Orlando airport looks to install above-ground ‘pitless’ moving walkways in Terminal C

Future tram would also shuttle passengers between gates, even terminals

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando International Airport leaders wrapped up their first board meeting of 2023 Wednesday afternoon, and further discussed the renovations coming to the newly-completed Terminal C that just opened in September.

Kevin Thibault — who just completed his first year as CEO of MCO — is looking to install moving walkways that were intentionally left out before his tenure, leaving passengers to walk as much as half a mile to get to a gate.

“I wasn’t here at the time,” Thibault said. “I have to build from what we have and move that forward.”

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The polished floors of the dazzling state-of-the-art Terminal C are solid concrete so ripping them up to install a moving walkway is not an option, Thibault said, but putting a walkway on top is a good option.

“Clearly you can’t put a pit in because there’s a concrete slab already so now we’re looking at newer designs and the industry has that ability to do what they call ‘pitless’ moving walkways that don’t require that depth,” Thibault said. “One of the things that we’re looking to do and present to the board is where we call in those industries to talk about the concepts that we think we want to look at and get their feedback and go out for the RFP [request for proposals] and so on.”

Thibault said “pitless” moving walkways would be perfect for Terminal C’s long corridors that passengers complain take as long as 15 minutes to walk from one end of the terminal to the other to the furthest Jetblue gates.

The plan, originally, was to install the moving walkways when the $2.8 billion terminal was under construction but airport leaders at the time axed them and narrowed the corridors to stay on budget.

Thibault said a typical moving walkway won’t fit into the narrowed hallway under “conventional standards” so he’s challenging the standards because he got the message that the walk is too long.

“It absolutely started from feedback,” Thibault said. “It started from listening to our customers.”

A new tram will also shorten the walk — there’s room for it already built in underneath Terminal C. The tram would shuttle passengers to all of the different Terminal C gates and possibly Terminals A and B. But that option is years away.

Thibault said renovations will continue at Terminal C as the airport receives more passenger feedback.

“What do you do when you move into a new home, you add the fans and the curtains and the blinds and improve the wallpaper and change the countertops,” Thibault said. “It’s all part of evolving because you see those improvements are needed. That’s the same thing that we’re doing. Ultimately, this is the community’s assets so we should respond to those community comments and this is how we improve your asset.”

Thibault said early statistics show MCO served more than 50 million passengers in 2023, showing that the airport has fully recovered from the pandemic’s impacts.

This past weekend, MCO was the 2nd busiest airport in the nation behind LAX. In December, MCO was 3rd busiest behind LAX and JFK, according to Thibault.

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.