The Continuing Sad Decline of Miami Air Service

Have you been through Miami lately? Unless you’re an American Airlines-loyalist, the answer is probably a firm “no.” While American’s presence continues to strengthen, other airlines are running away in droves. The latest is Delta, which dropped its last attempt to make non-hub flying there work this week. Why is this happening? True Meaning of Miami's Airport Code It’s actually a very clear lesson on how not to run an airport.

Miami is a vibrant city with a great local Latin population. That local presence combined with its location should make Miami a fantastic place for a Latin American hub. Sure enough, it is. It’s one of American’s jewels in an ever-rusting crown. By all accounts, it’s a rock star of an operation for the airline.

That makes sense, because soon enough, American and its oneworld partners might be the only ones left. Here’s a list of airlines that have left or cut back recently.

  • Air Jamaica cut its recently re-launched route to Kingston (but it still does Ft Lauderdale)
  • AirTran pulled all flights after the merger with Southwest
  • Alaska recently decided to switch its flights to Ft Lauderdale
  • Delta killed flights to Cincinnati, London, Memphis, Orlando, Raleigh/Durham, and Tampa
  • KLM canceled summer service to Amsterdam and winter service for next year is up in the air

So what’s left? A lot of silver birds. While Delta pulled out of many cities, it’s not like other US airlines are stepping in to fill the void. Pre-merger United doesn’t fly there much – there’s only one flight a day from Denver and three a piece from Chicago and Washington, many on regional jets. US Airways flies to Charlotte and Philly but it doesn’t even bother with its Phoenix hub. It can be downright difficult to find good flights to Miami if you’re traveling domestically . . . unless you fly American.

From Europe, there will continue to be some service, but it’s highly seasonal (winter, of course) and leisure-based. Nearly every Latin airline has to continue to fly there because that’s the bread and butter route, but we’re increasingly seeing even Latin carriers look elsewhere. TAM now flies double daily flights to Orlando in addition to its Miami service. But it’s not Orlando that’s the real threat. It’s Ft Lauderdale.

Ft Lauderdale has seen a tremendous increase in service over the last decade, much of it from low cost carriers. Sitting only 25 miles north of downtown Miami, Ft Lauderdale is not that far, especially considering how much of the population lives north of Miami itself.

Spirit makes its home in Ft Lauderdale with low cost flights all over the US and the Caribbean. JetBlue has grown its operation there over the last few years, and the new Southwest/AirTran combo will have a significant presence. Allegiant bases airplanes there while airlines like Alaska have moved service over from Miami. And despite its stated desire to fly into primary airports, Virgin America picked Ft Lauderdale over Miami. What gives?

You can probably blame it on two things. One is American. American is a tough competitor, and it fights ferociously if anyone invades its turf. But that doesn’t explain everything. The one that really grabbed me was Alaska’s decision to leave. Alaska and American are long time partners and American even puts it code on the Alaska flight. So something else is happening here to push airlines away.

That “something else” is Miami’s out-of-control spending. The airport is on a building spree putting together incredibly expensive, long-delayed terminals that are causing costs to simply skyrocket. In 2010, the airlines paid roughly $17.61 for each passenger boarded. In the next decade, that will balloon to over $30. Think about that. How can a low cost carrier survive in an environment like that? It can’t. And Alaska, despite not being a low cost carrier, apparently feels the same way. Everyone should. The crushingly high costs are simply too much to overcome, even with a partnership with American.

Of course, high costs alone wouldn’t cause the exodus. But high costs combined with a convenient alternative? Ah yes, that’s enough to make waves. It’s very easy for airlines to walk away from Miami and its money-wasting ways because Ft Lauderdale is so close. By comparison, Ft Lauderdale is downright cheap. In 2010, its cost per enplanement was a measly $5.32. You can imagine why low cost carriers have flocked there. That airport itself is going to see costs rise as it works to build a new runway for almost $800m (just broke ground), but even if costs tripled, it would be half of Miami.

Of course, if costs triple, Spirit and Allegiant might find themselves running away, so hopefully Ft Lauderdale is able to keep its spending down and its charges low. If the trend continues, we might just find Miami renaming itself to Miami oneworld International Airport.

