Air Transport World

In a race with its own rapid growth; burgeoning Latin American economies are spurring Miami's drive to remain the 'Hub of the Americas.' (Miami International Airport, Florida)

The people who operate Miami International Airport are just over 3 1/2 years into a $4 billion, 12-year development program to try to keep the facility's capabilities ahead of the remarkable growth of its traffic. As one official put it, to maintain its position as "the Hub of the Americas."

The growth has been stunning, especially in freight traffic, as a large portion of the air commerce among North, South and Central America seems to find its way through Miami. Traffic also is building between Europe and South America via Miami.

During the past few years, South America has grown into one of the fastest-growing business areas in the world and Miami International Airport has been in the center of the resulting boom in international traffic, cargo as well as passengers.

Last year, 33.2 million passengers passed through the airport, which made it the ninth-busiest airport in the world and sixth in the U.S. Nearly 14.5 million of these passengers were international, which ranks Miami second to only New York John F. Kennedy International. International traffic was up 10.4% at Miami International last year.

But in volumes of freight and cargo traffic, Miami has few peers. Last year, 1.67 million tons of freight, 84% of it international, passed through the airport, making it the biggest handler of international freight traffic in the U.S. and trailing only Frankfurt and Tokyo Narita for world leadership. Spurred by the business growth in Latin America, Miami has enjoyed double-digit growth in cargo for the past four years. Last year's total growth was almost 19%. International freight traffic was up 25%.

According to Airports Council International figures, Miami was in a virtual tie for second in the U.S. in 1995 for total cargo traffic: Freight, express and mail. …

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