American terminal overhaul to get under way in April
By Marilyn Bowden
Construction will begin in April on a redesign of the the American Airlines terminal at Miami International Airport, said David Brush, the company's managing director of corporate real estate.
American, the airport's dominant carrier, operates out of concourses A,B, C and D in the north terminal. Miami is the airline's Latin American hub and served 17.5 million passengers in 1999.
The $1.3 billion project is part of Miami International's $5.4 billion capital improvement program financed by user fees from airlines and vendors. Mr. Brush said American is contributing about $200 million for computer equipment and specialty finishes to areas such as its two Admirals Clubs, private waiting areas for club members and first-class passengers, and Flagship Lounge, for first-class passengers traveling on international or cross-country flights.
The north terminal renovations are slated for completion is mid-2006, he said.
"The work is mostly underground at the moment," Mr. Brush said. "We're laying sewer lines, electric lines, phone lines and the like to make way for the¯foundations.
"Some piles are going in. By the first of the year we will be putting some concrete columns in the air."
When the infrastructure work is complete, Mr. Brush said, concourse D will be extended onto the apron "so that it begins to parallel concourse E." That phase of the project is expected to get under way in the middle of next year.
Ultimately, Mr. Brush said, American's four terminals, which now jut out like fingers, will stretch out along a 1.3-mile tract in a more linear pattern.
"It's not that so many more gates will be added," he said, "but that a linear operation will be more effective and efficient for airlines and passengers."
The new configuration will require the demolition of existing terminals B and C, he said, and construction of a regional facility for American Eagle, the airline's commuter service.
The total number of jet gates will increase from 42 to 47, he said, all of them capable of handling international flights.
"That's very important," Mr. Brush said, "because at this point if they arrive and no international gate is available, they have to wait."
Gates serving international flights need direct access to customs and immigration on the third level, he said.
A people-mover system with four stations will speed traffic along the concourse, Mr. Brush said, and significantly reduce distances passengers must walk unassisted.
A future ground transportation complex, the Miami Intermodal Center planned just across LeJeune Road from the airport will eventually tie in to American's people-mover trains, he said.
Other improvements include wider corridors and larger passenger centers, lounges and Admirals Clubs.
"We are also adding adequate concession spaces near the departure lounges," Mr. Brush said. "It will be significantly better than we have today."
The greatest challenge, he said, is to accomplish the extensive construction work around the airline's existing operations.
American flies to 85 cities nonstop from Miami International, with an average of 189 flights daily, Mr. Bush said. American Eagle operates 80 to 100 commuter flights a day, depending on the season.
"Combined," he said, "the two account for a little over 50% of the airport's passenger operations."
In order to keep disturbances to passengers to a minimum, "it requires taking a bit longer," he said, "and it's phased differently than a green-field site in the middle of Kansas would be."
The project has been broken into 18 different architectural phases, each with its own architect, Mr. Brush said six of whom remain to be assigned.
"An outside firm did the master planning and some preliminary design," he said, "but most of the design work is by local firms.
About 50 general contractors will be used during the course of the project, he said, and somewhere between 900 and 1,100 sub-contractors putting up to 2,000 construction workers on site daily during the peak years of 2003-04.
General contractors are hired through a competitive bidding process American executives are overseeing on the county's behalf, Mr. Brush said.
"They're working with us," he said, "and we are using their policies and procedures."