Miami International Airport has joined the waning lot of U.S. airports that still provide designated smoking areas for its patrons.
In March, the airport's TGI Fridays expanded its restaurant to include a glass-encased smoking area in the atrium across the hall from the original restaurant space. The smoking lounge, which seats approximately 60 occupants, contains a large bar area and 11 tables and offers full-menu options—and yes, cigars are welcome.
Prior to the opening of the lounge, smoking was prohibited in all Miami International terminals. TGI Fridays management told Cigar Aficionado the decision to open a smoke-friendly area was simply a response to demand.
"Travelers kept coming up to us asking if there was a place to smoke inside the terminal," said Mark Huaroto, general manager at the Miami International TGI Fridays. "We hated being the bearers of bad news, telling them they had to go outside the security gate and outdoors to the other side of the street just to smoke."
When asked how the new smoking area has been received by customers, Huaroto said, "Excited would be an understatement. I've seen hugs and high fives from unexpecting travelers who are completely surprised to find a place they can smoke."
Miami International has the second highest rate of international travel in the United States. It is also the gateway between the U.S. and many of the Caribbean countries where the majority of the world's cigars are produced. Indras Whittaker, marketing director at Jackmont Hospitality, which owns and operates the Miami International TGI Fridays, says international travelers who are unaware of the United States' rigid smoking laws could explain the high volume of smoking inquiries at Miami International.
Very few U.S. airports still accommodate smokers. Of the 20 most heavily trafficked airports in the country, only four—Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas and now Miami—have smoking-permitted areas beyond the security checkpoint.
TGI Fridays not only provides a place for travelers to smoke, it has taken steps to ensure the new section of the restaurant is just as comfortable and well-accommodated as the central area—making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy a pre-flight cocktail with your cigar. The tall ceiling is an open-air, tent-like awning, which provides ample ventilation and keeps out inclement weather. There are televisions at the bar area, and the atmosphere is a bit more sophisticated than the original airport location. They have even chosen to feature five locally brewed craft beers in the smoking area that are not available inside the restaurant.
Other airport restaurants and lounges that accommodate cigar smoking are the Graycliff Boutique & Divans at the Nashville International Airport and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Barney's Lounge at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and The Smokin' Bear Lodge at Denver International Airport.