Once simply known as Wilcox Field, Miami International Airport is the main airport for the greater Miami area and handles more than 1,000 domestic and international flights daily. Located a mere 8 miles (13 km) from downtown Miami, the airport is a gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America and one of the most important airline hubs in the United States.
In the 1920's Miami City Airport was the first airfield serving the Miami area when, in 1928, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) opened its own facility on land adjacent to the existing airport which was called Pan American Field. The new owners immediately set about constructing a modern terminal, two hangars, concrete aprons and two hard-surface runways to cater to demand and anticipated future air traffic. Because the Pan American operated airfield had port of entry facilities (the right to handle foreign flights and customs checks on passengers and cargo) it was an attractive proposition for other major international airline companies with Eastern Air Lines beginning flights from the airport in 1931 and National Airlines following suit in 1936. In 1943, during World War II, the American military opened Miami Army Airfield to the immediate south of Pan American Field. This meant there were now three separate airfields operating in close proximity which made little economic sense.
Following the end of the war, the City of Miami Port Authority raised the funding necessary to purchase Pan American Field and shortly afterwards also acquired the Miami Army Airfield in 1949. Ten years later the old terminal building at the Pan Am field was shut down and replaced by a new and modern passenger terminal. The United States Air Force continued to use the airport until 1959 when operations were relocated to what is now called Homestead Air Reserve Base.
Miami Airport was greatly expanded in 1951 when the Port Authority annexed large tracts of the surrounding land with the airport now covering almost 3,000 acres. The early fifties also saw the airport expand its commercial activities with many foreign airlines now operating out of Miami and flights regularly exceeding 900 per day. With improved facilities, expanded capacity and the airport's port of entry standing, Miami Airport was now recognised as not just a gateway to South America, the Caribbean and Europe but also as one of the most important airports in the United States. With multiple billions of dollars invested in the airport, further major expansions followed right up to the 90's as Miami firmly established its position as one of the busiest airports operating in the world.
There are three terminals at Miami International Airport (North, Central, South) which house six concourses labelled D, E, F, G, H and J. The terminals are on three levels (1,2 and 3) with all concourses situated on Level 2.
North Terminal houses Concourse D which has 51 gates and is the main base of operations for American Airlines.
Central Terminal is also used by American Airlines along with twelve other airline companies (who are partners of the Oneworld airline alliance), as well as a number of Latin American and Caribbean airlines. Concourses E, F and G are located in this terminal which has 51 gates.
South Terminal contains Concourses H and J. Concourse H is the main international terminal for airlines that are not members of the Oneworld alliance as well as for Delta Airlines. Terminal J mainly handles trans-continental flights for a number of non-Oneworld airlines.
All concourses (except for Concourse G) at Miami Airport have access to U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stations where incoming passengers are checked before clearance for entry to the United States.
An individual concourse will be assigned to a particular airline although some of the bigger carriers will need to use one or more concourses due to excessive demand or passenger numbers. The following is a guide (albeit not comprehensive) to which airlines are based at which concourse at Miami International Airport.
Asiana Airlines, Gulf Air, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Jalways Airlines, Corsair Airlines, Etihad Airlines, ANA Airlines, Elite Airways, Srilankan Airlines, Kalitta Air, British Airways, Norwegian Air UK, Emirates, Southwest Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Sunwing Airlines, Viva Aerobus, Alaska Airlines, GOL, Qantas, Air Tahiti Nui, Eastern Air Lines, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc Airlines, Virgin Australia, China Airlines, Allegiant, Singapore Airlines, China Southern Airlines, American Airlines, TACA Airlines, LOT, Kenya Airways, TUI, Fiji Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Saudia Airlines, Thai Airways, Korean Air Lines.
Cayman Airways, Finnair, Qatar Airways, Interjet Airlines, Surinam Airways Airlines, WestJet Airlines, Aer Lingus, Iberia Airlines, Aeroflot, Air China Airlines.
Sun Country Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Eurowings Airlines, Boliviana De Aviacion, Frontier Airlines, Air Europa.
Aruba Airlines, United Airlines, Volaris Airlines, World Atlantic Airlines, Swift Air, Miami Air International.
KLM, Air France, BahamasAir Airlines, Alitalia, Delta Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Aeromexico Airlines, SAS Scandinavian Airlines.
Aerolineas Argentinas Airlines, Lufthansa, Caribbean Airlines, Air Canada, LATAM, Swiss International Air Lines, Viva Colombia, Austrian Airlines, El Al Airlines, COPA Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Avianca Airlines.
Although passengers can access all concourses and terminals by foot it is not possible to always remain within the secure area. Remaining airside is possible transiting from Concourse D to E or H to J (international flight arrivals excluded) but it is necessary to pass through security checks in all other cases.
Although it is possible to get to any terminal or concourse on foot it should be noted that Miami is a large airport and widely spread out. Concourse D, for example, is over a mile long from end to end and alternatives to walking include:
Skytrain - The Skytrain operates on Concourse D with four stops on the mile-long route. The train runs every three minutes with stations close to gates D17, D25, D29 and D46.
MIA E Train - Departing from Level 4 in Concourse E, the E Train runs to gates E20 – E33 in the concourse's satellite terminal.
MIA Mover - An automated train, the MIA Mover, transports passengers from the airport to the Miami Intermodal Center (a hub for Miami's local bus, intercity bus, local commuter trains and intercity rail services) where onward connections can be made.
Passengers leaving the airport can avail of the Tri-Rail Shuttle, public buses and taxi services which are all located at the center of the airport behind the three terminal buildings.
There are ten security checkpoints located throughout the airport. Four are located at Concourse D, while there are also checkpoints at each entrance to Concourses E, F and G. Two more checkpoints are situated at the entrance points for Concourses H and J with an additional security check in the connector between Concourses H and J.
Under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is responsible for pre-screening arriving visitors as well as running security checks at the airport. To save time on future visits to MIA it is possible to schedule an interview at the TSA PreCheck Enrolment Center located on the 4th floor in Concourse D.
Arriving foreign nationals should ensure they have applied for and received an approved ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before attempting to enter the United States. This is a form of electronic visa which is digitally linked to a passport and verifies the passport holder's clearance for entry.
In some countries it may not be possible to apply for an ESTA. In such cases, the traveller will require a valid visa from the country of origin which has been approved by a U.S. embassy or consulate.
As with all American airports security is tight and checks are thorough and passengers arriving without the correct documentation or ID card can be held in custody and deported or arrested in more serious cases.
There are a number of travel options for getting to and from Miami International Airport.
Tri-Rail also runs from MIA to Miami Central Station and serves Fort Lauderdale.
MetroBus Routes 37, 42, 57, J and 150 Miami Beach Express all serve the Miami Airport station. Miami Beach Bus operates a service from Miami Beach to the airport station.
Private or shared shuttles run between the airport and downtown Miami but advance booking is necessary.
Taxis are plentiful in Miami whether going to or coming from the airport. Flat rates for the trip can be negotiated with the taxi company or driver.
Arriving or departing travellers can also avail of registered ride services such as Lyft, Uber and Wingz and negotiate an appropriate fare depending on the pick-up and drop-off points.