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Guide to Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the largest airport in the state of Florida handling around 20 million passengers annually. The IATA (International Air Transport Association) designation code MCO stems from McCoy Air Force Base, the airport's previous name until the U.S. Air Force ceased operations in 1975.

Orlando is an important hub for Silver Airways and also an operations base for American airline companies JetBlue, Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines as well as being a maintenance center for United Airlines. Operating more than 850 flights daily for 44 different airlines, Orlando Airport is an international gateway for the region and is also one of the largest U.S. airports covering 12,600 acres.

MCO Airport History

The airport was originally built as a military base for the U.S. Army Air Force and became operational in 1942. The following year the name was changed to Pinecastle Army Airfield and the airport remained under the control of the military after World War II ended when it became a Strategic Air Command (SAC) facility for the duration of the Korean War which began in 1950 when the airport saw another name change and became Pinecastle AFB.

During the SAC's tenure, a B-47 Stratojet crashed during a 1958 Bombing and Navigation Competition killing the commander of 321st Bombardment Wing, Colonel Michael McCoy. The following year, in honour of the fallen commander, the airfield altered its name once again to McCoy Air Force Base.

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, McCoy was an operational base for F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers as well as housing U-2 reconnaissance planes used for spying over Cuba.

With the end of the Vietnam War imminent, the base was scheduled for closure in 1973 and was handed over to the city of Orlando at the end of 1974 and start of 1975.

Even though the military had ceded possession of McCoy AFB to the city of Orlando, parts of the airport remained under military control and, with the arrival of commercial jet airline flights in the early sixties, the airport operated as a joint civil-military installation with the civilian part of the facility named Orlando Jetport at McCoy.

Commercial Interest Leading to Further Growth

From 1961 on, the airport drew more and more airline flights from Herndon Airport. Business increased and by 1971 Orlando Jetport was operating regular flights by some of the biggest American airline companies including Eastern Air Lines, National Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southern Airways.

Business at the airport received a major boost in 1971 with the opening of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Orlando rapidly become a major tourist destination.

Orlando MCO Layout

The main terminal at Orlando is divided into two sections: north side and south side. The northern section is dubbed Terminal A while the southern part is referred to as Terminal B. Terminal C, a separate building complex, is set apart from the main terminal and has a pre-security tram system linking to Terminals A and B. The new terminal is scheduled to open in late 2022.

Terminal A

The northern part of the main terminal has tram links to Airside 1 and 2

Terminal B

The southern half of the terminal has tramway links to Airside 3 and 4

Terminal C

Recently opened Terminal C is a separate building from the main terminal but is linked by tramway to both Terminals A and B.

Arriving international flights are mostly handled at Airside 4 in Terminal B but are also catered to in Airside 1 as well as in Terminal C.

Airline Allocations to Terminals

As is the norm at any airport, airlines are usually allocated a particular terminal or concourse. The following is the regular allocation of airlines and terminals at Orlando although departing and arriving flights can be moved to another location at any time.

Terminal A

Alaska Airlines, AeroMexico, Avianca, Copa, Air Transat, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue (relocating to Terminal C in late 2022), Miami Air, LATAM, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines (International), Sunwing Airlines, Virgin Atlantic

Terminal B

Air Canada, American Airlines, Caribbean, BahamasAir, Delta Air Lines, Silver Airways, Spirit Airlines (Domestic), Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, WestJet, Volaris

Terminal C

Aer Lingus, British Airways, Azul Brazilian, Caribbean, IcelandAir, Emirates, Lufthansa, JetBlue, Norse Atlantic Airways

Although international flights usually arrive into Terminal B this is not always the case and passengers disembarking at other terminals will be directed through the secure area to the nearest customs and immigration checkpoints located in Terminals A, B or C.

Immigration and Visa Waiver Program

In years gone by every non-U.S. citizen visiting America, for whatever reason or duration, had to have the appropriate U.S. Visa. This remains the case for many but not for citizens of those countries deemed to be a low security risk

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) currently has 41 members. Citizens of these listed countries no longer need any form of U.S. Visa but do require an ESTA.

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization and is a form of electronic visa linked to a passport which gives the holder permission to enter the United States. The ESTA must be applied for and granted in advance of any visit to the United States. On arrival the ESTA will show up when a passport is scanned at immigration control and the traveler's identity confirmed. Possession of an ESTA, while mandatory, does not automatically guarantee right of entry to the United States as this decision remains at the discretion of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent on duty who can refuse admission if given reason to do so.

Transfers and Ground Transportation

Located just 6 miles (10 km) from the center of Orlando, the airport is within easy and very affordable reach. There is no rail link to Orlando Airport leaving a choice of a local bus, shuttle, taxi or ride-share.

Local Bus

The local Orlando bus system, Lynx, runs between downtown Orlando and the airport roughly every 30 minutes. The bus terminates at Terminal A.

Airport Shuttle

There are also free airport shuttle services to many of the hotels located close to the airport.

Shuttle Buses

A number of other commercial shuttle buses run from Terminal A to various destinations including Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral, Miami, Vero Beach, Clearwater, Sarasota, Tampa, Gainesville and Silver Springs.


Taxi stands are located at Terminals A and B but queues can be long at peak times.


Uber, Wingz and Lyft operate out of Orlando Airport with pick-up points designated as “Ride App Pickup” and signposted outside the terminal buildings.

Rental Cars

Cars can be rented at Orlando Airport but these can be expensive and the renter must also pay for any tolls, fuel used and rental insurance.