Aug 29, 09, 3:36 pm
We normally fly from Gatwick to Tampa, and my father who needs a wheechair is pushed to the same immigration clearance used by the airline crew and we normally clear immigration in 15 minutes.
This time we are flying from Heathrow into Miami. Can anyone tell me if they have the same facility there to fast track people or do wheelchair bound passengers have to wait in line along with the other international arrivals. My dad is 85 and gets pretty overwhelmed so it would be nice to know what we are letting ourselves in for at Miami.
Aug 30, 09, 7:35 pm
My son uses a wheelchair and has travelled with us internationally countless times.
Most USA ports of entry do have a sign welcoming US residents in wheelchairs to use a special lane at Immigrations. Sometimes this lane is not in service.
I can't speak for the non-resident lanes.
But, I can suggest to lower your expectations about the MIA airport. It has never been a stellar experience for me. In my experiences, attitudes seem to be either casual or indifferent there.
But I hope that you enjoy your trip to Florida.
Aug 31, 09, 2:00 am
Thanks for your reply.
There are usually at least 10 or 15 wheelchair bound people on the London to Tampa flight and I imagine a similar number will be on the Miami flight.
I imagine that they won't expect that number of people to queue up for 2 or 3hours. I am sure the crew won't be happy doing either, that but as you say your experience is for residents so fingers crossed things are different for non residents.
Another poster indicated that this might be the case, but I was hoping to hear from someone who'd had actual experience.
There seems to be alot of negative talk about Miami-I think we have been spoilt at Tampa!
Aug 31, 09, 9:50 am
Timing is everything in Miami. Arriving from Europe will be somewhere between 2pm-5pm and really shouldn't be too bad (by MIA standards at least, which is compared to 530am when ALL the deep South America flights arrive). There are, however, a lot of mid-afternoon smaller arrivals from the Caribbean and central America. As you're arriving from Heathrow, you could be on BA, Virgin, or American. If BA or Virgin, you'll be arriving in the new South terminal which I understand is very nice (I've never been through), but most importantly, it does not contain American Airlines and should be much less crowded. I always have flown American Airlines, so my experience is with them on the north side. Now that I think about it, the North terminal is really AA only for now and they only have 3 flights from Europe per day. All the European airlines currently use the new South terminal, which obviously means more European (large planes) arriving with more pax during that arrival block.
I've always had the 'benefit' of being the last off the plane, then using an aisle chair to deplane, transferring into my own chair in the jetway, so that by the time I get to immigration, my whole flight has passed through and is long gone. Even if you can walk, most airports/airlines insist on everyone requesting a wheelchair wait to deplane last, and while not what you really crave after a 10 hour flight, the immigration line will likely be shorter. Miami does make an effort to send the wheelchairs through a separate line, however, like most things here the only constant is lack of consistency. I usually come in with the 10 flights from deep south America at 530a, and have never waited more than 5 min in the wheelchair/'special' lane.
That said, I can only assume that the 'special treatment' for wheelchairs line is used for everyone, not just US citizens and residents. I've never been to a country that denied me use of the crew/diplomat/wheelchair lane solely because I was a foreigner. Although, as an American, I'm well aware that the US isn't quite as big as others on making one feel truly welcome here.
Sep 4, 09, 12:46 pm
Thanks for your reply; very reassuring.
I am sure they will treat international arrivals the same as domestic ones.
They certainly do at Tampa.
We have always been made welcome in Florida and although immigration may seem a bit slow and methodical, they are only doing their job and it's a shame that the UK authorities are not as diligent at their airports!
We are on the BA flight arriving at 2.30pm and I note what you say that it's not the busiest time, but we have decided to have one night in the Miami International Airport Hotel (or a nearby hotel) and then next morning I can set off to the car rental office (Dollar or Alamo) at about 10.0am when hopefully it is fairly quiet and I am in a good mood!