From Aces to Zuliana de Aviacion and many airlines in between!
Written: Aug 23, 2003 (Updated Aug 23, 2003)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Convenient to Port Of Miami, Miami Beach, clean, Metro-Dade information center on site hotel.
Cons:Surrounded by dangerous neighborhoods. A wrong turn could cost more than just time!
The Bottom Line: Eclectic, international flavor, convenient, busy organized; diverse cross section of airlines. Airport near some very dangerous neighborhoods.
First the facts:
1. Traveled 18 August 2003 Monday/20 August, 2003 Wednesday.
2. Air Tran Airways (non revenue) Concourse G gate G-2
3. Did not check bags.
4. Ground transportation- MIA to Thunderbird Beach Resort in North Miami Beach/Sunny Isles via Metro-Dade Bus. Return to MIA via shuttle van arranged by hotel Bell Captain.
5. Less then five (5) minute wait in security line to concourse G
If you do not care about aviation history skip this section of my review.
Miami International Airport is steeped in aviation romance, glamour and history. The airport dates back to 1928 when the now departed Pan American Airways established an airfield, which was then six miles west of the city of Miami proper. Adjacent to the airport bearing this former aviation titan was an airfield operated by the United States Army. Sometime after World War II ended, the two airport properties were consolidated into what is now known as Miami International Airport. The nifty 50s brought unheard of growth and prosperity. Both Miami, Miami Beach and commercial aviation experienced exponential growth which fed off of each other. Now, the land of the palms was within four to six hours from the frigid cities of the North East.
1959 ushered in two big changes; Fidel Castro causing the great exodus from Cuba and MIA opens a modern trend setting terminal complex for the jet age. The infrastructure of MIA is basically the 1959 model complete with the first on site built in hotel. There were 5 original concourses, which at the time made this one of the largest airports in the world. As a matter of fact Miami International was the largest one building airport complex. Concourses D, E, F, G and H are the originals. Around 1968 what is now concourse C was completed. In the early 70s, concourse B became the showcase for the now defunct Eastern Airlines. In the mid to late 1990s, Concourse A opened its jet way doors to many international air carriers. Miami International was the home and hubs for Eastern, National, and Pan Am. Interspersed were smaller growing carriers and many South American airlines. Back in the day the three-tailed Lockheed Constellation dominated MIA along with the DC-7 prop liner, and the less successful hippo sized Boeing Stratocruiser. The sole American designed and manufactured prop jet Lockheed Electra) was the flagship aircraft for Eastern and National Airlines in the late 50's and early 60's as the jet age beckoned. Mia was one of the first airports to initiate regularly scheduled domestic jet service using Boeing 707, Dc-8 fan jets and Convair 880's.Eastern and National would fiercely compete with each other for the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to Miami flights. In these heady days, of the jet age Mickey had yet to discover Orlando and Atlanta Hartsfield was still a Quonset hut!
Today, Miami International is undergoing a vast expansion and modernization project. A new super concourse, J is under construction and will eventually be the new home of United and Delta airlines. As compared to my hometown airport BWI, MIAs construction seemed seamless; meaning there was little or known blight or inconvenience. The shuttle driver told me that MIA does all it can to insure a smooth flow of passengers, planes and ground traffic. He felt, the airport authority worked with the airlines and vendors through this construction process.
The airport is a large one building horseshoe with 8 concourses that extend out word. Concourse A and B are mainly international carriers. Concourse C, D and E are the domain of MIAs prominent airline. This airline is American Airlines! Eastern, National and the original Pan Am are just footnotes in aviation history. Deregulation, and the poor economic conditions during the Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush eras were the death knell for these once mighty benchmarks of commercial air travel. Concourse F and G serve United, Continental and my company Air Tran. The H concourse is the domicile of Delta, US Airways, and Bahamas Air. For the 𣿓 on airlines serving MIA and their location you can visit their official website: www.miami-airport.com. A very good web site. Contains all the vital information you will need when using the airport. My one quibble about MIAs web site regards their history section or lack of it. For the past year and a half they are promising the MIA Historical Movie.
My Air Tran flights to and from Miami were on concourse G at gate G-2. The G concourse made me feel like I was back in 1962 catching a DC-8 fan jet flight. This concourse would be considered dated to many passengers. I felt concourse G was intimate. The ceilings are low slung. The walls and carpeting are a dark aqua. The area was pleasantly cool. I noticed, that though dated in appearance, this concourse was very clean and very well maintained. A little on the dark side but in my opinion not confining. An excellent feature was the entry door to the jet Way/loading Bridge. A solid steel door, which opened and closed via sensor as each passenger passes through. A nice security touch. Gate agents and security have better control. On my job site, I contend with 70s vintage glass paned doors. Another observation regarding G concourse; there were limited food and other retail operations. At MIA the lions share of food, beverage, and services are in the main terminal across from the ticket counters. Prior to the sterile/or secure gate areas. A great asset if you are whiling the time away with friends, loved ones or business associates who are not flying and therefore cannot enter the concourse/gate areas. However, this can be a liability if, you have a long wait, especially for an international flight. You would have to be re-screened through security should you decide to exit your gate area for a bite to eat or other goods. This is where Atlanta Hartsfield International has the advantage over Miami International and BWI; plenty of vendors are on both sides. In addition in Atlanta, a passenger can traverse the train system and take come and go from any of the gate/concourse areas.
