An Insider’s Look at Orlando International Airport

Senior Director of Public Affairs at Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Carolyn Fennell goes in-depth on the future of the airport, its public art and how travelers can have a stress-free holiday vacation.

Carolyn Fennell, senior director of public affairs at Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, has seen Orlando International Airport (OIA) undergo tremendous change to meet the growth of its increasingly global community.

Today, more than 50 percent of Orlando’s visitors arrive by air and the international service at OIA is the airport’s fastest-growing air traffic segment—even faster than domestic travel. OIA has become the second-busiest airport in Florida and 14th busiest in the U.S., with 35 million annual passengers flying nonstop to 75 domestic and 50 international destinations.

With these astounding numbers, it only makes sense that the airport has embarked on the largest expansion and renovation project in its history.

Intermodal Transportation Facility at Orlando International Airport, OIA
The State of Florida-sponsored Intermodal Transportation Facility will connect travelers to rail initiatives including SunRail and All Aboard Florida. (©Orlando International Airport)

The Orlando airport is undergoing capital improvements valued at over $1.3 billion including a new south terminal. How will it affect passengers?

Along with a brand-new south terminal, we’re building a people-moving complex with added facilities for parking and ground transportation. There, passengers will be able to check-in and board a train that will carry them to the current north terminal.

Future plans call for the facility to house the All Aboard Florida train system that goes from Miami to Orlando as well as the ability to accommodate other rail systems including SunRail and a railway connected to International Drive.

In terms of renovation, we will be replacing and updating our original people-moving train system, enhancing our international arrival area and expanding our ticket lobby to be more interactive and reflect how passengers are using mobile technology to obtain boarding passes and check-in. In order to maintain our status as a major airport, it is essential to employ a combination of access to technology, efficient processes and personnel.

Emirates Airbus A380 now in Orlando, Florida
Emirates now flies nonstop from Orlando to Dubai and various locations across Asia. (©Emirates)

How did the recent addition of non-stop air service from Orlando to Dubai come to fruition?

This has been in development for 10 years and wouldn’t have happened without the help of our community partners.

We have very strong marketing partners in our local attractions who helped build a case for Emirates to come. It’s quite an accomplishment for our chairman and the entire community to attract one of the world’s busiest airlines.

Welcoming an airline that’s recognized throughout the world for its outstanding customer service only enhances Orlando’s reputation.

The floor mosaic by Victor Bokas in Orlando International Airport
The floor mosaic "Florida Vacation" by Victor Bokas comprised of polished natural and vitreous ceramic evokes fun and is sure to make visitors smile as they become part of this masterpiece. (©Orlando International Airport)

OIA has beautiful artwork. Tell us the role art plays in enhancing passengers’ airport experience.

Art has been an integral part of the airport since it was planned. Airports were originally built based on the needs of the aircraft—built from the outside in based on the space needed to accommodate wingspan. OIA was designed from the inside out in an effort to bring the outdoors in.

When you look at Florida, you think water, plants and sunshine. We want passengers to know as soon as they step off the plane that they’re in Florida, specifically Central Florida. We want the airport to serve as the welcoming mat and first impression to our community.

Art was identified as a way of showcasing the cultural richness of the area and the airport’s blueprints literally had notes where art would be placed. This was essentially the first public-art collection in this region. I brought together art experts in the area to come up with the criteria for art to be included in OIA. It was decided that the art had to be large-scale pieces that reflect Florida’s flora and fauna by artists of international reputation.

As a result we have art that reflects the richness of the Central Florida community. We use art for various purposes throughout OIA. Art serves as way-finder for our passengers. They can say, for example, “I’ll meet you by the sculpture.” One of the most striking installations is the mosaic floor terminal two, which was conceived by Florida artists and replicates the mosaic style much like what you see in cathedrals of Europe.

The atmosphere incorporates the styles of furniture you would have in your home along with live plants. It’s great to see families’ interaction with art pieces that also complement the design of the airport.

"The Traveler" sculpture in Orlando International Airport
"The Traveler," a lifelike bronze sculpture by Duane Hanson, is a favorite stopping point for travelers who are amazed by the realistic quality of his work. (©Orlando International Airport)

What travel tips can you share with Orlando visitors this holiday season?

Pack lightly. Don’t over-pack. You will be handling your suitcase yourself at some point and you don’t want it to be too heavy. Also, make sure to check your airline’s guidelines for luggage requirements and fees. Come prepared as well. Have all the necessary documents with you, whether hardcopy or digital, including apps, tickets, boarding passes and identification. Check what’s allowed in your carry-on ahead of time so you don’t have to leave anything behind or hold up the security line.

Log on to OrlandoMCO app for more information. The app also helps passengers get around the airport by guiding them from one point of the terminal to another.

Perhaps the biggest tip is to have patience. ...Arrive with sufficient time for your flight. The standard recommendation is arrive a full two hours prior to boarding a domestic flight and three for an international. If you come early enough, you can even get a last-minute manicure or massage.

Winter Park's Park Ave
A stroll down tree-lined Park Avenue in Winter Park is the perfect activity for leisurely afternoon. (©Julie Fletcher for City of Winter Park)

Carolyn Fennell's Perfect Day


A perfect day would begin by paying attention to myself. It would begin at the Winter Park Farmers Market for breakfast and shopping. Afterward I might treat myself to mani/pedi or a massage at one of my favorite spas in Winter Park.


Since I live in Winter Park, my perfect day would, of course, have to include a stroll along Park Ave. Either before or after, I’d have lunch on the avenue. I love blu on the Avenue. Their lobster salad is phenomenal.


My evening would definitely involve some sort of cultural activity. It could be seeing a film at the Enzian, attending a performance of the symphony or ballet or visiting one of Orlando’s great museums and theaters. Perfect days for me always include a combination of personal, cultural and social experience. Friends and family are always involved.


I love cooking and hosting dinner parties. I’m known for serving seven courses in my dining room or just having friends over for snow crab legs on my back porch. I try to be very free flowing on my days off. Taking time to exhale is important.

Carolyn Fennell
Carolyn Fennell serves as senior director of public affairs at Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. (©Orlando International Airport)