Why Miami International Airport Should Build A Grand Departure Hall On Underutilized Land

Here’s our idea on how Miami International Airport can solve multiple issues it faces in a single shot, helping to improve the passenger experience.

We love MIA for its convenient location and incredible lineup of flights to North America, South America and Europe. That said, the facility leaves much to be desired. Many of these issues stem for poor planning and design. They include:

  • The check in areas in both the North Terminal and the Central Terminal are relatively small, overcrowded, with low ceilings and the ambience of a bus terminal.
  • Domestic baggage claim areas in all terminals are even worse, with ceilings so low that anyone of average height can reach up and touch them. Those same low ceilings and cramped quarters are also found at two of the international arrivals areas.
  • TSA checkpoints in the North Terminal are flawed in design and are regularly backed up.
  • Long walks from the Miami Intermodal Center – millions of MIA passengers who rent cars or use rail or bus connections are forced to walk as much as a mile (no exaggeration) to and from their gate. Part of the problem stems from a cost-cutting decision last decade to shorten the route of the MIA Mover train that arrives from the MIC, which adds a long walk through sweltering walkways without air conditioning.
  • Car traffic on both the arrival and departure levels is regularly backed up and chaotic due to poor design and overcapacity.
  • Lack of retail and restaurant space – especially in the check in areas and throughout the Central Terminal, is still a problem.
  • Customer service – whether from TSA, airline employees, or CBP, is a serious problem (although there are many workers at the airport who do provide excellent service). It is especially embarrassing since it is the first thing many tourists experience when they land in Miami. Working conditions might be partially to blame, since customer service generally seems to be worse here than almost anywhere else in the city.
  • Poor Maintenance – leaky roofs, broken elevators and escalators, air conditioners that are too cold or too hot, clocks showing the wrong time, and departure boards too small to display flights more than an hour or two out are the norm.
  • Overcrowded premium lounges – most of the premium lounges are overcrowded, including both North and South Terminals (some are now being expanded).
  • The only in-terminal hotel looks like a prison.

How to solve these problems: Aviation officials are now considering developing a 400-room hotel in three possible locations on airport grounds, either through a public-private partnership or by issuing bonds.

Instead, the airport should consider building a grand Hong Kong-style check-in, baggage claim, and retail hall, on underutilized land in front of the Central Terminal currently occupied by short term parking. The new building should also include both the hotel and enough retail space that a private developer could partially or completely fund construction of the entire space.

The new facility would help shorten and break up long walks with baggage from the MIC, since check in and baggage claim would be right at the entrance to the MIA Mover train station. Car traffic could also be redesigned and better engineered for drop off at the new building.

New retail, terminal, and lounge space could be built in the area freed up from the existing check in area. TSA checkpoints could be redesigned properly within the new building or in existing space. And of course, the new hotel could get built too.

A modern new facility might also result in cheerier airport workers and better maintenance.

Unknown is whether the retail and hotel expansion would be enough for a private developer to entirely fund the new facility, but even if not it could be a worthy project.

Miami has as bright a future as any city in America, and deserves an airport to match. Regardless of what happens with this development, lets stop the haphazard piecemeal planning at MIA and start thinking big for the future – including real expansion of terminal space.

 

The check in hall at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport:

 

The long walkways currently used by passengers using the Miami Intermodal center, with the hotel in background. The airport should consider building a new departure hall with retail, hotel and check in areas to replace the 1-story short term parking lot below:

MIA’s international arrival and baggage claim on the ground floor, featuring low ceilings:

The crowded North Terminal check-in area is relatively new but still cramped, poorly designed, and lacking retail:

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Anon y Mous

As someone that works at MIA, all the criticisms are right on point. Compared to airports at “global cities”, which is what Miami aspires to be, MIA is third rate at best. I doubt any of the recommendations will be taken into account and the problems will persist unfortunately….

Paul

If we’re comparing to Asian airports, Miami should consider building an entirely new airport in Homestead, connected to downtown via high speed rail like Shanghai PVG. That would also allow MIA to be redeveloped, recuperating some of the cost of the new airport, and allowing for unlimited building height downtown. It’ll never happen, of course, but one can dream.

Anonymous

Yeah, I’ve taken the Maglev to/from PVG in Shanghai. Great experience. Another option would be like Hong Kong, to “make” the land. We have a shallow bay.. think Stiltsville area.

Anonymous

That will never happen the airport wants to fly over downtown and south beach for whatever reason. Also moving to homestead they will loose a lot of business to Fort Lauderdale (high speed train or not). It is weird having large airports in the middle of the City though. seems to be the south Florida way.

