Ft Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport

The history of passenger facilities at FLL.

  Early History

  The original Merle Fogg Field (Ft Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport) was built over an abandoned nine-hole golf course and opened on May 1, 1929. 

  In 1942 the airport was taken over by the Navy (for pilot training purposes) and was greatly expanded with the construction of new aprons, barracks, hangars and runways.  On December 5, 1945 the mysterious Flight 19 (comprised of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers) took off on a navigational training flight and disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle.  The aircraft and their 14 crewmembers were never found.  A Martin PBM Mariner with 13 crewmembers was sent out to find Flight 19 and also vanished. 

  After the cessation of hostilities the base was returned to Broward County and was transformed into a general aviation airport.  Airline operations began on June 2, 1953 when Mackey Airlines inaugurated scheduled service to the Bahamas.

  1959 Terminal

  Broward County opened its first permanent passenger terminal in March 1959.  The building (situated on the site of todayís Terminal 3) was a rectangular-shaped, low-rise, concrete and glass structure topped off by a control tower.  The ticket counters for the five carriers serving FLL were found in the south side of the terminal.  A gift shop, newsstand, lounge and a restaurant were situated within the north side.  A corral along the terminalís west side served as the departure gate.  The terminalís apron could accommodate four Lockheed L-188 Electra airliners and all aircraft boarding was done by means of airstairs.  Access to the terminal was via a spur road connected to Federal Highway (US-1).

  Carriers serving FLL at the time included Delta, Eastern, Mackey, National and Northeast Airlines.  A total of 134,773 passengers were transported by the airlines during the terminalís first year in operation.

An Eastern Airlines Boeing 720 at the 1959 Terminal.  Note the rooftop control tower in the background.

  Northeast Airlines introduced the airport to turbojet operations in 1961 when it placed the Convair 880 on flights to Boston via New York.  Eastern later followed Northeast Airlinesí head start with the Boeing 720. 

  Traffic at FLL grew by leaps and bounds and by the end of the decade the airport was handling about one million passengers a year. To manage the rise in traffic, two ramp-level concourses with 19 gates were completed during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Eastern and Mackey occupied the western concourse while Delta, National and Northeast Airlines operated from the northern pier.

An evocative late-1960s view of the 1959 Terminal.

  During the late 1960s the Civil Aeronautics Board granted Northwest and United Airlines authority to serve the airport.  Northwest was awarded a route to Minneapolis/St Paul via Chicago and United Airlines obtained routes to Cleveland and Pittsburgh.  Both carriers shared the ticket counter at the southern end of the terminal and used the gates at the western pier.   

  Wide-body flights were introduced in the early 1970s when Delta, Eastern and National Airlines started operating airliners like the Lockheed L-1011 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 on routes to Atlanta and New York. 

  Several domestic carriers initiated scheduled service during the decade when the Civil Aeronautics Board authorized additional service.  Braniff International and Continental were awarded routes from FLL to Denver; Southern got a route to Orlando, Trans World was granted a route to St Louis and Western Airlines launched scheduled service to Los Angeles.

  In order to handle the escalating traffic, three extensions featuring upper-level departure lounges and jetways were added to the two concourses.  A new ticketing and baggage claim facility, adjacent to the northern concourse, was constructed for Delta Airlines.

  By the early 1980s the terminal facilities were very congested and rapidly becoming obsolete.  To make matters even worse deregulation allowed Air Florida, American, North Central, Ozark, Pan American, Piedmont Airlines and USAir to start serving the airport.

  Project 80s Terminals

  Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, plans were made for a series of Unit Terminals to be constructed on the site of the 1959 facility.  This was a very difficult undertaking that involved the relocation of Federal Highway and the adjacent Florida East Coast Railroad tracks.  To make matters even more complicated, all the work had to be carried out around an active passenger terminal and without disrupting busy airline operations. 

  Work on the $263-million Project 80s terminals was started in the early 1980s with the construction of the Palm Garage and Terminal 4 (International Terminal).  This 10-gate facility opened in 1983 and was visited by the Concorde during its dedication.  Work on the remaining structures began that same year and was slowly completed in piecemeal phases.

A mid-1990s aerial view of the Project 80s Terminal Complex. 

  When fully finished in 1986 the Project 80s Terminal Complex was comprised of three modern Unit Terminals, a two-level roadway and a short-term parking garage.  All the terminals were multi-level structures, with arrivals and departure functions handled on separate levels.  The buildings were done in a 1980s straightforward architectural style similar to the terminals at Orlando International Airport (1981) and the Southwest Florida Regional Airport (1983).  The facilities were designed to simultaneously handle 39 Boeing 757 airliners with aircraft boarding achieved by means of telescoping-type jetways.  The largest of the three structures was Terminal 3 (Main Terminal), which was occupied by Eastern Airlines and boasted two concourses with 20 gates.  Terminal 2 was exclusively designed for Delta Airlines and featured 9 gates.  

A Braniff International Boeing 727 with Terminal 3 in the background.

  For the next 10 years the Project 80ís facilities were more than sufficient to accommodate the aviation needs of Broward County and did not require any type of expansion or modification.  In 1986 the terminals handled eight million passengers but by 2000 this figure had grown to 15.8 million. 

  Air traffic began to soar in the late 1990s when low-cost carriers began to choose FLL as a cheaper alternative to Miami International Airport.  In 1996 the celebrated Southwest Airlines began scheduled service with Boeing 737 flights to Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.  Spirit Airlines established a hub at Terminal 4 after it moved its headquarters to FLL in 1999.  JetBlue Airways commenced scheduled service in 2001 with Airbus A-320 flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport.  Proximity to a thriving cruise ship port (Port Everglades) coupled with impressive growth in low-cost and international traffic created a need for additional parking and terminal facilities.  

A 2005 bird's-eye view depicting the Cypress/Hibiscus Parking Garages and Terminal 1.

  In May 2001 Continental, Northwest and Southwest Airlines relocated operations to Terminal 1 (New Terminal).  The gleaming and spacious building was done in a Postmodern architectural style and initially added nine gates to the terminal complex.  An accompanying nine-gate concourse was completed in January 2003 and a third concourse can be added in the future when required.

  Two parking garages (Cypress and Hibiscus) were constructed to keep up with the never-ending demand for parking spaces.  The Hibiscus Parking Garage (located across Terminals 1 and 2) opened in October 1999 with 4,900 parking spaces.  The $247-million Cypress Garage opened in January 2005 and has 4,000 public parking spaces.  The eight-story garage has four levels dedicated to housing 12 rental car agencies.  

  Currently Ft Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport is the fastest growing airport in the United States.  During 2012 FLL handled 23.5-million passengers making the terminal Floridaís third busiest after Miami and Orlando International Airport.  Twenty-three scheduled carriers serve the airport with 350 daily flights to 103 worldwide destinations.