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89 Comments on "The Continuing Sad Decline of Miami Air Service"

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Wayne Rutman
Guest

Interesting analysis. MIA has had a reputation for being mismanaged for at least 20 years. I did not know the costs were going to balloon that high. I suppose the loser in all this is Miami-Dade county, as it seems likely that the airport situation will accelerate the business shift north, such that Ft. Lauderdale will eventually be the “capital” of South Florida, with Miami declining in importance.

Andrew
Guest

Where are they going to add another runway at FLL? Looking at the airport from above, land around it looks pretty tight. Or are they simply lengthening the small runway on the south side of the airport (just from eyeballing it, it looks more like a general aviation runway as opposed to one that can handle most passenger traffic right now)?

XJT DX
Guest

Lengthening the south runway, over the highway no less. commuters are gonna really suffer durning construction:

comment image

http://www.bestaviation.net/news/new-ft-lauderdale-runway-to-create-new-aviation-jobs-181063/

fun fact: it will have a 1.3deg incline starting about halfway, making one end 65ft or six stories tall.

BSW
Guest

As part of all this work, are they finally going to add an “In Transit” section to the airport so passengers flying between Latin America and Europe can connect without having to clear customs? It seems foolish that everyone has to clear in just to spend three hours in the country. I’m sure American and British would love it if they did.

Todd
Guest

Does any US airport have an “in transit” section? I don’t know of any. I think it might be a customs regulation and not an airport issue.

BSW
Guest

I don’t know of any, but it would be good addition to a few, MIA, DFW, and Atlanta to name a few. It does get complicated, however, when the airlines want to have domestic and international arrivals at the same terminal, but they seem to do just fine with it at Heathrow.

Aran
Guest

In transit is impossible in the USA because international departures aren’t segregated from domestic. They are often side by side or across the concourse from each other.

There aren’t the same exit formalities that you see in most parts of the world, nobody stamps your passport when you leave the USA.

Fred
Guest

They can still have ‘in-transit’ baggage (NZ or QF does this at LAX – don’t remember which) where you still have to go through immigration but don’t have to claim your bags, drag them through customs, then recheck them.

Alon
Guest

Re: FLL’s new runway – – – you are correct. They are extending/enhancing the South runway so it will extend over US1 (the non-interstate road to the east of the airport) in a 6-story sloping bridge over the road…they will also have to demolish the Hilton hotel that is located on the south-west corner along I95 to make room

Dan
Guest

CF,

The situation you describe at MIA is rather funny, actually. As other carriers leave and the costs must be absorbed by AA/OW carriers, does that mean fares are going to continue to go through the roof and get prohibitively expensive?

FRANK
Guest

Where’s the money coming from for PIT? Not the airlines, there’s only alittle over 40 flights out of that airport daily, compared to some 500 in the 90’s. Charging airlines higher landing fees and boarding costs backfired there. It’s a ghost town.

David SF eastbay
Member
What goes around, comes around as the saying goes. Sounds like MIA/FLL show that. FLL used to be the poor step child of MIA, but now it’s Queen of the ball. But as MIA empty’s out, there will come a time with they most reduce costs to attract airlines. That may come at a time costs at FLL get to high and/or there will be no room to grow so airlines will again go back to MIA. AA will play a large part in what happens at MIA. As Dan said they will begin to have to cover more of… Read more »
Hugh Jar
Guest
What a simplistic statement to make, that “they most (must) reduce costs to attract airlines.” How do you do that when you’ve got a ton of bond indebtedness to pay off because you’ve spent $3 BILLION on just AA’s North Terminal which is twice the original contracted price and delayed for years? Add in the South Terminal’s cost of over a $1 BILLION which was built because the “other” airlines threatened to sue for equal facilities to AA’s? Let’s not forget the history of the “project that ate the airport.” AA hired a slew of high priced sleazy lobbyists to… Read more »
SEAN
Guest

Meanwhile MIA is constructing a new intermodle transit center that includes rental car center now open, TRI-RAIL station under construction, bus terminal for both MDT busses as well as inter city services under construction & MIA Mover now open.

