Thursday, March 28, 2013


Wouldn’t it be nice …

At the airport

My kids came to visit for Pesach. They live in Israel so it’s more than just “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we’ll go.” More like 18 hours in transit – and that’s on a good day. Sometimes it is much longer.

Since they are traveling with the World’s Greatest Grand-daughter, hereafter WGG, and since the WGG is just a bit over two years old, hanging around airports can be trying for all concerned.

Now that Obungler is, in his infinite lack of wisdom, trying to force Republicans into signing on for even GREATER deficits by implementing a “sequester,” lines at government functions (mostly Terrible Service & Aggravation, a/k/a TSA, and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, both brought to us compliments of the Department of Homeland (in)Security) are supposed to be getting longer and longer.

    To be fair, when the kids got to incoming Passport Control the Customs folks (a) had a line set aside for people with special needs – including parents with small children and (b) had a sharp Customs guy who – seeing my daughter and the WGG going through the US passport line while son-in-law cooled his heels in the non-US line – opened up a new line and signaled to Son-In-Law to be first in the new line. Customs folks CAN (and often are) king and considerate. I have my own “Bravo! Customs” stories.

Having stayed their stay, they headed back home.

Get boarding passes online.

Check luggage - and passports

Wait in line for a US government (TSA) passport check

Wait in line for an electronic strip search

And, finally, the always (for me anyway) l_o_n_g walk to the gate in hopes that the departing flight will do so on time.

Some in-laws discovered that departures can be delayed. We had offered, indeed strongly encouraged them to take, snack food “just in case.” The delay on the ground amounted to several hours and these people, grandparents, parents, and two very young, whiny children (OK, the parents were whiny, too) had nothing on which to snack. We, of course, were chastised for letting them go off sans snacks.

I don’t know what other airports do to keep travelers, and those of us charged with getting them from and to the airport expeditiously, to let people know about wait times.

In the “old” MIA – back when there was only one Customs for incoming passengers – there was a huge sign showing what flights were being cleared by Customs. No clue how long it was taking to clear, but those on the waiting side at least knew that passengers on So-N-So’s plane were being processed.

The new, spiffy MIA, with two Customs operations lacks this nicety.

Worse, the airports Web site gives no clue as to outgoing or incoming wait times.

As with most airports, it DOES list arrivals and departures.

Checking how many other international flights are arriving within 15 minutes before or after the flight for which you are waiting can give you a hint at wait times.

At MIA, a lot of flights are from Latin America and many are in smaller (compared to 747s) aircraft – maybe the plane has 100-150 passengers vs. a 747’s 400. I generally ignore these and look for trans-Atlantic flights in Big Boeing and Airbus monsters.

Outbound is about the same. Check outgoing trans-ocean flights to Europe or South America – MIA bills itself as the gateway airport to Latin America.

Life could be a lot simpler if, Obungler notwithstanding, MIA would post on its Web site transit times for incoming and outgoing passengers. How long from the time the first person deplanes until they realize the airline misplaced their luggage, and in the other direction, how long from the time the outgoing passenger queues up in the passport control line to be followed by the indignity-by-TSA line.

We used to be told to get to the airport 90 minutes or a bit more for international flights, and that was BEFORE print-at-home boarding passes (which seem useless unless all the traveler has is carry-on).

AS IT HAPPENS US Customs (and Border Patrol) has a wait times Web site - , BUT while MIA is listed on the airport options, it offers no information.

There is a commercial Web site, , that lists “historical” wait times. How recent the history – since Obungler’s “sequester” fiasco?

For all that, this time the travelers WILL have “in case the flight is delayed” snacks for both adults and the WGG.

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