New Global Connections

MIA’s new routes connect – and re-connect – Miami to the world

MIA’s new routes connect – and re-connect – Miami to the world

By Kylie Wang

The most difficult area of post-pandemic recovery for airports worldwide has been in the international sector. Commercial flights took a huge dive over the last three years and are only now surpassing 2019 levels. International flights are taking even longer to recover. At Miami International Airport (MIA), however, rehabilitation is almost complete. According to MIA’s Director of Marketing and Air Service Development Emir Pineda, the international presence at MIA is back to about “95 or 96 percent” of what it was pre-COVID. 

Emir Pineda, MIA’s Director of Marketing and Air Service Development

A large part of this resurgence is due to international carriers taking advantage of MIA’s connectivity to Europe and Latin America. Some, like Delta and American Airlines, are resuming flights canceled during the pandemic, while some are bringing in new routes or expanding old ones for the summer. Others, like Ultra Air and ARCA Air, are waiting in the wings for their new flights to be approved.

Still others are being floated throughout the rumor mill as potential future carriers, with Japan Airlines, Air Serbia, and Qantas among the top contenders. Back in March, Japan Airlines landed its first flight ever at MIA, a charter flight that included over 100 passengers, mostly players and staff from the Japan national baseball team, which was playing in the World Baseball Classic (and won).

As Japan considers a regular transpacific flight, the success of that historic trip will hopefully loom large. Meanwhile, Air Serbia is considering a Miami-Belgrade route, and Qantas is planning ultra-long-haul flights connecting MIA with Sydney and Melbourne, Australia – though nothing has been confirmed yet.

Even without these additional carriers, the coterie of new routes and the resumption of old ones halted by the pandemic propelled MIA to the number two position last year of all U.S. airports in international passenger count, losing only to New York’s JFK. As the airport continues to perform well in commercial categories (it ranked eighth in total passengers nationally in 2022, at 50 million passengers), airlines are taking notice. What follows are the new or resumed routes MIA has launched over the last year from both new and old international carriers.



Vacations to the British Virgin Islands just got a lot easier for Miamians, with American Airlines launching a new nonstop daily flight from MIA to Beef Island/Tortola (EIS) on June 1. The newest international route out of MIA eliminates the need for travelers to stop in Puerto Rico or St. Thomas on a relatively short three-hour flight. It is the first ever scheduled air service from the mainland U.S. to the Islands and will run throughout the summer before taking a brief hiatus mid-August and re-starting in November. The flight is estimated to bring in over 2,000 monthly visitors to the Islands, which have been working to expand accommodations for the expected new travelers. “As the first nonstop flight from the U.S. in decades, this is a monumental opportunity to bring more North American travelers to the crystal-clear waters of our beloved island destination,” said Clive McCoy, director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission.

In an equally surprising move, American decided to discontinue its route between Miami and Tel Aviv (TLV) in March, opting to rely on its other flight connecting Tel Aviv to the U.S. through New York ( JFK). El Al is now the only carrier connecting Florida and Israel. American’s Tel Aviv service survived less than two years after being launched in June 2021 with four weekly flights. In October ’22, it was upgraded to a daily flight, but evidently that was not enough to spare the service. In a statement, American called the move a “difficult decision” inspired by the “continuous evaluation” of its network. The airline also canceled service to Paramaribo, Suriname (PBM) in December after just 18 months operating that route, citing “soft demand.”

On the other hand, the airline has resumed international flights to Montevideo, Uruguay (MVD); Managua, Nicaragua (MGA); and five cities in Cuba (Santa Clara, Varadero, Holguin, Camaguey, and Santiago de Cuba) after halting them during the pandemic.


In December 2022, budget airline French bee began its first route from Miami to Paris Orly airport (ORY) with fares starting as low as $281 for one-way tickets. The low-cost carrier has made U.S. expansion a priority since 2018, when it launched its inaugural flight connecting Paris to San Francisco, and, by extension, Tahiti. Since then, it has also opened two other U.S. routes in New York (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX), making the Miami route its fourth in the States.

