First Look at Orlando’s New Terminal C South

Orlando International Airport has taken advantage of the great pandemic pause to continue building and expanding its passenger facilities. In 2021, MCO became the 7th busiest airport in the world, thanks to changing travel habits. It handled some 40.3 million passengers – still far below the 50 million that passed through in 2019, but it aims to be even bigger in the future.


The new terminal has seen $3 billion of investment poured into airport facilities. With 15 additional gates, the new South Terminal is designed to add capacity for an additional 10-12 billion passengers each year. But it’s not just any old terminal; what MCO has developed here is both architecturally beautiful and technologically futuristic. Let’s take a look.

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Explore Orlando’s New South Terminal

From the outside, the glass and metal façade of the new terminal, also known as Terminal C, nods to the thoughtful design of this building’s interior. Natural light streams in through skylights that run down the center of the structure, giving it a modern, airy feel as soon as you enter the building.

The car parks are connected by a bridge. Photo: Chris Solan | The Airchive

The large glass walls let in lots of natural light. Photo: Chris Solan | The Airchive

The design is the brainchild of renowned industrial architect Fentress, who has a rich history in designing airport buildings. Their projects include the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX, Incheon International Airport, Denver International and Raleigh-Durham. The company said the design philosophy for Orlando’s Terminal C was to “Create the next generation of The Orlando Experience™ using grand gestures that will create an unforgettable experience.”

The central area running through the terminal to the gates is known as “The Boulevard” and is flanked by cafes, small outlets and comfortable seating for customers. At the landside end of the boulevard is the Town Square, where passengers will find airline counters and access to security checkpoints.

After clearing security, passengers arrive at the airside plaza, also known as “Palm Court”. The name is derived from the tall palm trees flanking the yard, giving the space a distinct Florida feel. The trees are not real, but they are as close as possible. They are known as “Forever Trees”, partly because of their striking similarity to real trees, but also because of their durable construction using preserved materials.

This is where most of the airport’s outlets are located, including popular chains such as Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon. But Orlando Airport has also focused on bringing local flavor and small business to the airport, and features concessions from local legends such as Wine Bar George, Barnies Coffee & Tea and Sunshine Diner.

And, in case you were wondering, yes, there are outlets from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando, of course.

futuristic journey

Palm Court is home to one of the most unique elements of the new terminal – a fun art installation by Gentleman, known as the “Moment Vault”. The coolest thing about it is that it lets visitors interact with the on-screen display through multiple outward-facing cameras that bring passengers into the art. It’s sure to be a huge hit with the kids!

The airport also has a large-scale video installation called “Windows on Orlando”. This has three giant screens, each 32 feet tall, and the entire facility spans 110 feet. It provides panoramic visuals of live action scenes from the area, such as sailboats dancing in the Titusville Marina or a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center.

Windows On Orlando displays a rotating display of the local landscape. Photo: Orlando International Airport

However, the technology introduced in the C terminal is not only fun and playful. Much of the investment has gone into improving the passenger experience. For example, of the TSA’s 10 screening lanes, eight are automated, allowing for much faster passenger processing. Terminal C will be able to accommodate around 180 to 250 passengers per hour, compared to 150 per hour in the old terminals.

The new TSA checkpoints can process passengers much faster. Photo: Chris Solan | The Airchive

The airport is also expected to be the first in the world to deploy a full robotic early bag storage system. This allows baggage to be checked in several hours before the flight and even allows the passenger to retrieve the baggage at any time. The system has a capacity of 1,800 bags and is supported by a comprehensive RFID baggage handling system to track and expedite the delivery of checked baggage.

The robotic Early Bag Storage system allows passengers to check in their baggage several hours before their flight. Photo: Chris Solan | The Airchive

Benefits for passengers

Throughout the airport, Orlando has installed a digital wayfinding system to help passengers plan their day. Multimedia content on video walls and digital screens will give customers information on things like wait times, walk times and flights boarding. Tom Draper, Chief Operating Officer of GOAA, commented on the system saying:

“We emphasize the passenger in every design decision for Terminal C, which is the result of extensive innovation in airport communication between GOAA and Synect. The program will help engage passengers at key travel touchpoints while reflecting real-time airport activity, including estimated wait times.

Throughout the airport, digital displays update passengers’ journeys in real time. Photo: Chris Solan | The Airchive

For passengers waiting at their door, the terminal offers wireless charging at each seat, as well as a 120v socket and a pair of USB sockets. There’s also a bar-style seating area with power outlets, perfect for getting some work done before boarding.

Speaking of boarding, passengers can expect faster and more efficient boarding processes with biometric boarding at every gate. It simply means that passengers on international flights will be able to board their aircraft using only their face as ID, eliminating the need for last-minute scrambling to get the passport.

Orlando’s Terminal C will also be connected to Brightline, a high-speed rail service that will connect passengers to 170 miles of train lines. From the airport, passengers can get to West Palm Beach in less than 2 hours, can fly directly to Disney Springs and Universal Orlando, or can head to Tampa or Miami. The service is expected to start in 2023.

Orlando’s Terminal C has set its opening date for September 19. A number of international airlines will move to the new terminal, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Norse, Icelandair, Emirates and Aer Lingus. American airlines Breeze, JetBlue and Caribbean, as well as Latin America’s Gol and Azul, are also on the move. One thing is certain, their passengers will experience an exemplary 100% Florida experience as soon as they get off the plane.

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