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Miami airport, ranked at number 28, is a hub for the Americas

21-Jul-2011

While much has changed at Miami since its opening in 1928, one thing has remained constant; its enduring links with Latin America. Initially known as Pan American Field, it was the first site of Pan Am’s operations, although these were soon moved to the seaplane base at Dinner Key. Nonetheless, Pan Am’s first passenger flight left from Miami in 1929 and as the company slowly died many years later, the last operating remnants were the Latin American routes.

In the 1930s, the airport became the base for Eastern and National Airlines and following the war, the site was purchased from Pan Am and expanded. In 1980, searching for a domestic network to feed its international flights, National was acquired by Pan Am as it sought to improve its competitive position by adding a domestic network.

Along with Pan Am, Eastern was a huge player at MIA and, for a while it was the region’s largest employer, making its demise in 1991 a major event for the airport.

A hodgepodge of operators

In the post-deregulation world, Miami hosted an incredible assortment of airlines, most of them based in, or flying to, Latin America. Perhaps no other US airport has dealt with a similar phenomenon, as shown by the charts below.

First, a disclaimer and explanation. The original source materials used were the August 1981 and August 1991 OAGs. The list of international destinations was established using those two sources and does not include destinations that either 1) operated between those dates but not at the time either OAG was published, 2) flights to nearby Caribbean or Mexican destinations which were in separate OAG volumes at the time, and 3) are newly instated in the period between 1991 and 2011. The service shown in 2011 encompasses only destinations that were operated in either 1981 or 1991.

The purpose of the charts is to chronicle the “revolving-door’ nature of carriers and service at the airport, showing a shift from an airport dominated by Eastern and Pan Am to its present prime tenant, American Airlines.

Not shown by the chart are the changes in service patterns that have taken pace as well. Almost all of the services operated in 81 and 91 were sporadic, with different days having different flight routings and often, times of operation. The current operators usually operate daily (or multiple daily) flights at consistent departure times.

Low cost, long haul

While Miami today has virtually no low-cost operators, in 1981 the short-lived Air Florida operated to a number of European and Latin destinations and the airport was also a port-of-call for Laker to points in the UK.

In 1991, Tower Air flew non-stop to Stockholm and onwards to a number of additional points in Scandinavia. By 2011, all service was provided by established and recognisable airlines, with the only exception being Venezuela’s SBA (S3), which harks back to previous eras when small airlines operated very old aircraft to a few selected destinations.

International nonstop services operated in 1981 or 1991 and current offer

MIA to/from

1981

1991

2011

Amsterdam

QH

 

KL

Asuncion

PZ

PZ

 

Barranquilla

AV, EA

AV, AA

AV

Belem

RG

RG

 

Belize

TA, QH, TX

TX, TA, AA, PA, 4H

AA

Bogota

AR,AV, BN

AV, AA, UC

AV, AA, LA

Brussels

QH

   

Buenos Aires

PA, AR

PA, AR, AA

4M, AR, AA

Cali

AV

AV

AA

Caracas

RG, PA, VA

AA, VA, VE

S3, AA, LA

Cartagena

AV

AV

AV

Cordoba

AR

   

Dusseldorf

LH

LH, LT

AB

Frankfurt

PA, LH

PA, LH, LT

LH

Georgetown

GY

GY

 

Glasgow

GK

   

Guatamala City

PA, GY, EA

PA, AA, GU

AA, TA

Guayaquil

PL, BN, EU, AR

EU, PL, EH

XL, AA

Iquitos

 

CF

 

Lima

BN, PL, LA

AA, PL

TA, AA, LA

London

PA, QH

AA, PA, BA, VS

BA, AA, VS

Madrid

IB, AM

IB, AA

IB, AA, UX

Managua

NI

GU, RL, GW, PA, AA, LR

TA, AA

Manaus

RG

 

JJ

Manchester

GK

   

Maracaibo

VA, PA

VA, PA, VE

AA

Medelin

AV

AV

AV, AA

Milan

 

AZ

AZ

Munich

 

LH

 

Panama City

LB, LA, BN, PA, OP

AA, PA, LB, CM

CM, AA

Paramaribo

 

PY

 

Paris

 

PA, AM, AF

AA, AF, SS

Quito

EU, BN

AA

XL, AA

Recife

 

PA, RG

AA

Rio de Janiero

BN, PA, AR, RG

AA, AR, RG, PA

JJ, AA

Rome

 

AZ

AZ

San Andres

AV

AV

 

San Jose

LA, QH

PA, AA, LR

LR, AA

San Pedro Sula

QH, TX

PA, AA, TA, TX

AA, TA

Santa Cruz

LB

 

AA, 5L

Santiago

BN, PA, LA

LA

LA, AA

Sao Paulo

 

AA, PA, RG, AR

JJ, AA

Shannon

QH

   

Stockholm

 

FF

 

Tegucigalpa

 

AA

AA, TA

Valencia

 

VE

 

Looking at the list of carriers that operated the above routes is a veritable walk through 20th century aviation history. Of the 46 carriers that flew during the period, only 20 are still operational, a litany of defunct international operators likely unrivalled elsewhere.