Anonymous

Yeah, and make current airport Central Park Miami. The whole idea is pie in the sky!

maimiFranky

dont want to go to homestead…for a plave trip to NYC or intra-usa

Anonymous

Every point is spot on. The major problem also is that MIA was originally built in the 1950’s. Ever seen Terminal F? No update ever there! MIA should have been torn down piece by piece and replaced to look like the new J terminal. Instead MORE money has been spent to re-model the same old structure. Land is obviously an issue, but this is a GREAT IDEA to use that wasted short term parking area. One can dream.

Anonymous

Ceiling height complaints everywhere but thank you for calling out Terminal F which is literally the worst. It’s claustrophobic as hell in there.

Also, getting stuck with an AA flight departing from E is literally the worst. Unless you walk from D, there is no TSA precheck, no lounge access, and TERRIBLE food choices. I would just tear down all of E and F while we’re at it and make that part of this new departure/arrival hall idea.

Anonymous

The J terminal is dark, disorganized, and miserable. While the central terminal is old, it stands the test of time. Frankly, renovating it into a more manageable state is a better option.

Anonymous

After living in Asia for 5 years..Coming back home to Miami felt like I was returning to a Third World country. our airport needs a lot of help

Mariel

Same here. I’ve just returned from living in Shanghai and every aspect lf life feels like going back in time.
That said, I do like Miami airport. Comared to others in the US, I still find it pretty convenient

Anonymous

This Miami-Dade county we’re talking about. Even if all your ideas get proposed we’ll end up with something half-assed.

Polo

Every constructions job at MIA takes decades to complete. The Central Terminal reconstruction has been set back for years. I think they are not going to demolish Concourse G (a wooden concourse dating back to 1959) until 2022, or 2023. Concourse F, and E will be in place until the mid 2030’s. Even Concourse H, which was renovated in the 1990’s , they left in place the old head house from the 1950’s in place which looks terrible.

Anonymous

Waitaminute fellas.. the head honchos in Miami can only grease their partners palms one project at a time. One only has to look at the Flagler Street renovation to see how smoothly that’s going. Giv’em time, they’ll be screwing over your tax dollars soon enough.

Anonymous

Yes, build it.

iFlyMIA

What kills me is that they don’t plan to built a new central terminal for another 10 years! We should already have a new central terminal under construction or AT LEAST have the current central terminal demolished right now.

Anonymous

That’s is called urban planning, a term prohibited by the Dade County authorities.

Anonymous

That’s one of the biggest problems with Miami.. it doesn’t need a so-called “urban planning department.” All it’s doing is stifling progress because it’s just a few peoples idea of what should go where, how tall it should be, and how it should look.

Anonymous

Hey TNM Staff! Great assessment. May I add that the experience of getting a cab with a driver from a particular Caribbean island in a car with 500,000 thousand miles on it just continues the experience of arriving in a country where the cab drivers are from…

Anonymous

HA!!!.. you’re funny….

Anonymous

MIA is 3rd world

Anonymous

Oh no you di’int

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So edgy dude!

Anonymous

The low ceiling syndrome is not just at the airport.
Unfortunately it’s everywhere in Miami

Anonymous

Asia has the best airports in the world if we are going to copy them can we please get a Beijing style airport! MIA needs some to new hubs to come in and replace AA and build new terminals like delta did. Even Fort Lauderdale has been 50% redone in the last 5 years.

Anonymous

it’s almost 2019 and there are 0 plans to do anything like this, itll be 2030 before they actually even move towards starting construction on anything to help make this place not suck

#NoLeadershipInMiami

Mark-Anthony Barnes

You have a great mind my friend. I’d take your idea one step further and also tear down the flamingo parking garage in front of the proposed area in order to free up enough space to really build something awe inspiring and beautiful. Something with sky lighting and an ultra modern and more Miami feel to it that is more akin to Orlando’s terminal 1 grand hall feel as opposed to the la Guardia greyhound bus station feel that the MIA currently suffers. It would also bring the terminus of the mic into the middle of the now expanded building I am suggesting

What to do with the removed parking? Build a new garage on the open parking lot just in front of the eastern section of the existing garage and expand parking at the intermodal ( it was built for this purpose).

Anonymous

Good thing I have Global entry and TSA pre-check but the county has been pushing the airport renovations for decades. And the proposal for the giant LED Miami sign at the airport was stopped.

Anonymous

“The only in-terminal hotel looks like a prison.”

Funny, some renderings I’ve seen, likely conceptual, actually look like prisons instead of a hotel from the 1950.