Airport #95/100: Miami

Photo of "Miami International Airport" sign on terminal building

Miami International Airport
Miami, Florida, United States

First visit: 18 October 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/MIA

One of my earliest posts when I started this blog in 2013 discussed how I’d been to all but six of the FAA-designated large hubs in the US, and I was only missing six: IAH, MDW, SAN, TPA, FLL, and MIA. Over the years, I’d managed to visit the first five, and this week I finally picked up MIA as well, completing my collection of large US hub airports.

I’d originally scheduled a 2 hour and 45 minute layover to give myself time to explore the airport, but my incoming flight was delayed and I only ended up getting about two hours. However, it ended up being enough, because in my reading up about MIA pre-trip, I’d somehow managed to miss that the concourses weren’t all connected behind security. With my AA boarding passes, I’d only be able to see concourses D and E airside.

D was quite long – while I don’t believe it’s quite as long as the main terminal at DTW, it’s the only airport I can recall visiting a single concourse with four of its own train stations.

E was interesting with its bizarre pier and satellite structure, where instead of the satellite train connecting to the close end of the pier, it connected to the root of the pier, with the tracks running over the roof of the length of the pier.

Photo of MIA Concourse E, with the satellite on the right and the pier on the left.
Concourse E, with the satellite on the right and the pier on the left.

Since D and E didn’t take the whole layover time to explore, and since I had PreCheck to expedite security, I also went ahead and exited the secure area to visit the ticketing, baggage claim, and parking structure areas.

Photo of the MIA central terminal from a parking structure

All in all, it’s not an airport that I would go out of my way to visit again, but it was a pretty decent airport for a moderate layover.

Airport #92/100: Kansas City (MCI)

Kansas City International Airport
Kansas City, Missouri, United States

First visit: 29 July 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/MCI

I have a love–hate relationship with Kansas City International (KCI): it’s a beautiful terminal concept that absolutely doesn’t work as a modern airport.

KCI was designed to minimize walking from one’s parked car to the gate, and so each of the three terminals is a thin circle wrapped around a parking garage.

Satellite imagery of all three terminals
Interior of Terminal C
Interior of Terminal C. The entire interior width of the terminal, as can be seen here, is only about 50 feet (15.5 meters).

However, this design was built before airport security was required, and the terminals weren’t wide enough to have singular landside and airside areas separated by a security checkpoint. Thus, the terminals had to have multiple security checkpoints, with only a few gates behind each, in order to make security fit.

Landside interior of Terminal C
Landside (non-secure) area of Terminal C. An airside (secure) portion is behind the glass panels in the center of the photo.

Given those limitations, the airside seating areas past security are exceptionally crowded and have very limited amenities. My particular gate area had rows of seats that were crowded so close together that two people couldn’t sit across from each other without interweaving their knees, and yet there still weren’t enough seats for everyone to sit down.

Effectively, KCI is a pretty unique airport design, which I appreciate – but I also have no desire to ever fly out of it again until its upcoming new, modern terminal is open.

Airport #90/100: Pittsburgh (PIT)

Photo of PIT central core

Pittsburgh International Airport
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

First visit: 24 June 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/PIT

Pittsburgh is about a four hour drive from my home near Dayton, which means that it’s in what I call the doughnut zone – airports which are too far to fly from, but too close to fly to as a destination. The only airports I have in that zone tend to be hubs that I connect through, and Pittsburgh is not a hub for any airline I routinely fly, so I’ve never had a chance to connect through there.

Great Circle Mapper map showing airports within a 120 and 270 mile radius ring around DAY. DAY and PIT are highlighted.
The only airports I’d been to in the doughnut zone were hubs when I went through them – Chicago O’Hare (American/United), Chicago Midway (Southwest), Detroit (Delta), and Cleveland (former United). PIT is my first non-hub in the doughnut zone.
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Back in 2014, I almost had a chance to visit PIT; we were traveling home from Boston through Newark to Dayton, but the Newark to Dayton flight was cancelled and there wasn’t another flight to Dayton that day. There was a flight to Pittsburgh and we switched to it at first, intending to rent a car to get home from there. Ultimately, though, we changed to a flight the next morning and spent the night near the airport.

Ever since then, I’ve been hoping for a chance to visit PIT, and I eventually got it earlier this week.

I was booked on a Dayton – Chicago O’Hare – Denver route on United, but my first flight was delayed enough to miss my connection, and the airline didn’t have any more seats available on any other Chicago – Denver flights that day, so they sent me from Chicago to Pittsburgh to connect to a Denver-bound flight from there.

My ultimate flight route, from DAY to ORD to PIT to DEN.

It was certainly an odd routing; after two flights, I was further from Denver than when I started. But I was finally able to add PIT to my list as my 90th airport visited.

Airport #89/100: Fayetteville (FAY)

Fayetteville Regional Airport
Fayetteville, North Carolina, United States

First visit: 11 June 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/FAY

For the most part, the small airports that I’ve been to tend to feel old – understandably so, since less passenger traffic means less need for (and money for) frequent renovations.

FAY fell squarely in that camp. As I stepped off the plane, I was immediately inside a rusty jet bridge painted 1970s orange, and the terminal felt similarly dated. Fortunately, it appears that the airport is getting some upgrades, so the appearance may improve in the near future.

That said, like most small airports, it was functional and easy to get in and out of. I certainly wouldn’t have any problems with flying through FAY again.

Airport #88/100: Fort Lauderdale (FLL)

Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

First visit: 16 March 2019
flighthistorian.com/airports/FLL

I’ll be honest that I wasn’t too impressed with FLL on my visit. It’s certainly possible that I was visiting at a peak season, but the airport just felt crowded in a way that I wouldn’t normally expect for an airport its size. The arrivals road loop could not handle the amount of traffic flowing through it, leading to a much longer (and much more stop-and-go) shuttle trip to the rental car center than I would have expected from the distance traveled.

It’s also one of the airports whose terminals don’t seem to be connected past the security checkpoints, which does tend to get in the way of exploring the airport before my flight. At least Terminal 3 (E/F gates) and Terminal 4 (G gates) had a connector, so since my flight departed out of 3 I was able to visit half of the airport. Though it was still under construction, the parts of Terminal 4 which were finished looked pretty nice.

Airport #87/100: Tokyo–Narita (NRT)

Narita International Airport · Narita, Chiba, Japan
First visit: 10 February 2019 · flighthistorian.com/airports/NRT

This was my first trip to Japan, and as such, my first time visiting a Japanese airport. Since both my incoming and outgoing flights were on American Airlines, I only got to experience Terminal 2.

Welcome to Japan sign

As the customs exit left me in the landside part of the terminal and I had to catch a shuttle into Tokyo anyway, I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the terminal on my way in. However, on my way home, I made sure to arrive at NRT about three hours before my flight so I’d have time to look around before departing.

The landside part of the terminal had a decent amount of shopping and I still had a couple of souvenir requests from friends to fulfill, so I headed up to the T2 shops. While I was up there, I found an observation deck.

Terminal 2 north observation deck

After going through security and exit immigration, I took a walk around all of the international gates of Terminal 2.

World clock with daylight map

The Platinum status I’ve earned with American Airlines grants me lounge access on international itineraries, so after I was done exploring I decided to go visit the Admirals Club.

View from the NRT Admirals Club, with a few OneWorld tails visible on the ramp

It was a nice enough airport and I wouldn’t mind flying here again, though if I do, I might try to fly a Star Alliance or SkyTeam airline so I can check out Terminal 1.