Letters to the Editor

MIA’s international gateway is growing

Miami International Airport has long been known as the Gateway of the Americas, the world’s go-to airport for reaching Latin America and the Caribbean. That moniker still holds true, with MIA now offering more flights to more destinations in the region than any other U.S. airport.

But with these hemispheric connections firmly established, our focus has shifted to transforming MIA from to a truly global hub with direct passenger access to all major world regions.

MIA continues to steadily add new European destinations, while also introducing Florida’s only direct flights to the Middle East on Qatar Airways last summer. Untapped markets remain, however, and Asia sits atop our list of route development priorities.

Now more than ever, a direct Asia connection makes sense for Miami: Asian investment, interest and tourism in our community are at an all-time high; new, fuel-efficient aircraft are making extra long-range connections possible; and Asia’s rising middle class represents a new generation of international travelers. In fact, Miami-Dade County welcomed more than a quarter million Asian visitors in 2014.

As our eastward focus sharpens, business and trade connections between Miami and Asia are strengthening, with MIA’s longstanding daily cargo flights to the continent performing well. These growing links — and the statistics that back them up — are driving MIA’s deliberate push for direct Asia passenger service.

Our efforts kicked off in late 2013 when I traveled to Tokyo with Gov. Rick Scott and then-Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope to discuss Miami-Japan service with executives from Japan Airlines. Officials from MIA paid a follow-up visit to Japan last year to keep these efforts moving forward, meeting with leaders from both JAL and All Nippon Airways.

MIA’s campaign for direct Asia passenger service continued last month when I traveled to Taipei, Taiwan for talks with airline executives and government officials. Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport is a top Asian gateway with connections to mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and Southeast Asia. This potential hub-to-hub connection was well received by executives from China Airlines and EVA Air, as well as Taiwanese government leaders whose agencies regulate and support aviation.

MIA is now creating an Asia Task Force, comprising local businesspeople whose work requires frequent travel to Asia, trade organizations and Miami-based Asian diplomatic missions. Together, these stakeholders will be invaluable as we pitch our plans to international airlines. In the meantime, MIA executives are staying engaged in the effort by participating in meetings with Asia-based trade organizations like the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

This is a transformative time for Miami International Airport — and also for our community. The team at MIA is committed to doing its part to ensure that our hometown continues on this path to prosperity. We’re taking steady, deliberate action and traveling to the farthest reaches of the world to give our community truly global access through our growing international gateway.

Emilio T. González, director, Miami-Dade Aviation Department