In adition there are atemps to creat a transit village around the MIC including retail, hotels & airport related businesses.

tacony palmyra
Guest
Good analysis. I often prefer to fly into MIA over FLL these days for one reason: the Miami-Dade Transit “Airport Flyer” express bus that goes to South Beach in 35 minutes for $2.35. If you’re renting a car or getting picked up by someone with a car though, forget about it, FLL wins. It doesn’t seem like MIA will be able to compete with FLL purely on price for some time, so they have to capitalize on unique attributes that people will pay for, and one should be quicker, easier access to Downtown Miami, Brickell, South Beach, and the Port… Read more »
Fred
Guest

If the demand is there, I’m sure someone (either private or public) will start some sort of a bus to Miami for less than the $25 difference in landing fees. Just give it time.

davidp627
Member

I am flying to MIA this Sunday and will be utilizing the Airport Flyer cited by Tacony. What a bargain! I assume that it is safe, given some of the comments regarding MIA not being in a great area.

ptahcha
Guest

Miami is a horrible airport to transit/connect through. Signage is poor, and long walk to go from gate to gate. As an example, at the temporary USCIS passport control center, there is a directional sign that directs you into a wall.

SEAN
Guest

As an example, at the temporary USCIS passport control center, there is a directional sign that directs you into a wall.
I assume the wall is there for you to bang your head after getting fustrated with traveling through there? LOL

Steve
Guest

We flew out of MIA in June to Quito and back. Its a filthy, rotten, horrible, uncomfortable airport. Custom and immigration were a nightmare returning on AA with thousands of people being squeezed like sausage meat into casings. It is in a crime-ridden part of town, and there are numerous stories of crime inflicted on travelers after renting cars. As far as I’m concerned, may it REST IN PEACE.

The down side: when will all the extra business start to affect FLL, resulting in slow downs.

DAB
Guest
Then there is also PBI, which had for years been the best of the three to go in and out of since they completed the new terminal in 1990ish. Cheap-ish parking, pleasent terminal, low hassle… Of course, it has been half a decade since I have lived there so maybe things have changed. MIA has been a disaster my whole life, and FLL was always in some kind of state of flux making the place difficult to navigate. It is surprising to see in the comments that MIA is doing anything as intelligent as a rental center and metro-rail. Actually,… Read more »
Wayne Rutman
Guest

PBI is a nice airport with a good future, but for now the problem is a lack of flights and lack of competition. So what winds up happening is you can get a more conveniently-timed flight to FLL and save money at the same time — so you tend not to fly into PBI. Also, for most of the SoFla population, FLL is better situated.

DAB
Guest
Clearly from the location aspect, FLL is more central. However, depending on how much of a disaster it is with construction in any given year PBI can be more convenient, speaking as someone who grew up just north of Sunrise and Bayview… Clearly FLL is a lot closer, but my relatives who still live right there would rather drive the extra half hour or so to PBI rather than navigate FLL. Forget MIA for them. They are really price insensitive when it comes to avoiding MIA… Navigability wouldn’t affect me now, but I fly in and out of LAX all… Read more »
Ron
Guest

The flight selection at PBI is indeed somewhat limited — last year I chose a non-stop flight LAX–FLL and then took TriRail to Palm Beach in order to avoid having a connecting flight. Would have done the same on the return, but the buffer you need for a reliable rail-to-air connection made it impractical.

DougYWG
Guest

I flew into MIA last month from the Caribbean. Never again!! People are treated worse than cattle. The lineup for immigration was backed up right along the corridors, you couldn’t even get into the immigration hall. Dreadful experience. I had a three hour connection and I made it. Anything less, forget it.

Roger
Guest

I’ve heard lots of anecdotes that immigration at MIA is the worst in the US, especially the attitude of the officers towards foreigners, being extremely hostile. I don’t have any idea how true that is, but if it is I wonder how much of an effect it is having.

Lisa
Guest

It is obviously having zero effect. MIA’s traffic hit an all time record in 2011. It is the natipn’s fastest growing large/medium airport and it’s intentional traffic has absolutely exploded since 2007. This is exactly why amateur bloggers shouldn’t try to on consultant hats. They fail miserably. CF’s conclusion that MIA is a dying airport is based on the loss of six domestic routes that total 40 weekly frequencies. He has no idea what he is talking about.

