Orlando International Airport is a major public commercial service airport located six miles (10 km) southeast of the central business district of Orlando, a city in Orange County, Florida, United States. It is the busiest airport in Florida (by the number of passengers) owing to Orlando's popularity as a destination of tourism, conventions, and business travel.
The airport serves as a secondary hub for AirTran Airways and a focus city for both Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways. The airport hosts AirTran's corporate headquarters and operations center, though the airline maintains its main hub of operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Southwest Airlines is currently the airport's largest carrier in terms of passengers traveled; SWA carried one-fifth of all passenger traffic at MCO in 2006..
In 2007 MCO was visited by 36.48 million passengers, making it the 10th busiest airport in the United States on the basis of passenger traffic and the 20th-busiest in the World. It is the 15th busiest international gateway in the United States, behind Philadelphia International Airport; JFK International in New York City ranks first.. It is third busiest in international gateway in Florida, after Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.
The airport code MCO stands for the airport's former name, McCoy Air Force Base, named for Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, USAF, commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing at the then-Pinecastle Air Force Base. Col McCoy died in the crash of a B-47 Stratojet during the annual Strategic Air Command (SAC) Bombing and Navigation Competition that was held at the base in 1957. Pinecastle AFB was later renamed McCoy AFB in his honor the following year.
Airside 4 currently serves as the airport's primary international arrivals terminal, however Airside 1 also handles international arrivals. Arriving international passengers who require immigration and/or customs clearance are processed through those checkpoints in the airside terminal where they arrive. After clearing US immigration, passengers collect their baggage and clear US customs. After clearing customs, international passengers must ride the people mover to the main terminal. Airside 4 provides escalator access directly from the customs hall to the people mover platform. This has eliminated the requirement for arriving international passengers to go through a security inspection between the customs area and the people mover, and as a result they now have the option of bringing their checked baggage with them on the people mover. Alternatively, passengers also have the option of placing their baggage on a transfer belt in the customs hall for transport to the main terminal's baggage claim. Only those passengers who are connecting to a flight in Airside 4 and airport employees, will need to go through security upon exiting customs.
Virgin Atlantic, with their Boeing 747 service to Orlando, is currently the largest aircraft type operator at the airport. The airline offers multiple daily flights into Orlando from the UK. During peak travel seasons, up to five Virgin 747's may be at Orlando's gates at a single time. British Airways also directly competes with Virgin on the London Gatwick route currently operating up to ten flights per week on Boeing 777s.
Lufthansa opened a gate in Orlando on October 30, 2007, providing the first direct link between Orlando and a hub in continental Europe (in this case, Frankfurt, Germany) as part of a regional effort to diversify the local economy beyond tourism and meet growing demand for such route. At the moment, Lufthansa offers six flights per week between MCO and Frankfurt Airport on Airbus A330s, providing connections throughout Europe.
The Airbus A380, the world's largest airliner, landed at MCO on November 14, 2007. Orlando was one of the first airports in the world to be "Airbus A380 ready". Currently, only two MCO carriers have an Airbus A380 order: Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.. Virgin Atlantic is not taking any deliveries until 2013 and has stated that it is "way too early" for the airline to discuss on which routes they are going to be used.
Airside 1 has 27 Gates: 1-17, 20-28
Airside 2 has 16 Gates: 101-106, 110-112, 120-126
Note: JetBlue Airways' international arrivals are handled in Airside 4
NOTE: Checkin and Baggage Claim for Virgin Atlantic has been relocated to Terminal A, boarding areas are still located in Airside 4. NOTE: If you get on the Tram to go to Airside 4, you will have to go through security even though they are covered by the same checkpoint due to international arrivals.
The large land area immediately south of the existing main terminal has been designated as the proposed new terminal area. The majority of the land is already cleared.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, McCoy became the primary forward operating base for both the U-2, as well as a forward operating base for over 120 F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers. Following the crisis, McCoy continued to host a permanent U-2 operating detachment until 1973.
With the arrival of the first generation commercial jetliners, the length and weight-bearing capability of the runways of the former Orlando Army Air Base, now Orlando's Herndon Airport, were inadequate for continuation of commercial airline service. With Herndon Airport hemmed in by lakes and commercial and residential development, further expansion was impractical, and an agreement was reached between the City of Orlando and the U.S. Air Force in 1962 for the use of McCoy AFB under a joint civil-military airport arrangement. The military would offer a large AGM-28 Hound Dog missile maintenance hangar and its associated flight line ramp area in the northeast corner of the installation for conversion into a civilian air terminal for the city. The city would then cover the cost of building a replacement missile maintenance hangar on the main base. Once executed, the new civilian facility would be known as the Orlando Jetport at McCoy and would operate alongside McCoy AFB. This agreement became a model for other joint civil-military airports in operation today.
Commercial airline service to the new Orlando Jetport at McCoy began in 1962, per the city and USAF agreement, as commercial flights were migrated from the old Herndon Airport, now the Orlando Executive Airport (ICAO Code KORL/FAA Code ORL). By 1971, regular scheduled airline operations were conducted by Delta Air Lines, and the former Eastern Air Lines, National Airlines and Southern Airways.
