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Hongqiao Style in Orlando:

Meeting Details:

Next meeting: Nov 23th: 8pm Central


Question of the Week:

1) What would happen to MSN Airport if high speed rail was built?

2) Could American's MIA hub be threatened because of Brightline?



  • Faster Headlines

  • Infrastructure Bill Update

  • Hongqiao Style in Orlando

  • Madison Dane County Airport


Faster Headlines

The Washington Post

The Columbian

Smart Cities Dive

South China Morning Post

Financial Times

HyperloopTT Press





Infrastructure Update:

For the latest on the infrastructure, check out a dedicated webpage:


Madison Dane County Airport

In the past few weeks we discussed the location of a high speed rail station in Madison. A reoccurring question is what affect a 200 mph Chicago to Minneapolis high speed rail line would have on Madison Dane County Airport. Let’s just say it would change things, but not as much as we thought.

According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics, from Aug '20 to Aug '21:

Madison handled 670,000 passengers (1.7 million passengers in 2019)

The largest airlines in 2021:

  • Skywest 16.58% of passengers

  • Endeavor 16.45%

  • Envoy 11.23%

  • PSA 10.46%

  • Delta 9.15%

Although back in 2019: the largest was Delta at 24.17% of passengers, Skywest at17.15%, United at 13.97%, and Envoy 11.37%. It really has been the mainline carriers that have pulled out due to pandemic, especially Delta Airlines.

Of course more important, is where are those passengers were going:

In 2021:

  1. Chicago O’Hare: 96,000 passengers

  2. Denver: 79,000

  3. Dallas/Fort Worth: 61,000

  4. Minneapolis: 61,000

Other top destinations include: Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, Phoenix, Orlando and Philadelphia

Although back in 2019, the pie was much bigger:

  1. Chicago O’Hare: 227,000 passengers

  2. Minneapolis: 153,000

  3. Detroit: 144,000

  4. Denver: 132,000

Other Top Destinations include: Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, New York, Philadelphia, and Newark. Source:

Madison is definitely a spoke airport with nearly all passengers being routed to hubs. But wow... Madison lost over 55% of its passenger in 2021 during the Covid pandemic even as other airports recovered.

However to get to the main question about what if a high speed rail line were to be built, Dane County would lose nearly all of its Chicago and Minneapolis passengers, or 28% of the passengers (2019 numbers). This is less than expected and less of a loss than passenger due to the pandemic. After-all service to Denver, Detroit, and Atlanta would become the new primary flight markets. However, the decrease in flights might open up more expanded service by Frontier, Spirit, or Southwest to leisure destinations. So there is a chance long distance service might increase.

So it is a draw if a high speed rail system from Minneapolis to Chicago, with a stop in Madison, would actually hurt or benefit the airport. However, it would change things at MSN. That's assured.


Feature: Hongqiao Style in Orlando?

Last week was the discussion on Shanghai Hongqiao Airport where one could argue that it is more of a railway station with an airport attached. This week, we look at what could be the first Hongqiao like airport in US…So make a Florida left turn to Orlando International Airport.

Orlando International Airport was originally built in 1942 as a US Army airfield, called McCoy Air Force Base . That is why the airport code today is still MCO, even though it is called Orlando International Airport. At the time Orlando’s main airport was what is today Orlando Executive Airport (airport Code ORL).

Like Chicago Midway, the runways at ORL were too short for the upcoming Boeing 707’s and Douglas DC-8s jetliners; so McCoy was opened up to civil operations in the late 1960s (just like Chicago did with O'Hare). Then Walt Disney came to town in the early '60's and saw that McCoy/Orlando International could be a large airport to support a large amount of tourist. This is one of the reasons Disney choose to build Walt Disney World in Orlando.(Ironically, the next Disney park was going to be built in St. Louis; but a President of Anheuser Busch burned that bridge over beer... but that a different story).

Throughout the 1970s and 1980’s, Orlando International Airport expanded to what is today known as terminals A & B with its main terminal hub and spoke system of concourses served by people movers. However, by the 2000s demand forecasts dictated the need for a whole new terminal complex. So in 2015, the Airport Authority Board agreed to fund the $1.8 billion South Terminal Complex, which was to have a 2.7 million sq ft new terminal, 16-24 gates (expandable to 120+ gates in the future), and an inter modal terminal.