BNS
Guest

Hey Lisa, I’m looking for a job in aviation consulting, and was wondering if you guys are hiring. I have an MA in Transport Economics. If you’re interested in hiring me, please email me braditude86@hotmail.com

Nick Barnard
Member

Huh? CF is Amateur blogger with an MBA and experience in the industry? Perhaps you should work on knowing the author a bit before attacking him.

I rarely trust consultants further than I can throw them.

Is a logical possibility for the increase in boardings AA’s cornerstone strategy?

travelnate
Guest

Lisa,

How many times have YOU been on CNN… how many nationwide aviation conferences have asked YOU to headline or speak on a panel? I mean, if Brett is just an “amateur” you might want to do some research on him first.

Kishoreajoshi
Guest

Anyone who writes ” it’s intentional traffic” is just the kind of expert consultant in high demand…

Zack Rules
Guest

The stupid part of the matter is that Miami and South Florida in general have grown in leaps and bounds. I bet if costs were lower at MIA, there would be at least another 5-10m passengers there. With Jetblue on the move to add int’l flights at FLL [although Spirit seems to have run of markets that work for them there],

Cranky, where did you see Delta pulling most of their MIA non-hub flights? I see downgauging to RJ’s for Memphis/Cincinnati and only RDU being dropped altogether.

Sam
Guest

Wow. What a terrible article. Did you even notice that Miami was, and still is, the fastest growing large airport in the United States? And you do realize that most of Miami’s extensive European service is year-round, yes? Apparently not. Do your homework before writing such a garbage piece. Your bias really shows.

In 2011-12, American has lured VivaAerobus, Interjet, LAN Colombia, KLM, TAP Portugal, Arkefly and Transaero.

Claire
Guest

You’re obviously an MIA plant, as is Steven, probably. I will ignore you.

Fred
Guest

Where do you get your numbers and data from? This is talking about the future, not the past year anyways.

Steven
Guest
Wow. I’ve lost a significant amount of respect for you after reading this article. Let’s use some facts: 1) Miami has attracted more new airlines than any other U.S. airport since 2010. 2) Miami is the fastest growing airport in the U.S. 3) Only one of Miami’s European services is seasonal (KLM), and they tend to be ran on low-density, three-class aircraft where available with top premium products. The loss of one daily AirTran flight, one daily Alaska Airlines flight and four weekly Air Jamaica flights somehow means the end of the world for the fastest growing U.S. airport? Do… Read more »
Sam
Guest

This article has to be some sort of joke. The fastest growing major U.S. airport is in “sad decline.” Really?!?

Sam
Guest

This article has to be some sort of joke. The fastest growing major U.S. airport is in “sad decline.” Really?!?

Albert
Guest

I seriously hope you edit this article pronto to eliminate bias and add facts. Hate MIA all you want, but don’t right an article about supposed declining air service at an airport that is growing faster and attracting more new carriers than any other in the nation.

Fastest growing U.S. major airport:

http://www.anna.aero/2012/02/15/americas-top-20-airports-grew-by-2-5pc-in-2011/

Most new airlines at a U.S. airport:

http://www.miami-airport.com/pdfdoc/clips_annie-award.pdf

Lisa
Guest

Heres a tip for a blogger that’s want to be taken seriously: when you write an article about an airport’s “declining air service,” yet that airport is the fastest growing airport in the nation, you look really dumb.

http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2012/02/15/miami-airport-fastest-growing-of-top.html

Bobber
Guest

Afternoon all, did I miss anything?

BCH
Guest

“The Sad Decline of Miami Air Service.” Right up there with “The Heartbreak of Psoriasis.”

