Home Airports Dear MCO: I Was Wrong About You & I’m Sorry

Dear MCO: I Was Wrong About You & I’m Sorry

by SharonKurheg

As Central Florida residents, Joe and I enjoyed watching Terminal C being built at Orlando International Airport for the past few years. It was a big deal in town when the terminal was finally open for business (here’s what the landside looked like on opening day). And from a personal perspective, we were kind of giddy when we finally had a flight on JetBlue on a very recent trip to NYC, so we could finally see the airside.

However when we took that JetBlue flight, we discovered we had THE last gate in the terminal. Here’s a map of the terminal, from MCO’s website, the gates on one side are C230 to C238:

We had gate C230, but it turned out they go in reverse order. The terminal STARTS at 238 and goes DOWN to 230. Travel friends, it was far. And I mean FAR. As in “the Orlando Sentinel had already written a piece or two about the length of the terminal and how the big wigs are looking into retrofitting some moving walkways into the terminal because it was a 1/2 mile walk” kind of far. Here’s what I said at the time:

All I know is, I got my steps in that day. Over 4000 from where the shuttle from our off-site parking place dropped us off, alone.

I seriously thought it was the longest terminal ever.

I was wrong.

Exactly a week after we got home from that trip to NYC, we were going up there again (it was for a happy reason – more in another post one of these days, I’m sure). We took JetBlue on the way in (Gate C238 this time! Winning!) but on the way home we took Delta and flew out of JFK. So we were in Terminal 4.

Those of you who have experienced the “joys” of that terminal are probably already nodding your head. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, welp, here’s Delta’s map of JFK. Terminal 4 is plainly marked. See that arm facing south? You know where I’m going with this, right?

Anyway, we had access to the Centurion Lounge from Joe’s AMEX Platinum and when we were checking in, the agent, Nancy (she was lovely. She told us the lounge had a speakeasy. She then asked if we knew what a speakeasy was. That was adorable. Yes, we do.) asked if we knew what gate we were departing from.

“B53,” we innocently said, with no idea of what Herculean task was soon to be ahead of us.

I swear I saw a moment of pity on her face as she said that gate was quite a hike. She continued that boarding for our 12:10 pm flight was starting at 11:40 am but we should want to leave plenty of time to get to the gate because it was pretty far; a good 20-minute walk.

Now, I’ll tell ya – I’m not in the best of shape and I have asthma on top of it. Even with my inhaler on board, I walk kind of slowly if I’ve got luggage with me. So we started out at 11:10 am.

Y’all, I didn’t think we’d ever get there.

The signs mention gates 20 to 55 were “that way,” so off we went. I swear, I think we went a quarter of a mile, passing 80 bajillion shops and restaurants before we ever even SAW an actual gate.

And then finally, we finally hit the first one –  Gate B22! Just 30-something to go!

The walk took forever.

I saw restaurants and snack shops and considered stopping, so I could get provisions.

We went past a massage place and I thought it was well-placed, halfway through this 10k, cuz people were going to need a massage by that point in the walk.

About 2/3 through the end of the hike, Joe mentioned we had just gone past our second Shake Shack.

“That’s because we’ve walked so long, we’re in a whole different city by now!” I replied, maybe sounding a tiny bit curmudgeon-like.

To their credit, JFK does have moving walkways in the terminal, and those helped. Except for the one that was out of order. I may or may not have used some adult language when I saw that.

Finally – FINALLY – after going down two levels, we reached gate B53. I felt like I should’ve gotten a medal or something.

Oh, and total steps from the Centurion Lounge? Just over 6200.

My bad, MCO Terminal C. Getting to Gate C230 at Terminal C is like a walk in the park in comparison to getting to JFK’s gate B53 in Terminal 4.

A very, very long park.

Feature Photo: Courtesy of MCO

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KT March 29, 2023 - 8:15 pm

MCO’s TC is stunning, and yes the walk isn’t nearly as long as the walk at JFK’s T4. But, not thinking to put moving walkways into an elephantine, “state-of-the-art” terminal in 2023 is a design flaw so careless and inconsiderate that it borders on arrogant.

SharonKurheg March 29, 2023 - 8:22 pm

Agreed. That first Orlando Sentinel article I cited got into that a little. I realize the Sentinel is usually pay-for-play. But paraphrased, the original plans called for moving sidewalks. Then when construction started in 2017, GOAA decided to do budget cuts. The JetBlue hallway was narrowed by 10 feet.

Quoted from the Sentinel:
As a result of that cost cutting, “the moving sidewalks were removed because conventional standards dictated they would not fit,” Thibault (Sharon clarifies: MCO big shot) said. “What we are now doing is challenging those conventions and seeing how we could do a retrofit.”

Laura Morris March 29, 2023 - 9:30 pm

Why didn’t you have your husband go up and ask for a wheelchair? They have them available at plenty of spots along the way and are happy to provide one if you just ask.

SharonKurheg March 29, 2023 - 9:45 pm

Because I can walk long distances without difficulty. “Can” and “wanting to” are 2 different matters. I’m also sure not everyone is in that same boat, and even people who might have problems walking the 18-20 minutes might not be comfortable asking for a wheelchair.

Lars March 30, 2023 - 9:52 am

You should do a series on long airport terminals. Including going out of your way to experience them and report back on them. A couple to look at would be MIA’s terminal D and concourse A at DTW’s McNamara Terminal. Each are a legit mile long, I believe, but each also addresses this with a people mover system. Even with the help of the people movers, depending on where you are starting and ending, you can have quite a hike!

Randy April 2, 2023 - 2:39 pm

MCO should have the moving sidewalks available that they ripped out of the main terminal a few years ago to appease the merchants, like they did at DFW.


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