Miami International Airport handles more cargo, passengers than in 2006
By Lou Ortiz
Miami International Airport passenger and cargo loads this year are on pace to exceed those in 2006, ensuring that the airport will keep its ranking as one of the busiest in the country in both markets, officials said.
Cargo through the first 10 months totaled 1,745,505 tons, up 5.03% from the same period in 2006, Miami-Dade County Aviation Department statistics show.
A total of 372,204 tons inbound and outbound are expected for November and December, surpassing 2006's total 1,975,764 tons and keeping the airport No. 1 in the US for international cargo, statistics show.
"It's been a consistent increase," said Bunny Schreiber, an aviation cargo specialist at the county department for 15 years.
"It's about location, location, location," she said. "We're the gateway between the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean."
The airport's cargo last year included 69% of all perishables destined for distribution in the US, including 85% of flowers, 64% of fish and 59% of fruits and vegetables, Ms. Schreiber added.
"No other airport in the country has the infrastructure to handle perishables," said Larry Foutz, a transportation system manager for the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, who serves as coordinator for the Freight Transportation Advisory Committee.
"Despite our lack of central location, they are able to distribute [the goods] very well," he said.
In 2006, the cargo volume was valued at $41 billion.
Miami is also likely to keep its No. 3 ranking among US airports for international passengers, with 12,871,851 inbound and outbound in the first 10 months this year, 5.35% above the same period in 2006.
The busiest international passenger facility in the US in 2006 was John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, followed by Los Angeles.
Miami officials expect more than 2.1 million additional international passengers through Dec. 31, exceeding last year's total of 14,728,010.
The numbers of domestic and international airport passengers are going up as the memory of 9/11 fades, said Aviation Department spokesman Marc Henderson.
"As we get beyond 9/11, the people's confidence level is going up," he said.
During the first 10 months of 2007, domestic passengers totaled 15,173,896, up 2.37% from the same period last year.
Airport officials expect another 2.8 million domestic passengers to be added to this year's tally before Dec. 31, surpassing 2006's total of 17,805,964.
The airport's new $1.1 billion South Terminal, with 15 gates and 168 ticket counters, opened Aug. 29.
The terminal is expected to handle 200 daily flights and 8 million passengers a year, about "25% of our total passengers," said Greg Chin, a spokesman for the aviation department.
The annual economic impact from Miami International and the county's general aviation airports is $25.6 billion. But growing business at Miami International is an ongoing process.
Ms. Schreiber said her department conducts seminars in Latin American countries, working with federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Federal Drug Administration and customs.
"We meet with growers and exporters and teach them how to get their goods in the United States and Europe," she said. "We really try to help out in any way we can."