Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s vision of being an international hub is not so distant anymore.
The airport gave a sneak peak of its new five-gate international Southwest Airlines concourse at Terminal 1 on Thursday, just weeks before the concourse is set to open to the public at the end of June.
The airy Concourse A, featuring teal terrazzo flooring, floor-to-ceiling glass windows and public art is a major component of the airport’s goal to diversify and modernize its facilities.
One thing is for sure, we are growing. We are not only a great low-cost alternative, but we are an airport of choice and people want this experience.
Mark Gale, FLL CEO and aviation director
The Southwest concourse, built by the airline for about $200 million, is part of the greater $330 million renovation of the entire Terminal 1. Updates include an upgraded post-security area, new shops and restaurants (including Starbucks and Burger Fi), and a connector hallway between all three concourses, A, B and C. Other new features include a pet relief area with artificial turf and electrical outlets at every seat.
In concert with the opening of the new concourse, Southwest is inaugurating four flights from Fort Lauderdale on Sunday to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cancun, Mexico; and Belize City, Belize. The airline is also launching flights to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; San Jose, Puerto Rico; and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos in November. The Turks and Caicos flights begin at $59 one-way through a deal available through Thursday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Thursday at the concourse unveiling.
For now, the flights will operate out of Terminal 4 until renovations to Terminal 1 are completed.
Southwest Airlines first launched flights from Fort Lauderdale 21 years ago with five daily flights to Tampa. Now the airline operates 63 daily flights to numerous domestic destinations and some international stops, including Cuba, Kelly said. The airline is the airport’s third busiest, behind JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines.
Southwest is currently working on growing its international presence, and expects Fort Laudedale to be a launching pad for many of its international flights.
“We are very excited about the future,” Kelly said.
Still, Southwest will use only three out of the five gates at the new Concourse A. The other gates will welcome international flights from other airlines to destinations in the Caribbean, Canada, South and Central America, said FLL CEO and Aviation Director Mark Gale.
“One thing is for sure, we are growing,” Gale said. “We are not only a great low-cost alternative, but we are an airport of choice and people want this experience.”
FLL has expanded considerably in recent years, shifting from an airport once focused on domestic flights and low-cost airlines to an international hub with flights on British Airways and Emirates Airlines.
Southwest is adding flights to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cancun, Mexico; Belize City Belize; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; San Jose, Puerto Rico; and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos from FLL.
The new Southwest concourse and Terminal 1 renovation are part of a massive makeover set for completion by 2020. Terminal 2 will get a new security checkpoint and baggage claim, new shops and eateries post-security, and a new Delta Air Lines lounge for a cost of $117 million.
More retail shops and restaurants are scheduled for Terminal 3, along with renovations to ticket counters and the baggage claim area. Combined with the already-open connector bridge between Terminals 3 and 4, the upgrades will cost the airport $250 million.
And at Terminal 4, a 14-gate facility will be completed by late 2018 with a new federal inspection area for a sticker price of $450 million. Twelve of the 14 gates will be international and the airport is working to potentially make the remaining two capable to handle international flights, too.
“We are becoming a larger international destination every single year and to be able to have the connectivity that this terminal provides [is crucial,]” said Stacy Ritter, president of the the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, at the event.