MIA has three levels. Level 1 is baggage claim and rental car counters. The main level (Level 2) is the departure ticketing area. This is where all the retail action is. There are many foreign currency exchange kiosks located throughout the terminal. Cuban delicacies are a por favor request away. I was told that you can even buy tapes and books about the Latin American TV show Sabado Gigante starring the genial Dan Francisco.
Level 3 has the moving sidewalks, which traverses the length of the airport. There is also an elevated train. I have never used this so, I cannot tell you anything about it. I suggest a visit to the MIA website.
The baggage claim occupies the lowest level. The bag belts are numbered from left to right. Therefore, Delta passengers would use the lower numbered carousels. (Below concourse H) Flew in from Latin America on ACES? Chances are your luggage will plop onto one of the higher numbered carousels located below concourse A, B or possibly C.
The epicenter of this bustling airport is around concourse E. Here, you will find the Miami International Airport Hotel. (www.miahotel.com)
They have a rooftop health club, pool and for a fee non-hotel guests can take advantage of the facilities. There is also a fancy restaurant called Top Of The Port. Their web site can tell you more. Chances are there is a very helpful review of this lodging facility right here at Epinions.com!
Ground Transportation: Super Shuttle is the dominant ground transportation agent. (www.supershuttle.com). Look for men and women sporting outerwear bearing the name Super Shuttle. Metro-Dade has an excellent easy to use self-service information system adjacent to concourse E baggage claim across the inner traffic lanes. Here I found clear concise maps and a computerized kiosk. I had time to kill since my flights arrived early. So, I explored Miami via Metro-Dade. For $2.00 I experienced a very interesting journey by public transit bus up to my hotel in Sunny Isles Beach. This will eventually be a whole new review.
While we are discussing ground transportation and airport access; I have to touch on the negative. Location is an asset but also an albatross. The glistening beaches of South Beach and North Miami Beach/Sunny Isles are within 15 to 45 minutes driving time (no traffic). The Port of Miami is within a few mile of this airport. BUT! I must stress to you my fellow travelers that you have to know where you are going and in tune with your driving environment. Some of the most dangerous areas envelop MIA! And the dangers are not the gators. Keep your car doors locked, and windows up. You can enjoy all the tropical heat once you reach the beach. A wrong turn will have you taking an unwelcome tour of such areas as Liberty City, Brownsville, Overtown and Alapatah. These were the areas where lives were lost during the 1980 riots and more recently in the late 80s and early to middle 1990s when tourists mostly foreign got lost in their rental cars and met with the ugly vestiges of violent crime. Since these scary days, Miami-Dade has done an excellent job in educating tourists in regards to staying alive and on I-95. There was a Follow The Sun program. This consisted of colorful neon sun logos posted above the major roadways. (Airport Expressway, I-95, 836 to name a few major roads) By following the sunny signs, one could avoid the badlands surrounding the airport and reach their destination in one piece. Security is beefed up along the thoroughfares leading in and out of MIA. Use common sense and you should have a great visit. I bring all this up because I hate to admit I am now scared to rent a car in the Miami area. Prior to these highly publicized tragedies, I had no problem melding with the Miami driving public. Miami is very spread out and a car makes a big difference in getting around.
Summing everything up; I feel Miami International is a well laid out and convenient travel hub. There are lots of multi-cultural opportunities and services. This large facility is conveniently located to the popular vacation and business hot spots. One just has to keep the safety factor at the forefront. Many travel authorities have bashed this airport. Supposedly MIA is rated low in popularity. There are some dated areas and busy periods such as holidays and weekends when cruise ship passengers besiege the airport can be overwhelming and crowded. Over the last few years, MIA has lost favor when it comes to domestic travel. Fort Lauderdale (FLL) International up I-95 is growing by leaps and bounds. Delta and even number one carrier American are shifting flights to FLL and away from Miami International. Last year FLL served more domestic passengers than MIA! Discount carriers Southwest and Jet Blue eschew MIA for FLL. However my company Air Tran provides convenient service from FLL and of course Miami International Airport. By the way, I feel MIAs 50s ambience adds to the cool factor of Miami and South Beach. Happy traveling! Some additional links:
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Best Time to Travel Here: Mar - May