FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) -- Southwest Airlines' new International Hub at FLL is taking off with five new gates in the brand new Concourse A in Terminal One.
Airport director Mark Gale says the $200 million project is ahead of schedule and under budget.
"These five new gates are not only incredibly needed but it gives quite an opportunity for many of our airlines to continue to grow here in Fort Lauderdale," said Gale.
A long connector bridge leads to the new concourse. Each gate can be used for domestic or international arrivals. Those coming from out of the country will take escalators to the first floor to clear customs and there are new restaurants and stores, along with several areas of public art.
There is also a pet relief room. It's a doggy bathroom for pets and service animals that are traveling with their owners. It's a new requirement that these facilities are available for passengers traveling with animals.
It will be Southwest Airlines' largest international hub. From there, passengers will fly to destinations in Cuba, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
"I would love that," said a traveler on her way to the Caribbean. "We are limited. We only have about one or two airlines that go to the Caribbean where I go, so that would be nice."
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the concourse is a critical gateway for the airline. Four new international destinations begin Sunday.
"We have 63 daily departures today, so by adding these international routes, it will actually boost our domestic service, as well in Ft. Lauderdale," Kelly said.
Airport officials announced traffic here is exploding. In April of last year, the airport handled 80,000 passengers a day. This April, that figure jumped to 96,000. Right now, all international arrivals are crammed into just one terminal with six international gates. When this project and another expansion are done, there will be a total of 17.
"One of the fastest growing segments for this airport is our international traffic and ticketing," said Gale. "So having those international gates available to us is something sorely needed."
And it's not the only ongoing project in the terminal. A new security checkpoint is under construction. It's near the ticket counters. Beyond that, will be an area filled with shops and restaurants.
Concourse A should be open for business by June 30th.
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