Last week I traveled to MIA Airport as part of a multi-city work trip (see my blog about my exceptional Delta 1382 flight from DEN to ATL here). I was excited to return to MIA Airport after a 5 year hiatus, and even more excited to take some time to walk MIA and write a review. I had heard great things about MIA Airport ranging from passenger service, to an eclectic array of things to do in the airport that reflect the local culture of the city (beach and Cuban). Also, I believe MIA Airport is the home airport of one of tripchi’s competitor apps, AirportChatter (which is now shelved).
I experienced MIA Airport briefly on arrival in to Miami, but it was late at night and I really just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, check-in to my hotel, and have dinner. I recalled that multiple trains made the “exiting the airport” process lengthy. On my departure visit, this was certainly true as well. I was traveling with a friend from the conference I attended in Miami, and went with him to drop-off his rental car. The train ride from the rental car area to the main terminal at least wasn’t as long as the one in ATL (the amount of land that airport has is seemingly never-ending).
As my friend and I both were flying American Airlines out of MIA Airport, we luckily were vectored in to the same Terminal for departure (Terminal D), and this also meant that we wouldn’t have to take a second train (the SkyTrain) to our D gates. We had both checked-in to our flights the night before, so were able to skip the kiosks and the check-in lines since we only had carry-on luggage.
My friend was Premier in American Airways and was able to take advantage of the special Premium security line; I of course have PreCheck. However, both lines were about 20 people deep – it seems having a premium membership and PreCheck is becoming more the norm than the exception. We both got through security in about the same amount of time, and then immediately scouted out our D gates.
I have about 5 hours to kill, and my friend had 2. We decided to walk the length of D terminal and find a good place for lunch. We were thinking Cuban food since we were in Miami after all. I also took pictures as we walked.
The D terminal is *very* long, and it connects in to all the other terminals. You can skip the walk and take the SkyTrain if you’d prefer, and if you already know where you’re going. Here’s a look at the layout:
Terminal D felt a little old architecturally, but modern in terms of the stores, restaurants, and art that MIA Airport had to offer. Since it was laid out in a straight line, it wasn’t very interesting per se in terms of design, and tended to get repetitive in the look and feel. It got jammed up in several places where elevators/escalators were placed in the middle of the terminal walkway, channeling people to both sides. Other than that, it was long enough and the gates were spread out enough that it didn’t feel crowded.
I did also download the MIA Airport app to take a look at what it had to offer, as well as suggestions for our linner (since we haven’t yet built out MIA Airport in the tripchi airport app). It rolled up the retail options in a directory like manner, but didn’t help me make my mind up with recommendations, reviews, or larger descriptions. The app had the option to find out what’s “near me”, but annoyingly I had to enter in the Gate and geolocation of my handset wasn’t automatic.
The other epic technology fail that we noticed at MIA Airport was the touch-screen directories that were installed periodically to help people find what they were looking for. First of all, I’ll just make the general comment that I have literally *never* seen any one use these at any airport. They are extremely trendy from the airport technology standpoint (and expensive), but are not able to grab the passenger’s attention. At MIA Airport, that was probably a good thing, since they didn’t work. We tried interacting with one by touching the “Touch here to start” icon and nothing happened. Finally after 1 minute of waiting, a map of the terminal came up. We tried touching the part of the terminal we wanted more information on and nothing happened. Airports: if you are going to offer these interactive display screens, at least have them be fast enough to refresh before your passenger’s attention span lapses!
Along our Terminal D walk, we noticed a variety of retail options and art that reflected the Miami culture. Here are a few of our favorites (and you can find out more from the Shop and Dine MIA Airport website here):
- Cuban restaurant La Carreta. If you are craving Cuban food, this cafeteria-style quick-service joint serves up delicious and authentic Cuban food at MIA Airport.
- Marketplace Concept including Half-Moon Empanadas. The marketplace concept is probably an HMSHost creation, as I’ve seen it at other airports. It’s a way to bring in local vendors as well as a sampling of global concepts. At MIA Airport, it consists of shops as well as take-away dining options, such as Half-Moon Empanadas, where you can get your tummy happy with Latin delights.
- Clubhouse One. This upscale sit-down concept boasts an awesome Cuban sandwich and cool lounge vibe.
- Peace and Love wall art. Look up at the walls as you walk Terminal D and this art will be sure to make you happy!
- Floor Art and Ocean Art. There’s some great nautical and ocean themed art throughout MIA Airport. If you pay attention to the walls and the floor, you will be rewarded.
- Absolut Booth. Today at MIA Airport, there was an Absolut booth with free cosmo daiquiris (yes, they carded). This sat in the middle of the terminal, near La Carreta and across from the bay of rocking chairs.
- Corona Beach House. Another island-themed beach restaurant if you’re craving the South Beach feel.
- The Shoppes at Ocean Drive. OK, I wasn’t too impressed with the shopping options at MIA Airport. Sure you had your higher end designer shops, but there were very few locally oriented options. This was one of the few I found that reflected the Miami spirit.
- Rocking Chairs. Need to relax for a minute? Find these rocking chairs scattered throughout the terminal to take a load off.
- XpresSpa. While not unique to MIA Airport, this is always one of my go-to places for killing time in the airport. Relax with this #layovertip.
After walking the airport, we stopped at La Carreta for a to-go sandwich for my friend to take on the plane. After saying goodbye, I ran in to some other people I knew (this seriously always happens to me at airports!) and we decided to grab a glass of wine at Sushi Maki. They had to leave soon after, so I stuck around and ordered dinner. While not reflective of local Miami flavor, Sushi Maki did boast fresh fish and delicious food, especially for airport fare. Normally I’d be skeptical of sushi at the airport, but this one was a winner (and a close second in ambience to the Piano Sushi bar at CLT Airport).
After dinner, I grabbed a Cuban pastry and a Cuban coffee at Café Versailles, and headed to my gate.
All in all, I had a pleasant layover experience killing 5 hours. Being with friends helped. My number 1 suggestion to MIA Airport is to bring in a better shopping experience. The dining was there, but the local shopping experience was lacking.
If you’ve been through MIA Airport lately, tweet your #layovertip to @tripchi on Twitter!