Jan. 6--Miami International Airport continued to beat Orlando International Airport in number of flights in 2005, but Orlando is poised to retain its title as the state's busiest airport in terms of passengers.
Orlando ranked second to No. 1 Miami in number of takeoffs and landings with 359,609 flights compared with Miami's 381,306, according to newly released figures by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Miami, which runs the nation's largest air-cargo operation and serves as a key gateway to Latin America, has consistently ranked first in number of flights in the past five years.
But Orlando is likely to continue as the top destination, handling more passengers than any other airport in the state.
"We would expect to maintain a number that represents us as the busiest airport for passengers in the state," said Orlando airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell, citing solid 2005 attendance figures at the theme parks and local conventions that were moved from New Orleans to Orlando because of Hurricane Katrina.
Last year, Orlando overtook Miami in the number of passengers who passed through the airport and is on track to rank in the No. 1 spot again.
Orlando is likely to exceed 33 million passengers in 2005, compared with 31 million the previous year.
Passenger numbers for December were not yet available, but Miami totaled more than 28 million through the end of November and Orlando topped 31 million through the same month.
Orlando also appears to be edging in on the top spot for number of takeoffs and landings, moving from fourth in the state in 2000 up to second in 2005, according to FAA statistics.
Both airports have shown a decline in the number of flights after 9-11 as the airline industry has continued to struggle. Miami's number of flights dropped 26 percent compared with Orlando's 1 percent slide.
High fuel prices and the airlines' recent trend of flying fewer flights but on larger planes are some reasons for the drop.
"Airlines are cutting down on the number of aircraft that they are using," Miami International spokesman Mark Henderson said. "They're trying to get more bang for their buck."
Orlando Int'l Airport tumbled 13 spots on an airport customer satisfaction survey, falling below the average for large airports.
With 31.5 million passengers getting on or off planes, the airport ranked 25th-busiest in the world last year, compared with No. 30 in 2004.
North Texas' low international profile is one of many challenges officials face as they labor to attract new flights to foreign destinations.
Delta Air Lines, historically Orlando's largest carrier, pledged to fly its normal routes, honor ticket reservations and maintain its frequent-flier program.