McCoy AFB was identified for closure in early 1973 as part of a post-Vietnam reduction in force. The following year, McCoy's 306th Bombardment Wing was inactivated, its B-52D Stratofortress and KC-135A Stratotanker aircraft reassigned to other SAC units and most of the McCoy facility turned over to the City of Orlando by the General Services Administration (GSA) in late 1974 and early 1975. A portion of the facility was retained under military control to support Naval Training Center Orlando and several Reserve and National Guard units.
In 1975, the final Air Force contingent departed McCoy and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) was established as a state-chartered governmental agency and an enterprise fund of the City of Orlando. GOAA's mission was to operate, manage and oversee construction of expansions and improvements to both the Orlando International Airport and the Orlando Executive Airport. The airport gained its current name and international airport status a year later in 1976, but retained its old IATA airport code MCO and ICAO airport code KMCO.
The airport became a U.S. Customs Service Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) in 1978, said zone being designated as FTZ #42. In 1979, the facility was also designated as a large hub airport by the FAA based on flight operations and passenger traffic. However, actual air carrier hub operations are minimal and the airport remains primarily and "Origination & Destination" (O&D) facility versus a hub facility like Miami or Atlanta.
In 1978, construction of the current Landside Terminal and Airsides 1 and 3 began, opening in 1981. The original International Concourse was housed in Airside 1 and opened in 1984. Funding to commence developing the east side of the airport was bonded in 1986, with Runway 17/35 (now 17R/35L) completed in 1989. Airside 4 opened in 1990 and also contains an International Concourse for the processing of international flights. Airside 3, which filled out what will become known as the North Terminal complex, was completed in 2000, with the last additional gates added in 2006. Runway 17L/35R was opened in 2003, providing the airport with a total of four runways.
In 1978, MCO handled 5 million passengers. By 2000, that number had soared to 30 million. Today, MCO covers 23 square miles (60 km²), and is the third-largest airport in the United States by area (after Denver and Dallas). MCO also has North America's second tallest control tower, replacing two earlier Air Force and FAA control towers.
MCO is a designated Space Shuttle emergency landing site. The west-side runways, also known as Runway 18L/36R and Runway 18R/36L, were designed to accommodate B-52 Stratofortress bombers and due to their proximity to NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center, were an obvious choice for an emergency landing should an emergency "return to launch site (RTLS) attempt to land at KSC fall short. The runway is also an emergency divert site for NASA's Boeing 747 Shuttle Transport Aircraft when relocating orbiters from either west coast modification work or divert recoveries at Edwards AFB, California or the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
Eastern Air Lines used Orlando as a hub during the 1970s and early 1980s, and became "the official airline of Walt Disney World." Following Eastern's demise, Delta Air Lines assumed this role, although it later pulled much of its large aircraft operations from Orlando, and focused its service there on regional jet flights, specifically with Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Comair and Chautauqua Airlines - all part of the Delta Connection system. All Delta Connection service ended September 30, 2008.
In 2004, Hurricane Charley caused minor damage to the airport when it struck on the evening of August 13, mostly in the form of shattered terminal windows. The damage did not halt normal service, which resumed as soon as the weather cleared.
On February 22, 2005, MCO became the first airport in Florida to accept E-Pass and SunPass toll transponders as a form of payment for parking. The system allows drivers to enter and exit a parking garage without pulling a ticket or stopping to pay the parking fee. The two toll roads that serve the airport, SR 528 (Beachline Expressway) and SR 417 (Central Florida GreeneWay), use these systems for automatic toll collection.
In October 2006, MCO opened a 100-space Cell Phone Parking Lot for drivers to use while waiting for passengers to arrive. The lot is set-up as a free Wi-Fi Hotspot enabling drivers to use their mobile devices to access the Internet, check e-mail, and monitor flight status. Around the same time MCO opened an Express Pickup service at each terminal allowing drivers to park their vehicles temporarily at a secure location just outside of baggage claim and meet their arriving party in person. A fee is charged for this service and is only available to E-Pass and SunPass users.
In late 2007, German-based Lufthansa airlines expanded to include new routes to Frankfurt, Germany from Orlando International Airport. The new Orlando-Frankfurt route was celebrated by airport and airline officials as a major breakthrough in International travel for Orlando International. Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub provides key connections to destinations across Europe and the Eastern hemisphere.
On March 19, 2008, JetBlue announced the addition of Orlando, Florida as a new focus city. Orlando will now serve as a key connecting city to international destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. New international routes from Orlando International Airport include Cancun, Mexico, Bogotá, Colombia, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In addition to new routes, the airline will also continue significant expansion of operations at Orlando International Airport including 292-room lodge that will house trainees attending the adjacent "JetBlue University" training facility. Since the announcement, however, the crew lodge has been canceled and plans for a flight to Bogotá are in jeopardy.