Miami International soars to record flying Latin America trips
By Scott Blake
Growth by Latin American carriers helped Miami International Airport surge to more than 10.2 million passengers in the first three months of 2012 — a record for the airport in the first quarter, Miami International officials said this week.
Largely on the strength of Latin American markets, Miami International has overtaken New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in the past two quarters as the US airport with the most international flights.
In January and February, carriers operating from Latin American and Caribbean markets recorded a collective increase in passengers of more than 13% in Miami, compared with the same period last year, airport officials said.
Miami-Dade County's airport now offers 1,143 weekly departures and 67 nonstop destinations in Latin American and the Caribbean, according to Miami International spokesman Greg Chin.
In February, Latin American carrier LAN Colombia started new service between Miami and Bogota with four weekly nonstop flights with the Airbus A320 jetliner, which typically seats 150 passengers.
That made Miami International the only US airport with service by all five carriers within the LAN group.
The LAN group of airlines — LAN Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and newly added Colombia — have combined for more than 1 million passenger arrivals and departures a year at Miami International, Mr. Chin said.
Miami's roster of Latin American carriers is expected to grow in June, when Brazil's GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes plans to launch daily service between its São Paulo hub and Miami. The new service, using a Boeing 737 jetliner, is scheduled to begin June 29 with stops in Caracas, Venezuela.
Also in June, US-based carrier American Airlines will increase service on its Brasilia and Belo Horizonte routes in Brazil to daily flights and launch new daily service to Manaus, Brazil.
American Airlines, Miami's chief carrier, already serves the most passengers in Miami to and from Latin America.
American Airlines totaled more than 10.2 million passenger arrivals and departures on its international flights in Miami for the 12 months from April 2011 through March 2012, Miami-Dade Aviation Department statistics show. American did not provide statistics for its individual foreign markets.
Miami's top Latin American-based carriers are LAN, TAM Linhas Aereas and Avianca, according to Mr. Chin.
TAM recorded 677,138 passenger arrivals and departures in Miami for the 12 months from April 2011 through March 2012, Miami-Dade Aviation Department statistics show. That was a 17.5% increase over TAM's passenger totals in Miami for the same period a year earlier.
Avianca, meanwhile, posted 576,450 passenger arrivals and departures in Miami from April 2011 through March 2012, up nearly 2% from the same period a year earlier.
TACA was the fourth-busiest Latin American carrier in Miami during the 12 months through March, recording nearly 354,844 arrivals and departures.
COPA was next with a total passenger count of 338,588 during that period, followed by LAN Chile with 337,309, Miami-Dade Aviation Department statistics show.
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