Thu | May 25, 2017

MIA - Not for the faint of heart

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Anyone who's ever travelled anywhere via Miami International Airport (MIA) in the United States could probably tell an interesting story about the place.

Whether you're travelling to the city directly, or going via Miami on a connecting flight, once you land in Miami, it's necessary to go through immigration.

Because the city is a hub for flights coming from all over Latin America including Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean, the immigration hall is usually loaded with people.

It's not unusual to spend an hour or more just waiting to go through immigration. The authorities have installed kiosks where some persons may now have their passports checked electronically, but while that saves on the number of persons in the queue waiting to see the immigration officer, it somehow doesn't seem to save on time in queue.

Our flight to Cali via Miami landed in the United States 20 minutes before schedule on Monday, but it still took almost two hours between immigration, collecting bags, and clearing customs.

Needless to say, the best advice for anyone who has a connection via MIA is to have at least four hours between flights to be on the safe side.

To me, the most interesting (read: bewildering) thing about this airport is the language.

This may be the United States, but I think the only people who don't understand anything that's going on here are the English speakers. I'm sure up to 90 per cent of the staff in this place is native Spanish-language speakers.

dodgy Spanish

In fact, I think I've had an easier time trying to get information using my dodgy Spanish than understanding a word of English some of the airport staff have said to me.

The airport's Skyrail is another interesting innovation. At Heathrow Airport in London and Charles de Gaulle in Paris, there is a train which takes you around from terminal to terminal. Those save loads of time.

Here though, while the airport is huge, the Skyrail doesn't seem to save you that much. In fact, one probably spends more time going up the stairs or elevator to the train and waiting for it to arrive than actual distance covered travelling from one station to the next.

- D.B.