“With the addition of MIA to our network, we reinforce our positioning as a transatlantic specialized carrier with two gateways on the West Coast and two on the East Coast,” says Thomas Renault, director of sales for the U.S. “Miami being a gateway, it also benefits our business model by allowing us to optimize our aircraft planning in a market we already understand well. We’ve had an operations and sales team supporting the airline in the U.S. since 2018.” The airline was also incentivized to come to Miami due to the airport’s connectivity with the French Caribbean islands, says MIA’s Pineda.

French bee also partners with SNCF, France’s national state-owned railway operator, to offer packages combining train and air fares so that passengers can explore all of France, not just Paris. It also works with Alaska Airlines in the U.S., giving customers access to other cities in the States with the purchase of a single ticket.

The nonstop flights to and from MIA were operating thrice weekly before increasing in April to four times per week. “We saw a really good response from the market soon after launch, with good momentum for the summer that we think we can capitalize on,” Renault said, adding that they are focused on “strengthening roots” in the States before considering further expansions.


Colombian airline Avianca took major strides last December in expanding their portfolio of flights to and from Miami with three weekly flights to Bucaramanga (BGA), four weekly flights to Pereira (PEI), and two weekly flights to Santa Marta (SMR). While flights to Pereira are also available through American Airlines, both Bucaramanga and Santa Marta are completely new destinations for MIA. The Pereira route has since been downgraded to only once per week.

According to Cirium, Avianca now offers 21,384 weekly passenger seats to eight Colombian cities from Miami – an increase of 30.8 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels – at a time when trade between South Florida and Colombia is booming, especially in aircraft parts, which was Miami’s top export to Colombia last year. The increase in flights also makes Avianca the second-largest airline in the Colombian market behind only American Airlines, which just cut a pandemic-era route to San Andrés Island due to “soft demand.”

Last year, Avianca sought to combine forces with Viva Air Colombia, but the merger was blocked in November by Colombian regulator Aerocivil on competitive grounds. After an appeal, the merger was approved, but by then Avianca had decided to back down, citing “the conditions of [the] resolution” as making “rescuing Viva impossible.” Viva officially filed for Colombia’s version of bankruptcy protection in February. Avianca itself, with 12,000 employees and over 130 aircraft, has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, having restructured the company at the end of 2021.

Pre-pandemic, Colombia was MIA’s busiest international market with 1.5 million total passengers in 2019. In 2022, passenger traffic surpassed pre-pandemic numbers with 2.2 million total passengers, and the advent of the new routes from Avianca will continue to increase those numbers this year. As of April, Avianca was already up over 12 percent in total flights compared to April of 2022. In May and June, however, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory warning asking tourists to “reconsider” traveling to Colombia, especially to remote areas and near the border with Venezuela, due to recent increases crime and terrorism. How that will effect demand remains to be seen.


After an 18-year hiatus, Air Canada relaunched its route connecting Miami and Vancouver in December. It’s the only nonstop commercial flight that exists between the two cities as of now and will act as a strategic connection for Air Canada’s Pacific routes. Miamians wanting to go to Asia can use Vancouver as a layover stop for flights to Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, as well as Sydney and Brisbane in Australia and Auckland, New Zealand.

“We’re enabling traffic between those regions by adding the flight to Vancouver,” said Vincent Gautheir-Doré, senior director of U.S. sales, adding that, “[Vancouver] was the largest unserved market for nonstop service between Canada and Miami. [There was] a need to have a link that’s efficient, and that’s why the route will be a year-round service.”

Air Canada is the largest carrier serving the Canada-to-Miami market, serving MIA from Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL) with a total of 14,234 weekly seats. The Vancouver flight will operate thrice weekly in the winter and twice weekly in the summer. In early May, however, Air Canada ramped up the flight to five-times weekly due to the demand for the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix.


Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL announced two direct routes connecting Brazil and Miami in December, one of which is completely new and the other of which is a resumption after a two-year COVID-induced hiatus. The new route is to Manaus (MAO), the largest city in the Amazon rainforest, and the resumed route is to Fortaleza (FOR), which connects northern Brazil to the U.S. via MIA. Miami now has five direct flights to Brazil, which was the city’s second-largest international market before the pandemic. 

GOL, the largest Brazilian airline, also has a partnership with American Airlines, making MIA (where American has a large hub) an attractive option. “It makes more sense flying through Miami and making all the connections with co-shared flights,” said International Business Development Manager Luiz Teixeira. The two airlines share flights to 35 destinations in North America and “almost 95 percent of all Brazilian territory that [GOL] covers,” according to Teixeira. 


