In Praise Of Small Airports

Passenger waiting area. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida

On our most recent trip to Florida, Kathy & I decided to fly, rather than make the 9-ish hour drive down unpredictable I-95. As a result, we had the very pleasant experience of using the Melbourne Orlando International Airport (MLB). What a nice airport and a refreshing change!

Passenger waiting area. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida
Passenger terminal hallway. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida
Think we can get on the Glasgow flight? Departure board. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida

The Melbourne airport is modern and clean with everything you would expect in an airport – except crowds! With the exception of the occasional charter flight from the UK or elsewhere and a few non-daily flights, the airport appears to be largely a private and corporate plane base. There are a number of Northrup Grumman plants nearby as well as a number of space-related companies. Other than that, the commercial activity appears to be Delta flights to and from Atlanta, and American flights to and from Charlotte. It was quite a contrast to the madness of the Charlotte airport!

We arrived to a nearly empty terminal, found our checked bag in “Baggage Claim” (there is only one!) and found a pleasant covered spot to sit while we waited for the free airport shuttle to our hotel. On our return trip, the shuttle drivers at the hotel assured us that there was no need to arrive 2 hours ahead. Skeptical, I took him at his word, and sure enough when we arrived just over an hour before, we walked right up to a check-in counter, staffed by a real person, and turned in our bag. We then proceeded to the TSA checkpoint, where there were more TSA employees than passengers. We breezed through TSA Pre-check and waited in a mostly quiet waiting area. No clueless wandering passengers, no repeated announcements about maintaining possession of your carry-on, none of the drama of Charlotte. And no crush of impatient passengers trying to board. Nice!

Tarmac. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida
View of Melbourne Orlando International Airport on our flight to Charlotte from Melbourne

Kathy & I decided that we could return to Melbourne any time. We found the hotel to be very nice, staffed with friendly people and in an excellent location on the beach. We’ll also take a look at other small airports we could fly to for a few days’ getaway!

Selfie (or Photo) spot. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida
Selfie (or Photo) spot. Melbourne Orlando International Airport, Melbourne, Florida

6 thoughts on “In Praise Of Small Airports”

    1. An airport with a sense of humor? Surely not! 🙂

      We’ve come to appreciate the ‘automatic’ TSA Pre Check as part of the Global Entry system. That and simplifying our screening by either taking less stuff or checking a bag instead of shuttling lots of luggage through the checkpoint makes the process that much smoother.

      I love the idea of using a smaller airport, but when we end up connecting back at an airport that is only 7 miles from our house it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the outbound flight! We will continue to look for the smaller destination airports, though.

  1. I’ve seen that “Recombobulation Area” sign somewhere. It made me smile while I put my shoes and belt back on. I also like the smaller airport. When I flew for United out of Denver we were on the smaller 72 passenger Embraer Q400 turboprops flying in and out of the smaller airport. It was always a reprieve from the bigger airports.

    1. Many years ago, way before we even knew how to spell TSA, I flew to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia with a friend and our bicycles in a De Havilland Dash 8. As we sat on the sidewalk outside the airport assembling our bikes, the security guard (there was just one), came out and asked if we needed anything as he was getting ready to lock the doors for the day. We were good and had used the restroom, so we assembled our bikes and rode off to find our first nights’ campground.

      So nice in these smaller airports to be treated as tourists instead of terrorists! One slight downside of a not-too-busy airport like Melbourne was that they had time to notice that I had packed 3 small unopened bottles of leftover club soda in my checked bag and had to get into the case to make sure it wasn’t something illegal!

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