Sunday, April 15, 2012

Managing Miami International Airport (KMIA), Florida

Miami International Airport is a very familiar sight for anyone living in the Cayman Islands. It is the most frequent port of entry into the United States and the main hub for Cayman Airways.

Over the last decade the airport has gone through significant changes as the amount of traffic routed through its facility has grown exponentially in a relatively short period of time.

Some years ago a need for expansion was recognized as more and more airlines chose Miami to be included on their schedules.

As a result a four-phase plan was devised to upgrade it to a modern, efficient machine capable of processing and routing passengers with a combination of state-of-the-art technology, moving walkways and automated shuttles.

Jose Abreu is the director of the airport and has been overseeing this major project while at the same time trying to minimize inconvenience to travelers as the work progresses.

Despite the issues that ongoing construction inevitably brings, he is confident that once the job is finished, the airport will be a landmark facility making travel a much more pleasant experience for the thousands of visitors moving through the concourses on a daily basis.

Q. How long have you been the director of Miami Airport?

A. Since July 2005. Before that I was Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation under Governor Jeb Bush.

Q. What changes have you seen in the years you’ve been working there?

A. MIA has doubled in size with the opening of a new 1.7 million square foot South Terminal in 2007 and completion of the 3.5 million square foot North Terminal in 2012. Approximately 95 per cent of our passengers now use modern, award-winning facilities featuring nearly 200 restaurants and stores. New features such as the South Terminal’s 40-lane international arrivals area, the North Terminal skytrain people mover, and the MIA Mover connection between MIA and the Miami Rental Car Centre now make travelling through MIA a much more convenient and pleasurable experience.

In the last seven years, we have implemented mandatory customer service training developed by the Disney Institute, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Miami-Dade College Centre of Service Excellence, which has improved the customer service at MIA as well.

Scores in our annual customer service survey in 2011 were the highest they have been in the last four years.

Q. What accomplishment are you most proud of in the time you’ve been director?

A. When I arrived in 2005, completing the Capital Improvement Program was without a doubt the critical path to the airport’s success. The programme will be completed this July with the opening of the North Terminal Federal Inspection Service area.

Since 2005, when the county assumed responsibility for the North Terminal Development Program and a new contractor was assigned, more than $200 million in costs and two years of construction have been saved, expediting the project.

Q. What do you think makes Miami airport unique from other airports?

A. What most sets MIA apart from other airports is that it is the largest US gateway for passengers and cargo from Latin America and the Caribbean, with more flights from the region than any other US airport and more perishable imports through MIA than all other US airports combined. MIA was the fastest growing large US airport in 2011 with a passenger increase of seven per cent, and we are the number two, US airport for international passengers, behind only JFK. MIA continues to be the top US airport for international freight and is the only US airport among the top 10 airports in the world for international freight.

Q. Obviously the amount of air traffic has significantly increased over the years. What is the airport doing to accommodate the added flights on the schedule?

A. The North Terminal Development Program has added 1.8 million square feet of new space and 1.7 million square feet of renovated space to the facility that serves as the Latin American and Caribbean hub for American Airlines. The North Terminal has been expanded to 47 gates and now features dual taxiways that double the amount of flights each gate can serve per day. The facility serves more than 300 flights per day and, combined with four long runways, has the capacity for twice as many flights. The new Federal Inspection Service area opening in July is twice the size of our current facility and has the capacity to serve 3,600 international passengers per hour. The South Terminal, completed in 2007, serves 20 of our major airlines and handles nearly 25 per cent of our passengers. Therefore 95 per cent of our passengers are now using facilities that are less than five years old and have the capacity to accommodate projected growth.

Q. Until the new immigration hall projected to open in July is officially in operation, what would be your advice to visitors travelling into or through Miami before they book their tickets?

A. Unfortunately, American Airlines [and Cayman Airways] passengers and others using the Concourse E Customs area may experience longer wait times in the passport control area during peak hours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, which are our busiest days. Passengers should schedule their travel plans accordingly if they are travelling on those days, especially for connecting flights, until the new North Terminal international arrivals facility opens in July. They should give themselves at least two hours between connecting flights. Airlines using the Concourse J Customs facility should not experience any abnormal delays.

Q. Does MIA have a long-term expansion plan to prepare for future growth?

A. We are currently in phase three of our four-phase Strategic Airport Master Planning Study, which will address capacity needs at MIA through 2050.

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