Dominican airline Sky High is now offering four weekly flights connecting MIA with Santo Domingo (SDQ). The route is the carrier’s first in the U.S. and its fifteenth overall since its founding in 2012 and will allow passengers from Venezuela and the Caribbean islands to make connections through the D.R. to reach Miami. Pre-pandemic, the Dominican Republic was MIA’s sixth-busiest international market with about one million travelers in 2019.

In 2022, that number was up to over 1.6 million, with Santo Domingo itself far outpacing any other D.R. destination, with 837,135 passengers in 2022. Sky High will be the sixth passenger airline with a route connecting the country to Miami.


Not to be confused with the long-defunct Eastern Air Lines, which was headquartered at Miami International Airport before its dissolution in 1991, Eastern Airlines first began as Dynamic Airways, which went bankrupt and then renamed itself in 2018.

The carrier announced a single monthly route connecting MIA with Santo Domingo’s Las Americas International Airport (SDQ) in December, its only regular flight after it was forced to cut all 12 of its other routes throughout the Americas due to a lack of demand. Despite this, the airline is still operating, mostly due to international charter flights that use its fleet of Boeing 767s.


Suspended during the pandemic in 2020, Delta Air Line’s service to Cuba resumed in April after a three-year hiatus. The Havana (HAV) route will operate twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, competing with American Airlines’ existing flights to the Cuban capital, which operate eight times a day excluding Saturdays. With the restart, Delta customers traveling from Havana to Miami will also have access to 10 U.S. airports through the airline.


After a two-year hiatus, Aer Lingus resumed its route connecting Dublin (DUB) and Miami in October of last year, offering service between the two cities three times per week on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. U.S. passengers can also use the route to connect to UK airports, including London Heathrow. Aer Lingus is the only carrier to operate direct flights between Miami and Ireland and is considering further expansion in North America. It will also resume several other U.S.-based flights this summer.


A subsidiary of Mexico-based Volaris, Volaris El Salvador just launched a route connecting Miami with San Salvador (SAL) in March. The flight, which operates thrice weekly, is one of three new routes that connect El Salvador’s capital with the U.S. and includes a layover in Honduras. The low-cost carrier will now compete with Avianca and American Airlines, both of which serve the same route. “With this new flight, we are uniting three very dear countries,” said Regional Manager Rossana Hurtado. “We are sure that it will be a complete success.” In 2022, almost 260,000 passengers traveled between Miami and San Salvador.


Having received approval from the Colombian authorities, new airline ARCA Air is looking to fly from Pereira to Miami three times weekly. Depending on the success of that route, ARCA may look into flights out of Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), north of MIA by some 70 miles. President Tony Guerra says he is hoping for a September start to the flights, which will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 

“We’re looking right now at what’s happening with the market,” says Guerra, citing his concerns over the State Department’s recent announcement urging Americans to “reconsider travel” to Colombia. The travel advisory warns of increased violent crime in Colombia, in addition to terrorism and street protests – though noting that most of the danger lies close to the border with Venezuela and in certain remote areas, and that Americans are not being specifically targeted by terrorist groups. “It’s complicated for Americans to fly to Colombia right now,” Guerra said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the market.” As of publication, neither ARCA Air nor MIA had announced anything officially. 


Despite State Department warnings about travel by tourists there, connectivity to Colombia is clearly on the rise, and Ultra Air is also looking to expand. The small low-cost Colombian carrier launched operations early in 2022 out of Medellín International Airport (MDE) and, in November, requested permission to operate 33 international routes from five cities in Colombia. Of those 33 routes, three would connect to MIA: Barranquilla (BAQ), Carta- gena (CTG), and Cali (CLO). The airline is also looking to expand domestically with seven new routes within Colombia. 

Juan Fernando Arango, vice president of operations, says that there is a “need” from both Colombians and foreigners “to have a friendly, affordable, and punctual alternative to make their travel plans a reality.” Indeed, so far Ultra Air has performed admirably with a punctuality rate of 98 percent in its first six months of operation, with over 5,361 domestic flights. 

The aggressive expansion plans are notable since Ultra Air currently does not operate internationally. As of publication, MIA had not confirmed if the airline would begin operations out of Miami or not. 

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