Points, miles, and snide remarks.


Can You Go Into MCO’s New Terminal if Your Airline Isn’t There?

In Fall of 2022, Orlando International Airport (MCO) opened Terminal C, a stunning, spacious new terminal that’s a stark contrast to the confusing, crowded, and cramped Terminals A & B. Truly, it’s hard to walk through the new terminal and believe that you’re at MCO – yes, that MCO. Making it even less believable is the terminal’s location on the airport grounds – which based on the hike from Terminals A & B, appears to be somewhere near Miami.

That said, if your airline is in a different terminal, can you walk through the new terminal at all? And are you able to visit the Plaza Premium Lounge, which is likely the nicest on the airport grounds? The answer is yes, you can! You just need to know the right words to say.

The trick is to tell the TSA agent checking IDs that you are “going to the lounge.” This seems to be TSA’s way of looking out for passengers, and making sure you’re fully aware that you are at the wrong terminal, and that getting to your flight will involve going through yet another TSA screening (as there is no airside path to the other terminals). I’d imagine the majority of domestic passengers (with the exception of JetBlue) showing up at the C Terminal are in fact lost, and need to be redirected to the correct terminal. But using these magic words in conjunction with a Southwest boarding pass, after verbally confirming that I was fully aware of what I was doing, TSA allowed me to proceed, with a friendly reminder to make sure I left enough time before my flight to change terminals. The staff in the Plaza Premium Lounge didn’t seem to bat an eye at my Southwest boarding pass, and happily granted me entry.

There is another way to enter the terminal – the terminal offers gate passes to almost anyone via the Experience MCO visitor pass program. However, this is subject to restrictions and capacity restrictions, won’t allow you to utilize your TSA PreCheck or CLEAR memberships, and requires you to apply at least 24 hours in advance. Additionally, you presumably would not be able to use a gate pass to enter the Plaza Premium Lounge, even if you possess a qualifying credit card.

Speaking of leaving enough time, you should absolutely do that. While the APM ride to Terminals A & B only takes around 4 minutes, said APM actually departs from the Brightline station, which at present requires walking through the longest exit lane I’ve ever seen at a US airport, taking an elevator, walking through the rental car center, and then taking a (temporary) marked path through the parking garage. I’d conservatively estimate 25-30 minutes being sufficient if you have PreCheck (and potentially CLEAR).

It’s important to be aware that each airport individually sets their own policy around if this is permitted. Just down I-4 at “rival” airport TPA, this is forbidden, and the electronic gates won’t even allow you to board the shuttle to the “wrong” terminal. On the other side of the spectrum is DFW, where not only can ticketed passengers enter through any TSA checkpoint, but AA passengers can check luggage at any of the five terminals (yes, even the E terminal). DFW also has all terminals connected airside by the speedy and reliable Skylink APM, as well as pedestrian walkways connecting terminals A, B, C, and D (but not E).

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