International Airlines Serving Miami 1981-2011

AA

American Airlines

LR

LACSA

AF

Air France

LT

LTU

AM

Aeromexico

NI

LANICA

AR

Aerolineas Argentinas

OP

Air Panama

AV

Avianca

PA

Pan American

AZ

Alitalia

PL

AeroPeru

BA

British Airways

PY

Surinam Airways

BN

Braniff Airways

PZ

Air Paraguay

CF

Faucett

QH

Air Florida

CM

COPA

RG

Varig

EA

Eastern Airlines

RL

AERONICA

EH

SAETA

S3

Santa Barbara Airlines

EU

Equatoriana

SS

Corsair

FF

Tower Air

TA

TACA

GK

Laker

TX

Transportes Aereos Nacionales

GU

Aviateca

UC

Ladeco

GW

Central American Air

VA

Viasa

GY

Guyana Airways

VE

Avensa

JJ

TAM

VS

Virgin Atlantic

IB

Iberia

XL

LanEcuador

LA

LAN

4H

Belize Trans Air

LB

Lloyd Aereo Boliviano

4M

LanArgentina

LH

Lufthansa

5L

AeroSur

American Airlines fills the void

Things are different today. American Airlines has not only replaced the services of previous operators, but virtually “owns” the airport with a stunning 70% share of seats.

And even those numbers are deceptive in terms of AA’s influence in specific markets. Between Miami and San Francisco/Los Angeles, American operates every non-stop save a single B738 operated by Delta to LAX. It provides the only non-stop service to a host of cities like Boston, St. Louis, San Juan, Dallas and even United’s Denver hub.

Internationally, it has a monopoly position to Barbados, Montreal, Montevideo, and Santo Domingo, amongst others.

MIA seats by carrier (11-17 Jul, 2011)

All of this service, to international points near and far, has made Miami the most international major airport in the US, with over half its seats operated to offshore destinations. American has almost no competition from other US carriers to international points and the competition’s domestic flights operate almost exclusively to their hub cities.

MIA seats international/domestic (11-17 Jul, 2011)

Low-cost competition is down the road

Additionally, the airport has virtually no low-cost presence to challenge legacy pricing levels. The sum total of low-cost competition is a single daily flight by Westjet to Toronto and one daily service by AirTran to Baltimore.

However, the region has ample low-cost service located at Ft Lauderdale Airport (FLL), 27 miles and 35 minutes north of MIA, an airport with almost 2/3 of its seats offered by LCCs.

As might be expected at an airport dominated by American and served by LAN, Iberia and British, oneworld is the dominant alliance. And, compared to others in the US, the unaligned segment is quite small, probably due to the absence of LCCs.

Furthermore, due to American’s overpowering domestic network, airlines from other alliances such as TAM or Air France, have few onwards connecting options within their group and many of those cities already have direct service so the passengers are probably Miami-bound.

MIA seats by alliance (11-17 Jul, 2011)

The next chart shows the distribution of international seats by region, and the Caribbean/Latin focus is obvious. Despite the region’s cultural roots with West Africa, there is no service to that continent. Equally absent is any direct service to the burgeoning Asian sector. Despite the efforts of other carriers and hubs to break into the Latin market, with both Atlanta and Houston having substantial networks, Miami remains the preferred US gateway.

MIA international seats by region (11-17 Jul, 2011)

When looking at the individual top destinations served internationally from MIA, the position of American remains impressive. To LHR, BA and AA offer 2 B744s and a B772 each day, in competition with a DL B764 and a Virgin B774.

To second place San Juan, it is the only operator, and to Sao Paulo (GRU) 11 weekly TAM A330 flights compete against American’s schedule of 14 B772s and 7 B763s, an offer more than double that of the Brazilian carrier.

MIA international seats by top destination (11-17 Jul, 2011)

Average fares from Miami to New York (JFK) range from a low of USD200 to a high of USD534. From nearby Ft Lauderdale, over the same period, the JFK spread is from USD165 to USD415, a considerable premium for MIA access. To Newark, prices are even higher; USD249-569.

Carriers change, Miami’s lure does not

Despite a complex past, littered with defunct airlines, Miami retains its crown as the preferred gateway between the US and Latin America. American’s position, enhanced by the presence of its oneworld partners, is not likely to be undermined as long as the carrier remains healthy.

Should things at American change, Miami would likely retain its spot but undergo yet another shift of airline representation.


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