In 2017, Orlando International Airport (MCO) began construction on a $2.8 billion expansion project. The airport’s third terminal, aptly named Terminal C, would be the first major addition since the airport’s opening of Terminals A and B, decades ago.
Terminal C was GREATLY needed. MCO’s patronage had grown exponentially over the years and by 2021 was the 7th busiest airport in the country. These 15 new gates will be able to pull up to 12 million passengers away from Terminals A & B.
The airport wisely started using Terminal C’s garage (Can you guess the name of it? If you said Garage C, you’d be right! Do you see a pattern? ;-)) as soon as it was built, since Garages A & B were frequently full (and even then, Garage C is full sometimes, as well). MCO gives frequent updates on their Twitter presence:
So from very early on, Terminal C’s parking, automated people mover (APM – to transport people from Terminal C to MCO’s central terminal. Terminals A and B each have a similar APM, as well), and a good portion of their intermodal train station (that should go into more use early next year, when the Brightline train from Miami/Ft. Lauderdale starts running to MCO every hour) was open to the public. And anyone who wanted to take a peek, could. So, of course, Joe and I visited the Terminal C construction site a couple of times.
Obviously, we couldn’t go into active construction areas. But we could go into anything that was already open to the public:
- Here’s our first visit to Terminal C, in August, 2019
- Our second visit, in May, 2021(it was about 70% complete)
- And our third and most recent visit, in April, 2022 (they said it was about 90% complete by then)
As time got closer, MCO also gave more updates on what to expect from the new terminal:
- February, 2022: the 24 food and beverage locations that would be at Terminal C, with over half the restaurants being local rather than national chains
- May, 2022: announcement that the new terminal would have a Plaza Premium Lounge, complete with a celebrity chef, as part of the new terminal
- July 2022: The airlines that would move into Terminal C
- August, 2022: all the high tech bells & whistles the new terminal would have
So here it is, September 20th, and Terminal C is now open! They’re actually opening the terminal gradually, to make the switchover a little easier for all involved:
- September 20 (Tue.) – Aer Lingus, GOL
- September 21 (Wed.) – British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, Norse
- September 22 (Thur.) – Azul, Icelandair
- September 27 (Tue) – jetBlue
- September 30 (Fri.) – Caribbean Airlines
But since they’re now officially open, of course we stopped by. We didn’t have plane tickets, so we couldn’t visit the secure side (we’ll be doing that in early October, with a flight home on jetBlue – more on that when it happens!). But here’s what we saw of the pre-security side.
We parked in the Garage C, which is a typical, basic, open air parking garage. Because it’s a multilevel parking structure, there’s no uncovered parking, save for maybe the top floor (I admittedly didn’t go that high). That’s important, because we have our daily monsoons here in Central FL in the summertime (Terminals A and B are mostly covered but about 1/3 of the spots in their garage are uncovered).
As you leave your car and start walking towards the C complex, you have a choice of entering 2 buildings. Going to the left will bring you to the building that houses the APM and what will eventually be the train station. Walking towards the right brings you to Terminal C. I went to the left.
This whole area, as you can see from the photos, was pretty empty. The only “active” part of this building at this time is the APM and the Information desk. To that end, I saw no restaurants, kiosks, etc. There were 2 vending machines (one looked like it would have beverages, one snacks) directly across the hallway from where Brightline will be, but they were empty. I’m sure as the train starts becoming an integral part of MCO, there will be more things available for purchase.
I then decided to go to Terminal C.
There’s no dedicated hallway to bring you from the APM/train building to Terminal C. instead, you have to walk through the garage. The sign before you enter the short walkway that leads you to the garage says it’s an 8-12 minutes walk.
I don’t think it’s anywhere near 8-12 minutes, unless they’re including the time to get to check in, or the TSA checkpoint or something like that. That being said, it’s also not a short walk. Especially if you’re dragging your luggage in the 90-90 degree heat and upwards of 100% humidity that we have many months of the year. And since I think the passenger walkway in the garage is facing west, the sun will be beating down on people towards sunset, too.
