We live in Central Florida, so Orlando International Airport (MCO) is our “hometown” airport.
The airport has its good points and its bad ones. With 3 terminals, it’s a relatively easy airport to negotiate. Terminals A and B can be accessed from the main terminal via an automated people mover called the Gate Link. The main terminal also has a Gate Link to Terminal C.
Terminal C is decades younger than Terminals A and B, and its layout is more modern and user friendly:
My only complaint? It is a HECK of a long walk to go all the way through Terminal C. But they’re apparently fixing that with some retrofitted moving sidewalks in 2024, as per multiple outlets, as well as a press release from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) Board.
That being said, MCO has a lot going for it:
- According to Reuters, MCO made it into the world’s top 10 busiest airports by passengers, in 2021. It was also the busiest airport in Florida for 7 years in a row (Forbes reported that Miami took over the #1 spot in 2023)
- After announcing in LinkedIn that it was nominated for the 2023 North America’s Leading Airport award by World Travel Awards, MCO won the award for the 2nd year in a row.
- The Brightline high speed train just started service a couple of months ago. The new 37,350-square-foot Brightline Orlando Station is in a two-story glass atrium complex at the airport, next to Terminal C, and trains travel towards Miami every hour.
So yeah, MCO is BUSY. So busy, in fact, that for the past few years, they’ve recommended on their website that passengers arrive at the airport a full 3 hours before their domestic flight.
(It says “Subject to change” but I haven’t see that notification NOT be “3 hours” since a few years before the pandemic)
Honestly, I could believe that. Because Orlando is the home of major theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando, MCO winds up with a lot of families flying in and out of it. Families with children, seniors, etc., especially those who don’t travel often, can slow down queues – and it’s part of one of the negatives about MCO. So yeah, 3 hours can make sense. (here’s a guide that can help you decide how early YOU should arrive at MCO or any other airport)
But when we were flying out of MCO the other day, I noticed something I never had before. A new electronic sign at the TSA checkpoint for Gates 1-59 (which had a 38-42 minute wait at 8 o’clock in the morning):
I know it’s kind of fuzzy, but did you catch that? “Only passengers departing in the next 2 hours should proceed.”
So you’re supposed to arrive at the airport 3 hours ahead of time. But you shouldn’t go through the TSA security check unless you’re departing in the next 2 hours. Granted, the baggage drop queues at Southwest, Spirit, Delta, Frontier, etc. are intense. But unless it’s a holiday, they’re rarely a whole hour long.
Of course, if you’re not “supposed” to go through the TSA queue until 2 hours before your flight, there are plenty of shopping and dining opportunities at the main terminal for you to spend money on. 😉
Granted, the non-frequent flyers with the grandparents and the toddlers in tow, who are holding car seats on top of everyone’s luggage, are probably going to need that full hour to finally get to the TSA security checkpoint. But really – if I get to the airport 3 hours ahead of time, and I’m not checking a bag, or the bag drop queue is quick, I’m going to want to go through the security checkpoint so I can go to one of the lounges at MCO that I have access to.
Or maybe I just won’t get there 3 hours early ;-).
Feature Image: MCO/ Twitter (whoopsie….X)
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