MIA Loses Local Travelers, is Still the Soap Opera of The Skies

At Miami International Airport, somehow, there is always a couple fighting in Spanish. That such a fiery passion wells up alongside colorless cargo packages and old ladies in wheelchairs seems almost magical.

It's one of the reasons we recommend arriving early with a box of Junior Mints. The drama and general chaos is better than an All My Children marathon.

It is not, however, enough to keep domestic travelers coming back. In the past year, South Florida fliers have been wooed by sweet deals out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. For college kids and budget travelers, Broward has become the Ikea of the airways.

In 2009, the number of locals who fly out of MIA dropped to about 65 percent, down from 80 percent in 1995.

The reason: Broward airports have bargains from discount carriers. They sometimes offer trips to, for example, New York City for under $100. Carriers include: JetBlue, AirTran Airways, Midwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Miami-Dade Aviation Director José Abreu doesn't seem worried. "I don't know that this will ever be a low-cost carrier airport," he tells Miami Today. "First class and business class is big for us."

So, apparently, are Cuban food stands and real-life telenovelas.

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