The USA’s Fastest Growing Airport: Miami’s Secret

Fifty US airports have grown this winter, with Miami, Dallas, Austin, Sarasota, and Orange County up the most. Miami – obviously an already large airport – has seen one-fifth more capacity added, a considerable amount. It is now the USA’s sixth busiest airport.

AA B777
This winter, Miami has about 4.3 million more seats than winter 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

The USA’s growing airports this winter

If all of the USA’s airports are examined, winter 2021 (W21) seats for sale total 478 million. That’s 90% of what was available in W19, OAG data reveals. The US is pushing ahead, although problems – such as labor shortages – may somewhat slow the recovery or at least that at specific airports.

Looking at US airports with a minimum of 100,000 seats, 50 are now above the pre-pandemic level this winter. They’ve added 14.8 million seats between them – no mean feat in the current environment or even usually. Of course, it doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be sold or at good prices, but it is nonetheless offered, signaling confidence.

US airportActual change in seats (two ways combined): winter 2021 versus 2019% change: winter 2021 versus 2019
Dallas Fort Worth2,148,7166.03
Orange County463,8249.45
Myrtle Beach388,92247.66
Colorado Springs324,50839.06
Key West249,17239.60
Jackson JAN239,31344.40
Destin Ft Walton Beach225,86838.77
Palm Springs206,25311.26
Steamboat Springs201,45885.55
Charleston 199,5288.86
New York LaGuardia187,4251.11
Chicago Rockford186,3622.50
Phoenix Mesa108,48810.44
Jackson (Wyoming)104,21623.59
Panama City95,34017.61
Idaho Falls88,30457.47
Fort Myers86,2312.44
Punta Gorda50,9104.77
Santa Rosa38,06515.57
Washington National31,1550.26
Santa Barbara12,7682.11
Sun Valley6480.42

The 50 growing airports: a summary

The 50 airports have grown by an average of 11%, far stronger than usual. As you’d expect, smaller airports have done especially well by this measurement, including Steamboat Springs (+86%), Eureka (+69%), Sarasota (+65%), Montrose (+60%), and Idaho Falls (+57%). Demand for outdoor demand is very much still there, and capacity growth reflects this.

Even business-driven airports New York LaGuardia and Washington National, badly impacted earlier in the pandemic, have now surpassed their pre-pandemic levels, although only slightly.

In the case of LaGuardia, it is mainly up because of strong growth from American and JetBlue, who have added 1.2 million seats. Part of the reason is 11 new routes, including American from Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Omaha, and JetBlue from Denver, Jacksonville, and Savannah.

JetBlue A320
JetBlue has grown its LaGuardia network from four routes in W19 to 11 this winter. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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Often from one or a small number of airlines

Much of the development has been driven by one or only a small number of airlines. For example, Southwest began Bellingham, 20 miles from the Canadian border, earlier this month, with routes from Oakland and Las Vegas. The airport is up by 19% versus W19.

Southwest began Colorado Springs in March this year, fully accounting for the airport’s 39% growth and offsetting cuts at the other carriers. Elsewhere, Eugene (+15%) has welcomed aha!, Avelo, and Southwest, while American and Allegiant have grown well too. Charleston, meanwhile, was primarily from adding Breeze and Silver Airways.

Breeze Airways innaugual
Breeze began Charleston-Tampa in May. It now has 11 routes from the South Carolina airport, including Tampa. Photo: Tampa International Airport.

16 airports that stand out

Airports above the median percentage growth (11%) and that have added more seats than the median (94,485) stand out. They have done well by both measurements. There are 16 such airports. Miami and Austin have done well from already good-sized bases: they’ve each added nearly 20% more seats.

  • Miami
  • Austin
  • Sarasota
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Colorado Springs
  • Bozeman
  • Key West
  • Jackson (Mississippi)
  • Destin Ft Walton Beach
  • Palm Springs
  • Steamboat Springs
  • Savannah
  • Montrose
  • Pensacola
  • Jackson (Wyoming)
  • Panama City
Hawaiian A330
Hawaiian inaugurating Austin-Honolulu has contributed to the Texas airport’s swift growth, but it is mainly from American (+1.5 million seats) and Southwest (+581,000). Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Miami is now the USA’s sixth busiest airport

Miami is the USA’s sixth busiest airport this winter (up from 15th two winters ago) and the world’s 14th busiest (from 45th). Miami now has more seats for sale than New York JFK, Istanbul Airport, and Paris CDG.

This winter, the South Florida airport is expected to be served by 46 passenger airlines, down from 51 in winter 2019. Nonetheless, 13 existing airlines have all added capacity, showing how buoyant the market is. Miami benefits from solid leisure and visiting friends and relatives demand, the two market segments that have done well during the pandemic. And it is a renowned winter market.

These 13 airlines are American, Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Avianca El Salvador, Boliviana, El Al, Finnair, Frontier, SAS, Turkish, United, Viva, and Volaris. For example, Frontier has added 14 routes, including nine that took off in the past week or so.

Finnair, Airbus A350, Stockholm
Finnair launched Stockholm-Miami in October with two-weekly flights, rising to four-weekly from December onwards. Helsinki-Miami will resume on November 30th. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

It is very much about American, though

As they say, the strong get stronger, and that’s precisely what has happened at Miami. The already dominant American has added a whopping 2.3 million extra seats, over half of the airport’s total.

American has expanded more at Miami more than any of its other hubs. Part of it is from adding significantly more widebody flights, with such services up by 50%, continuing what was experienced earlier in the year. Combined with a reduction in regional jet flights, American’s seats per flight at Miami have risen from 143 to 162, a notable rise in two years.

Some 16 routes have also been added since W19. Six were international, including Anguilla, Paramaribo, and Tel Aviv. Some ten domestic routes were added too, such as Des Moines, Milwaukee, and Salt Lake City. While Milwaukee to Miami was always ripe for non-stop service, it didn’t really come until the pandemic struck. Now it’s once-daily.

American MAX 8
American has a 63% share of Miami’s seats this winter. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Nine passenger airlines have added Miami

Adding to the mix are nine airlines that will serve Miami this winter but didn’t in W19, including Emirates, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit. Ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit is now Miami’s second-largest airline, with another new route (to Minneapolis) starting on January 5th.

  • Air Transat
  • Eastern Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Global X (charter carrier to the Caribbean and beyond)
  • JetBlue
  • JSX
  • RED Air (charter carrier to Santo Domingo)
  • Southwest
  • Spirit

JSX is intriguing. The ‘semi-private’ operator uses 30-seat Embraer 135s and 145s and doesn’t operate from normal terminals, ensuring a quicker, smoother, and more pleasant service. As its website says: “crowd-free, hassle-free. Small really is beautiful.”

JSX Air ERJ135
JSX will begin Dallas Love to Miami on November 18th with a six-weekly service. It’ll also start Westchester to Miami, although its route map indicates that flights aren’t available to the general public. Photo: Kees08 via Wikimedia.

Welcome to summer 2022, Alaska!

Looking ahead to summer 2022, Alaska will return to Miami after a 10-year absence. Starting in June, it’ll fly once-daily from Seattle. It’ll target point-to-point passengers, summer cruise demand, and those transiting Miami across Latin America with American Airlines, a fellow member of oneworld.

What do you make of it all? Let us know in the comments.