Lauderdale’s Lure: In Miami’s shadows, Fort Lauderdale has become an American airport growth story

Fort Lauderdale has become an American airport growth storyWinter is approaching. The cold is setting in. So for many North Americans, thoughts are turning—as they always do this time of year—to Florida’s sunshine. For a city like Fort Lauderdale, where every New Yorker seems to have an uncle or two worth visiting when times get cold, that’s an age-old reality.

What’s new, however, is Fort Lauderdale’s growing appeal among international airlines, exemplified by last week’s stunning announcement that Emirates would start flying there in December (see page eight). Just three short years ago, Fort Lauderdale lacked any scheduled air service to points outside the Americas, save for a lone Condor route to Frankfurt. Then along came Norwegian, which made Fort Lauderdale a centerpiece of its longhaul strategy, entering with nonstops to Scandinavia at first, followed by London Gatwick, Paris de Gaulle and soon Barcelona. Azul similarly chose Fort Lauderdale as one of its inaugural longhaul destinations, flying there with A330s from its Campinas hub near São Paulo.

Already this quarter, even before the new Emirates service begins, Fort Lauderdale is the country’s fastest growing international gateway among the major U.S. airports, with scheduled seat capacity abroad up a robust 24% y/y, according to an Airline Weekly analysis of Diio Mi data. During its peak winter season, anyway, the airport now has more seats flying to points outside the U.S. than all but 10 other U.S. airports. Once an afterthought for international airlines, Fort Lauderdale is becoming an acceptable and—for a few—even preferred alternative to nearby Miami.

Why? Well, Fort Lauderdale’s airport is considerably less expensive to serve thanks to lower fees and charges, attracting budget-conscious carriers like Volaris. But that has always been the case. More importantly, carriers like Emirates and Azul are increasingly lured by partnership opportunities with JetBlue, which offers a fast-expanding menu of attractive connecting flights. Members of the oneworld alliance, naturally, prefer to serve the area via Miami where they can work with American—think LATAM, British Airways, Iberia, Qatar Airways, Air Berlin, Finnair and even Mexico’s Interjet, not in oneworld but an American ally all the same. Others including Turkish Airlines, Aeroflot and most major European carriers…

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