Jim
Guest
MIA just recently (I believe a couple of years ago) overtook LAX as the second largest international gateway in the country, after JFK. There is no question that international service is rapidly increasing. Domestic service, as CF has explained, is decreasing. This is not surprising given the high landing fees. For domestic flights, the landing fee is a higher percentage of the ticket, and therefore more of a deterrent, especially for low cost carriers. For long-haul international flights, an extra $30 makes little difference. I don’t think this is necessarily bad for Miami, because international tourists will keep the airport… Read more »
Lisa
Guest
Yet domestic passengers last year were up 5.8%. There are zero facts to support this aryicle’s ludicrous assertion. MIA attracted more airlines in the past two years than most airports attract in one decade. It’s growth through these years has been so phenomenal, it was a keynote speaker at Routes Americas in Nassau, where it talked in length as to how it has been able to buck all industry trends. No Relevant US. airport is growing, FLL included, is growing as fast or attracting as much new service as MIA. Facts are a good thing – too bad the author… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member

It’s been many many many years since I was at MIA. That was back flying PanAm and Eastern and some of their areas used to smell like a damp musky basement.

Tony
Guest

Lots of butthurt people from Miami posting here…

Jim
Guest

Oh, and Cranky, I don’t think Delta killed CVG and MEM service from MIA. According to wikipedia, Delta simply downgraded them from mainline to regional.

Regarding MIA-LHR on Delta, according to Delta’s website they are still running. Maybe it’s just a seasonal thing?

David SF eastbay
Member

DL announced today that starting April 17, 2012 they will start a second ATL-LHR flight. Starting April 17 and beyond the MIA-LHR nonstop is zero space. So it sounds like that extra slot at LHR for the second ATL flight is coming from MIA and it just hasn’t canceled out of the system yet.

Lisa
Guest
As if the basic premise of the article by itself doesn’t prove the author did no research, let me address his statement that it’s European service is “high seasonal” and “winter, of counts.” Airline / JAN12 weekly frequency / JUL frequency Air France / 6 / 7 Airberlin / 5 / 8 Alitalia / 9 / 10 American / 31 / 28 Arkefly / 2 / 2 British Airways / 14 / 21 Corsair / 4 / 3 (but switches from A330 to a 521 seat 747) Iberia / 7 / 11 KLM / 4 / 0 Lufthansa / 12… Read more »
travelnate
Guest

I’d love to see a year over year comparison of passengers, flights, airlines, and routes between MIA and FLL… those numbers should be an interesting story.

Nick Barnard
Member

This blog entry’s comments remind me why every time I hear a company has hired a consultant for some key task I pause, then roll my eyes.

Oh Lisa it’s spelled article, but this is an opinion piece.

b757capt
Guest

Nicely done. LOL

Andrew
Guest

If “Lisa” is actually an honest-to-god aviation consultant and not some guy sitting on his couch in Miami, this real-life consultant will run around a city block in Manhattan naked when he’s there next week.

Ryan
Guest

Me thinks Lisa is really Kate Hanni. If not, then CF has officially found public enemy number 2 and I look forward to many fun filled comment sections in the future. Maybe you should go “Across the Aisle” with this consulting firm Brett. Sounds like you are neighbors. You should schedule a lunch date.

Bill from DC
Guest

your only mistake is pausing. the eyeroll should be instantaneous!

yo
Guest

The Miami airport hates children, puppies and unicorns!

MIA has the highest rate of spontaneous human combustion of all airports in America, as well as the highest number of fatal wolverine attacks.

My consulting firm is currently working to declare MIA as a Superfund toxic waste asbestos/plutonium/agent orange disposal site. I will refute anything that your consulting firm prints about MIA. To expedite the process of making MIA uninhabitable, I am going to hire Tony Orlando as the spokesman for MIA airport. Our new slogan “MIA, its slightly better than a rectal exam”

AndrewS
Guest

I was in Miami over the weekend, but flew into FLL

Ryan
Guest
Wow I wish I got out my popcorn before going through these comments. This is great! I find it hilarious that a “consultant” who makes comments full of misspellings on an aviation blog, in the same breath tries to bash the blogger and accuse him of getting information from airliners.net. A) This comment form does have spell check…(hint, it underlines words that are spelled wrong with a red squiggly line) B) Would comment on a blog they render meaningless and nothing but noise pollution and then themselves spew their own form of trolling noise pollution. I hope we don’t have… Read more »
Bill from DC
Guest

LOL, Comment of the Year so far! But what do you know about commercial aviation; after all, you just work for an airline!

