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Orlando International Airport prepares for terminal upgrades

Orlando International Airport prepares for terminal upgrades


ORLANDO, Fla. Already one of the nations busiest airports, record travel demand is prompting Orlando International Airport (MCO) to undertake major improvement and renovation projects.

What you need to know

  • Work is underway to build a pedestrian walkway between Terminal C and the intermodal station at Orlando International Airport
  • Future renovations will focus on selected areas of the existing Terminal A and B
  • MCO officials say they plan to expand the reserve parking program and install parking guidance system technology
  • Experts say that the airport is expected to serve 60 million passengers by the end of the year

Airlines are working to meet the demands of the nearly 60 million passengers who plan to fly in and out of Orlando International Airport by the end of the year.

At times, the MCO may have at least 45 airlines offering more than 850 daily flights. As of May, service between Orlando International and Atlanta (ATL) remains the busiest route in the domestic United States, according to OAG.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Kevin Thibault said the various projects still in the planning stages, or already in development, will help handle the growing demand. The current challenge, Thibault said, is maximizing the use of space in Terminals A, B and C based on airline schedules and facility usage.

Terminal C

Existing work underway at the recently opened Terminal C includes the addition of eight more gates and the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the terminal building to the adjacent intermodal station, which houses the Brightline and Parking Garage C.

The 1.8 million square meter Terminal C opened in 2022. Built with 15 initial gates, Terminal C is the largest expansion project in the airports history. It was designed to accommodate up to 10 million passengers a year, but in its first year of opening, it handled around 6.4 million passengers on 48,300 flights.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Spectrum News that the federal government is investing billions to help improve airports, including those in Central Florida. Orlando International received $260 million for improvements to Terminal C, while Melbourne Orlando International Airport received $8 million in federal funding to rehabilitate their terminal and improve their baggage handling system, Buttigieg said.

“What excites me about this funding is that it's about back-of-the-house things that you might never see, but they make a difference,” he said. (It also includes) more passenger-facing things like the quality and feel and experience of an airport terminal, and recognizing the economic engine that facilities like Orlando International Airport represent. It's not just important for travelers, but really everyone who is part of that economy.

To keep up with future growth, construction is underway on eight additional narrow-body gates, which are likely to open within the next two years.

That will give us additional capacity,” Thibault said. “We can move more airlines down there.”

JetBlue and a list of international carriers are the main airlines operating out of Terminal C, while others such as Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United, etc. are operating out of the existing A and B terminals, as are a smaller proportion of international airlines.

Terminal C was built to relieve pressure on Terminals A and B, which had long since exceeded the capacity they were built for.

Terminals A and B

MCO has been gradually renovating various areas of land and terminal buildings in recent years, but now the focus has turned to even bigger renovation projects.

As we opened C, we knew we had to come back here to A and B and say, what should we do?' Thibault said.

The estimated $40 million change will focus on the interior of Airsides 1 and 3 and Levels 1 and 3 of Terminals A and B, which make up the North Terminal Complex.

Airsides 1 and 3 are the gate areas for Alaska, American, Breeze, Frontier, Spirit, United and other airlines. Renovations here, Thibault said, include refreshing and renovating the passenger areas and expanding the restrooms.

We were doing the same thing here in the ground floor building, levels 1 and 2, where bag claim and ground handling are, redoing all the carpeting, the tile floor, all of that would be done over the next two years, Thibault said. . At the same time, replacing every concession in this North Terminal Complex, from the Southwest gates and the American gates, each location over the next two years will have an entirely new food and beverage and retail offering.

Part of the challenge for the renovations is that the airport will be limited to the footprint of the existing facility, but Thibault said there are opportunities to make better use of the current space, especially in food and retail areas.

We noticed over time that fewer people wanted to do the sit-down restaurants and wanted to go to the food court, and the sit-down area was bigger than the food court, so as part of this new concession approach , were returning locations, Thibault said. They both have the same needs, so now they were taking advantage of the larger space to accommodate more people, because that's where they really want to be.

Thibault said the airport is using the renovations to respond to passenger feedback and wishes. With most international services now in Terminal C, Thibault said the airport plans to move the duty-free shop out of the Spirit and Frontier area to better take advantage of the space.

Navigating around the airport

Thibault said the airport's plans go beyond fresh carpet, tile and expanded bathrooms. They are also looking to find ways to entertain people with extra time at the airport. This includes cruise passengers, who usually arrive at the airport several hours before their flight. That's why Thibault said they're exploring entertainment options before security.

The things we're looking to offer them are experiences,” Thibault said. “Do they have food experiences that they can go into and interact with passengers waiting for their flight, or waiting to go to check-in? Can we offer things like augmented reality and virtual reality so people can have a gaming-type experience while they're waiting?

Parking pains

Parking has long been a common complaint among Central Floridians flying in and out of Orlando International Airport. In October, Bunnell resident Leann Johnston was among those who shared stories of frequent pain trying to find parking.

By the end of 2023, Thibault said the MCO has opened up 2,000 more parking spaces by building new lots or expanding existing ones.

Now, with nearly 22,000 parking spaces across the property, Thibault said spots are more available. As individual garages or parking lots reach capacity at peak times, Thibault said the airport is taking steps to ensure there is enough parking to meet demand. However, he said, things have changed.

What was found is the phenomenon, if you've lived here like I have since 1988, you're using to go to garage A, Level 3, Row C, Point 14, and it's no longer there, someone else has my spot, Thibault said. . It is the use of knowing that you must now go to another place.

CURRENT parking options at MCO include Garages A, B and C, as well as the surface lots near Terminal C, and the North Park Place and South Park Place economy areas. West Park Place Economy Lot is open seasonally.

There are a number of efforts underway, Thibault said, to improve the parking experience. MCO's reserved parking program in Terminal C will soon be extended to the top of the terminal in A and B.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board also approved plans to begin a $10 million project to install Parking Guidance System technology in their parking structures. These systems are similar to those found at Central Florida attractions such as Disney Springs, where boards display current point openings and green and red lights indicate open and occupied parking spaces.

The contract is expected to be awarded in June.

Longer term, perhaps by the end of the decade, Thibault said one goal is to eventually build a consolidated rental car facility that's accessible from the existing streetcar system for moving people. This would then free up parking spaces in garages A, B and C, which are currently occupied by car rental companies.

Traveling this summer?

Passengers traveling in and out of Orlando International Airport are encouraged to keep the 3-2-1 in mind.

3 hours before your flight: Arrive at the airport in plenty of time to find parking and check in for your flight. SunPass Plus is an optional (not automatic) feature to allow you to park in any of the MCO's parking facilities using your SunPass.

2 hours before your flight: It is recommended that you go through TSA security at least two hours before your flight. Don't have TSA PreCheck? of free MCO Reserve program allows those without TSA PreCheck to schedule their security screening time if their flight departs between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

1 hour before your flight: Passengers are required to be at their gate at least one hour before their flight and must keep an hourly watch on the flight monitors to be aware of any possible gate or flight changes.




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