Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport started work Monday on a $404 million fifth airline terminal, the airport’s most significant project in more than a decade.
During a groundbreaking ceremony, Broward County officials said the terminal will cover 230,000 square feet and should be finished in 2026. The terminal will have five airline passenger gates for domestic flights, increasing the airport’s total to 71 gates, Mark E. Gale, CEO of Broward County Aviation Department, said in an interview. The terminal is being built due to surging passenger and airline traffic, officials said.
Through August of this year, 23.7 million passengers have gone through the airport. That’s a significant increase from the 21.3 million passengers during the same period in 2022. The new terminal will be able to handle 4 to 5 million more passengers, officials said.
The Fort Lauderdale airport expansion is expected to lead to about 3,400 direct and indirect construction-related jobs, including at more than a dozen area small businesses. Upon completion, officials estimated the new terminal will lead to the hiring of 1,000 to 1,250 people to fill permanent jobs.
JetBlue Airways Corp. — the New York-based airline that’s the second-biggest airline by passenger market share at the airport — is managing construction of the terminal on behalf of Broward County. Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue, said in a statement that Fort Lauderdale airport has been important to the airline’s growth. JetBlue now serves more than 40 destinations from the airport, she said, 23 years after its first flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Fort Lauderdale.
“We are thrilled to continue our work as an active partner [with Broward County aviation officials] on further expansion to increase capacity,” Geraghty said.
The terminal will be paid for through a variety of sources, including airport bonds backed by the airlines and $80 million in state grants from the Florida Department of Transportation, Gale said.
The additional terminal will have its own dedicated passenger screening, baggage screening and passenger baggage claim.
There will be food and beverage operators, plus retail outlets in the terminal, but none of those plans are finalized.
After the terminal is finished, an automated people mover could be added. A two-level pedestrian bridge will connect the new Terminal 5 to Terminal 4, so that on one level passengers who’ve gone through security can go back and forth. People who have not cleared security can use the other level.
Also, the new terminal will connect to the adjacent Cypress parking garage. Passengers will be able to access the terminal from the airport’s main entrance and from Perimeter Road.
Gale said during terminal construction there will be “minimal disruption” to passengers coming and going to the airport’s four terminals.
Meanwhile, Broward County aviation officials and Spirit Airlines and JetBlue — the airport’s two biggest airlines with 28.2% and 20.2% passenger market share, respectively — had begun talking about the possibility of a new terminal before the pandemic emerged in early 2020.
“The desire to grow, particularly by JetBlue and Spirit, … was the impetus for why we embarked on it,” Gale said, of the early discussions about building another airport terminal.
Then in July 2022, Broward-based Spirit agreed to be acquired by JetBlue, in a $3.8 billion deal to create the fifth-largest U.S. airline. The U.S. Department of Justice continues reviewing the planned combination of the two airlines and eventually will approve or reject it.
Gale said it’s likely JetBlue and Spirit will have gates in the new airport terminal. However, those details aren’t finalized and will depend somewhat on whether federal regulators approve JetBlue’s purchase of Spirit, which employs about 3,400 people in South Florida.
In addition to those two leading airlines, Southwest, with a 14.2% market share, is the third-largest airline at Fort Lauderdale airport. The other major U.S. airlines — Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines — also fly in and out of the airport. American is the top global airline and has the biggest market share at Miami International Airport.
Also, discount airlines Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines and Avelo Airlines are increasing their presence at Fort Lauderdale airport.
“We believe those airlines may have an interest in growing in the future,” Gale said. “Our goal is to try to make sure we can provide a variety of airline services to the citizens of Broward County.”
Anthony Cordo, executive vice president of Visit Lauderdale, said a bigger airport means a boost in convention business and tourism in Broward County. The nearby convention center is also undergoing an expansion expected to be completed in late 2025.
“Terminal 5 gives us capacity to add new routes,” said Cordo, who attended Monday’s airport groundbreaking ceremony. “That is critical to getting the large-scale conventions we’re working to get.”
Source: Miami Herald