Jump in Fort Lauderdale reflects passenger declines here
By Sherri C. Ranta
Passenger traffic out of Miami International Airport dropped for the third straight year, most notably on domestic flights, as some Miami passengers chose to fly in and out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Statistics show the number of passengers flying out of Miami International down about -0.8% to 33,621,273 for the year ending Dec. 31. Domestic traffic took the biggest dip, down -3.9% to about 17,441,195.
The number of international passengers actually rose about 2.7% to 16,180,078, according to airport statistics released this week.
Just up the road, at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, passenger volume jumped 13% to 15.85 million passengers in 2000 with the increase primarily traced to a rising number of domestic passengers.
The increase makes Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International one of the fastest growing airports in the US, said spokesman Jim Reynolds.
Mr. Reynolds attributed the airport's growth to an increase in the number of available flights over the past few years by low-cost airlines such as Southwest, Spirit, Jet Blue and Metro Jet. People living in the local area as well as Greater South Florida, he said, are realizing they can find the flights they need in Fort Lauderdale.
Airport statistics show the number of passengers flying out of Miami International were down overall for the third straight year. In 1999, the number of passengers decreased about -0.1%, with the primary dip from domestic passenger traffic, which fell 1.6% in the period. The number of international passengers increased 1.8%.
In 1998, the number of passengers decreased -1.7%, with overall decreases in both the domestic, down 3%, and international, down a modest 0.1%.
In 1997, the Miami airfield saw an increase in the number of passengers, up 3.1%, with increases both in the domestic, up 2.3%, and international, up 4%, arenas.
Despite a three-year downturn, Miami International officials expect an overall increase in domestic and international passengers this year, said Peter Reaveley, consultant for international planning for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.
Y2K concerns, he said, left many planes on the ground in January as domestic passengers decided to stay home and economic slowdowns in Latin America meant fewer international passengers.
Together, the two factors, along with the availability of more flights and cheaper fares at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, resulted in an overall decrease in passengers, Mr. Reaveley said.
With Y2K concerns over and economies improving in Latin America, airport officials are expecting a 3% increase in international passengers this year, he said, which in turn should lead to about a 2% increase in domestic passengers taking connecting flights out of Miami.
Will the domestic market at Miami International ever be eliminated by travel from Fort Lauderdale? Both Mr. Reaveley and Mr. Reynolds say no.
Miami International will always have connecting domestic flights as many of the international passengers continue travel to the interior of the US, Mr. Reaveley said.
Over the years, the trend has been for the percentage of international passengers to increase at Miami International. Statistics show the percentage of international passengers at 32% in 1970; 38% in 1980; 39% in 1990 and 48% in 2000.
By 2020, Miami International's international passengers could top 60% of all passenger traffic, Mr. Reaveley said.
Mr. Reynolds said Fort Lauderdale and Miami International have different emphasis. Fort Lauderdale will never compete with Miami for long-haul international flights, he said, because its runways are not long enough. He said he sees domestic flights as the primarily emphasis at Fort Lauderdale, while Miami International's future is seen more and more as an international hub.
Still, officials at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau are paying attention to the increase in domestic travel at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International.
Last August, bureau President Bill Talbert said at least 1 million of those travelers using Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International wind up spending one or more nights in Miami-Dade County.
At that time, Mr. Talbert said, the bureau had been tracking for almost a year the number of passengers arriving in Fort Lauderdale and had found that 12% to 21% each month wind up in Miami-Dade, filling the gap left by declining domestic passengers at Miami International.
About 90% of Fort Lauderdale arrivals who come to Miami-Dade are domestic passengers, he said.
The gains in Fort Lauderdale passengers who wind up in Miami-Dade overnight more than offset any domestic passenger loss Miami International Airport is experiencing, said William Anderson Jr., convention bureau planning and research director.