Miami Airport – Avoid!
Some years ago, we bought a week’s timeshare in a South African resort for the magnificent sum of $376. I won’t say where it is, but we did visit it and whilst it was pretty downmarket and somewhat seedy, it has given us the opportunity to exchange our week with some more upmarket places. We’ve been to India, Zimbabwe and Mexico and this time, we obtained a week in Aruba, a Dutch colony island in the Caribbean.
Getting there, however, was hardly fun. The cheapest way to fly was with American Airlines via Miami. The problem with connecting flights in the US is the time needed to go through the rigmarole of immigration even if you are not staying in that country. On top of that, your bags are not checked through to your final destination, so you have to pick them up, go through customs and re-check them in again,
Originally there was a two hour time gap between the landing time in Miami and the take off time to Aruba, but this was cut by 20 minutes when they re-scheduled the flight to Aruba. In theory, this should have still given us enough time to clear all the immigration hurdles. However, the plane arrived an hour late and despite having priority through immigration, due to Sonia requiring a wheelchair as she had recently had an operation on both her knees, it was to no avail. We missed our connection.
So we were traipsed off to the American Airlines re-connection desks (and there were many) to get another reservation. Of course, there were no more flights to Aruba until the next day, so that meant one day less in Aruba. After quite a long time, we finally got re-booked but were told that we couldn’t get a boarding pass until the next day. “Come two hours before the flight for this” we were told. All this without turning a hair – there were about 100 people waiting to be re-booked – this is obviously a frequent occurrence so it is why they have a special ticketing department to do this. I asked if they would put us up at a hotel. “Of course,” they said, “and we will give you vouchers for dinner and breakfast”. “That’s mighty civilised of them” I thought, but the vouchers were for $12 each for dinner and $7 each for breakfast. Hardly enough for an appetizer at the hotel restaurant, so we used out breakfast voucher to defray the cost of the dinner, thinking that we might snatch a bit of grub on the plane. Some hopes!
Well, at least, we had a free hotel room. All re-booked people were put up at the Miami International Airport Hotel and the room allocated to us was a tiny claustrophobic room with no windows! We were told that “that’s all American Airlines would pay for”. I think this hotel must have been built as a kind of purgatory location for re-bookers before deciding whether they are going to paradise or not! Well, the hotel front desk took pity on Sonia’s knees and upgraded us to a bigger room.
In fairness to the hotel, we slept in a very comfortable bed with a good bathroom and the staff were very helpful. But it’s quite clear that American Airlines are still in a state of poor financial health.
We decided to check in three hours before the flight and luckily we did. There was such chaos at the check in but we did manage to get checked in although it took the best part of an hour.
So the verdict on Miami airport is Avoid. That is unless you plan to make an overnight stop there because it’s too risky fly onwards with a tight schedule. We could have gone to Aruba with KLM via Amsterdam, but it was more expensive. However, by the time we added up our extra costs on this trip we might just as well have gone with them.
We are not looking forward to our return flight!
Anyway, I am writing this on the beach in Aruba now and will write again with my impressions of Aruba in the next few days.