MCO is the primary airport for Orlando, Florida
and much of the surrounding region. It has its current funky airport code
for a reason: before 1974
, it was owned by the United States Air Force
and known as McCoy AFB
. It gained its current name in 1976
, but the old code stuck.
The airport's growth has been exponential since then, just like the growth of the Orlando region. In 1978, MCO handled 5 million passengers, and by 2000 that number had soared to 30 million. Today, it covers 23 square miles, making it the third-largest airport in the United States by area (after Denver and DFW). It also has North America's tallest control tower.
Delta Air Lines is Orlando's most prominent tenant, carrying 20% of the airport's passengers along with its regional counterpart, Comair. The biggest market by far is to and from New York City: nearly four thousand people fly the Orlando-New York route every day. London is another key destination, with daily flights by Delta, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic.
But that's only half the story: Newsweek and Conde Nast have both called Orlando the best airport to hang out in. I wholeheartedly agree (although MSP, Gatwick, and Kansai would be at least tied for that honor). There are many things to like about the airport, but I happen to love the posh Hyatt hotel that's integrated with the terminal. All of the rooms overlook an atrium several stories high with a huge fountain in the middle: it's really quite impressive.
There's also some great stuff to do on the ground floor. There's a miniature Borders there that offers a broader reading selection than your average WH Smith, and there are gift shops run by Disney, Sea World, and the Kennedy Space Center, as well as a well-rounded food court and a Chili's. All great places.
MCO is built around a satellite terminal system much like Tampa's (and, also like Tampa, there's a parking garage on top of the terminal). The landside of the terminal is a single large building, and then you ride a people mover out to a detached airside terminal to catch your flight. Orlando's airport authority is currently building a second terminal grid in order to handle up to 60 million passengers a year by 2020, twice the current figure. Quite a rise, for an airport that's only been around for 30 years.