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American's Miami Hub Is Reborn

MIAMI ( TheStreet) -- Miami International Airport has always been vastly important in commercial aviation. Now, it's even more so.

Two key trends -- the continuing emergence of global alliances and the 2010 regulatory rush to approval global partnerships with anti-trust immunity -- are playing out just as work is nearing completion on a 15-year, $6.4 billion airport improvement project.

Once a rattrap -- we mean this literally -- the airport is now a sprawling, modernistic facility distinguished by its vast array of airlines, a newly opened sky train in the mile-long American Airlines (AMR) terminal and groupings in three separate terminals for each of the three global alliances -- Oneworld, Skyteam and Star. MIA is served by 80 airlines: 13 domestics, 33 foreign and 40 cargo carriers.

American Airlines carries the majority of Miami International's passengers.

The airport's rebirth underpins a core strength for American, which along with regional partner American Eagle, carries about 70% of all of its passengers, an unusually high share for one of the three principal U.S. international gateway airports. At Los Angeles International and New York's Kennedy International, the biggest carriers engage in far closer battles for market share.

Today, American and American Eagle fly 317 daily departures to 108 cities, of which 62 are foreign cities and 48 are domestic. The number of departures has doubled over the past five years.

By contrast, American's two primary competitors have limited Miami service. Delta (DAL - Get Report) is the airport's No. 2 carrier, but its spring schedule includes just 39 peak day departures to 11 destinations, including 10 flights to Atlanta. Delta will also fly to London's Heathrow Airport, starting in March.

United (UAL - Get Report), which in 1992 paid $135 million to buy Pan Am's Latin routes from Miami, has just seven daily departures, all domestic, while partner Continental has ten.

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