Now is not the best time to lure new airlines and routes, but when things get back to normal...
Miami-Dade to hire consultants to boost airport traffic
By Victor Cruz
Miami International Airport officials are hiring consultants in an effort to expand operations both internationally and domestically, said Miguel Southwell, assistant director of business development with Miami-Dade Aviation.
The consultants, he said, would "assist us in determining the passenger and cargo routes for possible air service between Miami and 26 different international destinations."
Mr. Southwell said the effort would mean Miami International would not only fight to maintain its dominance in Latin American and Caribbean travel, but officials are hoping to expand into new markets in Europe, Asia and Africa.
"That will be our focus for the next three years," he said.
With airplanes able to fly longer distances today, technology has become an important factor in the timing of the planned route expansion, Mr. Southwell said.
The process of studying the emerging markets will take "nine to 10 months," he said. Then airport officials will begin approaching representatives for the various airlines.
The expansion is not limited to the international market, Mr. Southwell said.
"We do intend to also market to the low-fare carrier segment of the air-travel market," he said. "That means JetBlue Airways, Southwest, Delta Express and others."
Delta now operates out of Miami International but its low-fare service does not.
AirTran Airways, operating out of Miami since Sept. 9, 1998, will expand operations next month.
Beginning Nov. 15, the Orlando-based, low-fare subsidiary of AirTran Holdings is offering three daily nonstops between Tallahassee and Tampa with continuing service to Miami, and three new daily nonstops between Tampa and Miami, said Tad Hutcheson, director of marketing.
He said tickets, already available for the Miami flights, range from a $49 introductory rates to $149 for business class.
AirTran received a shot in the arm when, with the help of Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox and Gov. Jeb Bush, the airline became the "preferred carrier for the Florida State government," Mr. Hutcheson said.
The added flights were in discussion for about a year, he said. He said Aviation Department Director Angela Gittens played "a huge role" in bringing the added flights to Miami.
AirTran officials met with the director, representatives of the Beacon Council and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau in August to seal the relationship that led to the new flights, Mr. Hutcheson said.
Mr. Southwell said any increased service would fuel the Miami-area economy in a number of ways. Among them, he said, are more jobs for locals in a variety of sectors, an infusion of dollars caused by the hiring out of services and increased tax revenues.
"And we know that the new establishment of direct air service between two points causes a marked increase in the trade that follows," Mr. Southwell said. "In a very short time, between nine months to a year, you will see companies from the new destinations and Miami conducting business here. The reverse is also true."
jetBlue and Southwest already have large operations at FLL and serve the Miami area well. Not happening, obviously.