South Terminal Complex:

The MCO South Terminal is to be an inter modal transportation hub similar to Hongqiao with the airport terminal on the side and the railway station in the center. Although no where near the size of the Hongqiao Railway station, the MCO Airport inter modal station is being designed to handle 3 different types of passenger rail: Brightline trains, Sunrail, and a 3rd bay for future expansion for a possible high speed maglev to International Drive. Additionally a 6 story parking garage is being built and the whole station will be connected by a people mover to the north terminal (sadly not an Epcot monorail).

The inter modal terminal is scheduled to open in 2022. At the same time Disney will discontinue its complimentary "Magical Express" shuttle bus service. This means that not only will typical Brightline and Sunrail passengers be using the terminal, but potentially 2.3 million guests annually will use Brightline in lieu of the defunct Magical Express. Then there are MCO-MIA, and MCO-FLL flights that could be replaced by Brightline; meaning potentially an additional 1.4 million passengers annually. This could mean that the inter modal terminal could end up handling more passengers than the airport terminals. Just like in Hongqiao.

Beyond International Drive: The Inter modal Terminal as a Fortress Hub Killer

When looking through the master plans, it was the airport terminals that appeared to be given all of the attention. The inter modal terminal is nice, but appears to be a secondary thought. However, in 10 to 20 years we may be looking at the inter modal terminal over capacity and needing to be replaced. The reason is the Brightline link.

When completed next year, Brightline's service will be:

  • 2 ½ hrs from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale

  • 3 hrs from Orlando to Miami

  • 2 hours from Orlando to West Palm Beach

Then you look at where the Brightline Stations are in these cities and Brightline replacing the flights from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale and Miami becomes a real possibility:

  • Orlando to Fort Lauderdale - 5 flights today, 50 min scheduled, but 2 hrs 35 min when considering passenger processing time (vs 2 1/2 hrs on Brightline). Brightline station is 7.5 miles, or 15 min drive from the airport

  • Orlando to Miami -12 flights today, 1 hr 10 minutes scheduled, 2 hrs, 55 min when considering processing time(vs 3 hrs on Brightline). Brightline station is 8.3 miles, or 5 minutes from the airport

  • Orlando to West Palm Beach (No flights). Brightline station is 5 miles/10 min drive to airport

The important thing to remember is that the Brightline station is closer to the beach and major attractions in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami than the airports.

So Brightline will be extremely competitive with airline flights.

However, it's not just about the direct flights where there is potential. It is with the hub system in Florida that could be changed, especially American Airline's fortress hub in Miami.

In Orlando, no one airline has what’s called a Fortress Hub. In August 2021 Southwest is the largest airline with 24.38% of passenger, Spirit has 17.05%, Frontier has 12.82%, Delta at 12.72%, and American at 12.11%. Other airlines are the other 20.93%. So while Southwest is the biggest, the passenger pie in Orlando is generally well sliced.

However, it is a very different story at the other airports. Fort Lauderdale is a major hub for Spirit Airlines, which has 32.39%, followed by jetBlue at 17.63%, Southwest has 14.53% and Delta has 12.48% of the passenger. Here Spirit has what can be called a hub airport, but jetBlue and Southwest have what is called a "focus city" (meaning alot of flights, but not much connection passengers).

Attack on the Fortress?

Then there Miami which is the fortress hub. American Airlines controls 59.16% of passengers, with Delta being far behind at 9.99%. Then United, Frontier, and Southwest all are less than 5.35%. Miami is American Airlines!

However, what if a major airline wanted to break into the Miami market. After all, Miami is a huge leisure market and price conscious leisure travels would easily make a connection to save money. For example, United Airlines is weak in Florida. So could United increase its flights into Orlando’s new terminal, then route passengers over Orlando and onto Brightline into Miami…and grab passengers from American, and Spirit in Fort Lauderdale? Delta or Southwest can have an agreement with Brightline to do the same. Beyond Orlando, jetBlue could code share on Brightline routing passengers from Miami up to their flights out of Fort Lauderdale.

So that is why that new inter modal terminal at Orlando might be underappreciated. Especially with its power of potentially realigning the whole airline hub system in Florida. The question is, has anyone realized the power of those inter modal terminal yet?


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