I don’t relish that walk. It appears they’re eventually going to make an enclosed hallway between the 2 buildings, both in a model of the new terminal, as based on some construction we saw from the APM/train building:
Anyway, when you arrive at Terminal C from the parking lot, you’re on Level 3. But there’s no entry INTO Terminal C from level 3. So you have to take a short elevator or escalator to Level 4, where you enter a large room. There are restrooms to the left, and what looks like what will be an information desk further down the room, also to the left. There are rental car stations at the far end of this room.
In the center of the room is a HUGE Arrivals/Departure board that also has room for personal messages on the bottom right corner (i.e. if a large group has to meet somewhere).
Vending machines are in the far left corner of the room, but like the ones in the other building, they were empty.
A sign next to Eola Market promises more upgrades “Coming Soon.”
At the end of the room, you turn right at the car rental desks and walk a relatively short hallway that brings you to the main part of Terminal C.
There was a sign welcoming the first travelers into Terminal C, which was a nice touch.
Right after the end of this hall you go past multiple elevators and escalators on either side. They were still putting the finishing touches on those.
But at the very end of that walkway is where you could get a nice look at the new terminal. It was bright and open, with lots of seating. It was a nice view from the 4rd floor, but even better from the 6th:
NOW you could get a lay of the Terminal C land!
- Level 1 was dedicated to transportation. So charter buses, hotel/resort shuttles, regional shuttles, limos and economy parking options.
- Level 2 were for Gates C230-C245, and check in
- Level 3 is not accessible to passengers coming in from the outside
- Level 4 is the entry to Terminal C from the parking garage (after that elevator/escalator from the Level 3 garage walkway)
- Level 5 is not accessible to passengers
- Level 6 is baggage claim, passenger pickup, ride shares and taxis
I didn’t get any photos of this area, as I never saw an escalator that would get me that far down.
On opening day, they only had 2 airlines in Terminal C. One had a check in to the right, one to the left. They looked the same, with lots and LOTS of automated self check-in kiosks, and a handful of desks for personal assistance.
Obviously, I wasn’t able to see the gates for C230-C245, since they were beyond the TSA security checkpoint (which is huge). Speaking of the TSA area, yes, they have PreCheck, as well as 5 CLEAR kiosks (none appear to be the hydraulic style).
Domestic baggage claim is to the left and right. Like the check in desks on Level 2, they look pretty identical.
Level 6 also has a dedicated Meet & Greet area which will a good meeting place for both domestic and international flights.
You can also find exits for passenger pick up, ride shares and taxis on this floor.
Our overall impressions
Overall, Terminal C is beautiful. It’s big and bright and airy, with lots of natural lighting during the daytime. MCO has always included art in its terminals, and C is no different.
The non-secure side has a handful options for sustenance, including a Starbucks and a storefront called Gatling Trade (which reminded me of a Hudson News, but smaller scale and without books/magazines). I also noticed what looked like a place that will sell smoothies, as well as a couple of other small storefronts.
Restrooms are plentiful, and the ladies’ rooms usually have 7 regular stalls, 2 slightly wider stalls with grab bars (think someone using a walker, crutches or a cane), and 1 wheelchair accessible stall. Sinks, soap and paper towel dispensers were all no-touch.
As you can see Terminal C is still pretty empty. However with just 2 airlines on their opening day, they had very few arrivals and departures. It will undoubtedly begin to come to life more as more airlines begin being served at the new terminal. By then, they should have put the finishing touches on everything and hopefully services typically seen at Terminals A/B will also be available at Terminal C.
By the way, we have a jetBlue flight into Terminal C in early October – we hope to get more photos, on the “secure” side, at that time. Watch this space!
PC: All photos except map of Terminal C: Sharon
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