Travellers to Miami should be prepared for significant wait times at immigration until the new Federal Inspection Services area in the north terminal at Miami International Airport opens, which is slated to occur in July.
Delays in construction mean that additional flights, which would have been accommodated by the new area, are being routed through the old hall, which was never designed to handle such heavy traffic. Waits of two hours or more have been reported in some instances, while other cases have seen people miss connecting flights entirely.
Miami International Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the United States and it has been the site of a major expansion project designed to make the facility run more efficiently. Some of the improvements can already be seen, including the MIA Mover that takes passengers from the main building to the multi-tiered rental car centre off Le Jeune Road. The Skytrain in Concourse D has also been seen to help facilitate passenger movements inside the airport as it significantly reduces walking times between passenger gates for American Airlines and American Eagle, two carriers that feature prominently in Miami.
At the moment, the new north terminal baggage claim is being put through testing prior to its scheduled opening, and then, of course, there is the 72-booth immigration hall – probably the most anticipated upgrade for foreign passengers who have come to expect long waits and congested lines while going through US Immigration.
“The new FIS opening in July is twice the size of our current facility and has the capacity to serve 3,600 international passengers per hour,” said Jose Abreu, director of Miami International Airport.
Mr. Abreu said that until the new hall is open, people travelling at peak times have a greater chance of being greeted with long queues. It is recommended that passengers who can be flexible with their plans, particularly travellers who do not hold a Canadian or US passport, take the morning flights from the Cayman Islands to Miami. He also said that whenever possible, people should try to avoid the peak travelling days of Friday through Monday.
When booking a connecting flight, passengers should allow for three hours between landing and subsequent takeoff as people have to be cleared through security in the main terminal in order to get to their departure gate. There is no transit lounge available at the airport. All passengers also must go through immigration and customs regardless of final destination.
American Airlines does offer a VIP Five Star Service at an additional cost for those who choose it. This includes being met at the plane upon arrival and being fast-tracked through immigration and customs.
Mr. Abreu said all efforts are being made to have the new inspection area completed by early summer. He said to note that passengers flying into the south terminal – concourses H and J – from overseas are routed through a different immigration and customs facility, and as such should experience no abnormal delays.