Louis
Guest
I live in North Miami, and work in downtown Miami. I fly often domestically and almost always end up flying from FLL because of 1- lower fares 2- better timings of flights, ie. more flights to major US cities. I would prefer to fly out of MIA, but the fares are too high for the company to absorb without an AA Corporate account and even when AA’s fares are competitive, the frequency to places like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Detroit are simply not timed well for me. Fort Lauderdale itself has become a crowded and congested airport, while MIA… Read more »
SEAN
Guest

Lisa, Dam I want your Phone Number! LOL

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[…] The Continuing Sad Decline of Miami Air Service – >> The Cranky Flier – crankyflier.com Have you been through Miami lately? Unless you're an American Airlines-loyalist, the answer is probably a firm "no." While American's presence continues to st […]

Chris
Guest

Cranky,
Remember that MIA continues to offer big incentives to those airlines (especially international) who begin new service…You will undoubtedly see new service (TAP, for instance), but the staying power of such arrangements remains to be seen

David SF eastbay
Member

Someone talked about using FLL due flights to more cities or something like that.

So which airport does have more nonstop service to different cities MIA or FLL?

At least for domestic travel I would almost think FLL.

DC
Guest

If Ryanair or Norwegian ever make good on their threats to start low cost trans-atlantic service and they fly to southern Florida, the cost per enplanement will become an even hotter issue for existing European carriers at MIA. It won’t be much longer before Norwegian gets their first 787.

ray de la maza
Guest
Is DCAD ever going to clean up its act, especially the Cuban mafia commissioners?NO. There is sufficient public evidence of all the shenanigans, especially the North Terminal fiasco, whereby the tax paying citizens of Dade County were raped repeatedly by the corruption at hand, going as far back as the infamous Dick Judy and his gang. It breaks my heart to see FLL gain on good ole MIA.If anyone knew how to attract the Emirates,the Etihads or the Qatar Airways buy offering REAL incentives to set up shop, even in spite of the nose bleed landing fees, maybe MIA could… Read more »
tercero
Guest

I’m in DTW and it appears that the mismanagement staff from this airport were able to relocate to warmer climate. I fly regulary between DTW/FLL or DTW/MIA and it has always been easier to get resonable fare to FLL. I did not know that there was such a difference in the enplanement fees? Oh well flying isn’t cheep these days, but with this knowledge, I can see where this is headed. MIA has the system and capacity to move aircraft. FLL the little brother that wants to be will be over used putting a strain on the Air Traffic System.

FLL
Guest

Mia has been going down the tubes for along time, not only due to it’s rising costs and difficulty of access for local travelers. It’s also having to deal with the fact that FLL continues to better it’s self and make it a more attractive option. I lived in South Florida for 13 years and watched the decline first hand unfold before my eyes. Even the cruise companies have taken note and are moving cruise ships to Ft Lauderdale. Many of my friends in Miami would prefer to drive up to Fort Lauderdale than get across town to MIA.

uhihuhui
Guest

A well written rebuttal to this post can be found here:
http://exmiami.org/threads/even-as-delta-cuts-back-temporarily-mia-has-been-outperforming.121/

When you look at the statistics, MIA has been outgrowing and outperforming FLL for 8 years now by all metrics.

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[…] This is in response to an absurd article posted by “The Cranky Flier”: http://crankyflier.com/2012/02/23/the-continuing-sad-decline-of-miami-air-service/ […]

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[…] This is in response to an absurd article posted by “The Cranky Flier”: http://crankyflier.com/2012/02/23/the-continuing-sad-decline-of-miami-air-service/ […]

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[…] Domestic Dominance It’s important to keep in mind that while costs are dropping, the airport is still charging $20 per passenger and that’s a ton of money. In the domestic world (which accounts for a little more than half of Miami’s traffic), $20 is a huge chunk of a ticket and could easily push a flight’s profitability into the red. That’s why we’ve seen domestic airlines as well as some Caribbean airlines reduce or eliminate service at the airport…. […]

North Miami Roger
Guest

brilliant speech

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