidly, especially in Florida and the rest of the South.
What differentiates Terminal C is modernity, unobstructed views and 1.8 million square feet of space, advancements in technology, especially in security and baggage handling . “We are delighted to launch a terminal that is at the forefront of passenger convenience and access to technology,” said CEO Kevin Thibault. Thibault said the technology is compelling and could increase airport traffic, especially when it is connected to a rail line that will provide 18 daily flights between the airport and densely populated South Florida . Orlando surpassed Miami International Airport as the busiest airport in Florida in 2017. Meanwhile, counties surrounding Orlando were growing rapidly before and during the pandemic.
Some technical improvements are being made to security, at gates as well as TSA security stations. At the gate, passengers will be cleared to board through facial recognition. “We’ll be using this technology at every gate instead of boarding passes and scanning,” Thibault said. At the same time, TSA security has also been upgraded. Terminal C will have 8 lanes for TSA clearance, with an option to add 4 more. A new feature is that agents at different sites can take over and scan the bags with different scanners if the bag screening conveyor slows down. Thibault said, “If there is a backup in lane four, or if the agent is distracted, the agent at the remote site can view the luggage from elsewhere.”
will not be so obvious, but airports will also have a status of baggage handling, a method that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to The method by which baggage is transported from the aircraft to the baggage claim. At Terminal C, bags will be shipped primarily in containers with tracking chips, reducing time on conveyor belts. The chips will make tracking easier, and the bins won’t get stuck on the conveyor belt like bags sometimes do, and the conveyor belt will be closer to the plane. Additionally, the new system features luggage storage, which will help thousands of cruise passengers arrive at the airport from nearby Port Canaveral, the second-largest cruise port. “They came from cruising (before the flight) for a few hours,” Thibault said. “It’s really good for passengers to put bags into the system early.”
Airport brochures promoting the new terminal include the question: “How many ‘wow’ factors can Are you suitable for an airport terminal?” In addition to baggage handling, automated TSA lanes and facial recognition at gates, it cites Bluetooth navigation beacons for travelers, giving controllers visibility into airport traffic unobstructed Unique virtual ramp control system, green building standard design and stunning views.
Terminal C is scheduled to have its first international flight on September 20, followed by domestic flights on September 26. JetBlue will be the anchor tenant, with international airlines including Aer Lingus Azul, British Airways, Emirates and Lufthansa. All three Orlando terminals will have international arrival capabilities.
When Brightline trains begin service to Miami in 2023, Terminal C will gain high-speed rail access for a three-hour journey. West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Terminal C connects to the airport’s intermodal terminal facilities: the first train was commissioned in May. Currently, Brightline is about 80% complete.
In terms of airport growth, changes in travel patterns during the pandemic have removed Chinese airports from the list of busiest airports in the world and pushed up Charlotte, Denver and Orlando and other airports. With the return of international travel, “the statistics will change, but we’re optimistic that we can stay at the top of the list,” Thibault said. “Our domestic numbers are back to where they were, and we’ve done so in a very short period of time (indicating) that Central Florida is continuing to grow.” Most international airlines serving Europe and Latin America have returned. In addition, in March, Avianca started Medellin-Orlando and Virgin Atlantic launched Edinburgh-Orlando. Delta will resume its Orlando-Amsterdam route in October.
Thibaud became Orlando’s superintendent in March after two years as Florida’s secretary of transportation.
A native of Fall River, MA, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1985 and moved quickly to Florida to work as a civil engineer in the public and private sectors. He said he applied for the job at the airport because it brings together many aspects of transportation, including highways, parking lots, cruise ships and, soon, high-speed rail. “DOT
An unusual feature of Orlando is the wide disparity among the top seven Airlines, each with at least 7% of passengers. In June, Southwest had 20% of Orlando passengers; Spirit 16%; Delta 13%; Frontier 12%; American 11%; JetBlue 9% and United 8%. Asked why United’s share was so low, Tebow replied: “That’s a good question. I have on my to-do list to be with Mr Kirby (CEO Scott Kirby) Meet and see what they have in mind in Orlando.” He added that he has met or will meet with the CEOs of all of the airport’s top airlines, given the expansion opportunities that Terminal C presents. Start-up airline Breeze began service in Charleston, South Carolina in June.
As for international ambitions, Thibault said: “We are known to be happy to serve Asia. My predecessor Phil Brown was here before the pandemic. There have been efforts and some really good conversations, but the pandemic has taken the sails out of steam. We have to revisit that.” He said Tokyo and Seoul were particularly suitable as non-stop destinations.