Behind The Scenes At Miami International Airport, Tonight

Travelers passing through Miami International Airport (MIA) most commonly are concerned about luggage, customs, security and making connections. Given the time, they might linger at an airport store in the mall-like shopping areas, have something to eat, work or just relax before a flight. But behind the scenes, an army of MIA workers handles situations travelers may never hear about from drug smuggling to terrorist threats, medical emergencies and more.

Tonight, the Travel Channel is taking us back stage to see how it all unfolds every day as 100,000 travelers make their way through one of the busiest airports in the world.

“This is one of many ways in which Travel Channel is trying to give viewers a different look at all aspects of travel,” network general manager Andy Singer said in a Washington Post article. “And we think the Miami International Airport is a fascinating way to do that.”

“Airport 24/7: Miami” brings us behind closed doors to watch workers as they handle terrorist threats, deal with drug smugglers, act quickly in medical emergencies, get ready for an Air Force One landing and more.

Going behind doors marked “Staff Only” and “Secure Area” into places travelers rarely see, “Airport 24/7: Miami” promises to show what happens as thousands of Miami International Airport workers go about the business of running a safe and secure airport facility, all while getting passengers to their flights on time.

“Airport 24/7:Miami” premieres tonight with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. EST.

[Flickr photo by Let Ideas Compete]

New airport terminals, once delayed, prep for opening this year

New airport terminals can add time-saving features to existing facilities, bringing the latest in technology and security. If and when they open. Local and worldwide economic conditions caused projects to be delayed or shelved for a while. Now, several new facilities are preparing to open and new projects are being approved, signaling a brighter future to come.

The long anticipated and twice delayed inauguration of a new terminal at the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, capital of the northwest province of Guanacaste, is happening this week.

“Costa Rica will be in a very advantageous situation, since we will have the best secondary airport in all of Central America, and perhaps one of the best in Latin America,” Transport Minister Francisco Jiménez told Ticotimes. “This will be a very important part of the development of the northern Pacific region.”

The airport will have the capacity to provide service to 1,500 passengers during peak hours and boasts security upgrades, temporary holding rooms for detained passengers, and dormitories for people in the process of being deported. Said to be the answer to notorious Liberia airport lines that sometimes stretch outside of the terminal, the new facility will be a welcome addition.

Coming up in Las Vegas this June, McCarran International Airport (LAS) opens new $2.4 billion Terminal 3, primarily to serve international and domestic long-haul flights. The new terminal will have 14 gates, a baggage handling system and parking garage and will feature an underground shuttle to the D gates and two floors of security checkpoints. When the new terminal opens, Terminal 2, an eight-gate charter on the airport’s north side, will be torn down.

Miami International Airport‘s (MIA) North Terminal Development Program is quickly nearing completion in 2012. Only three gates remain to be opened in the 50-gate “super concourse,” which is used by American Airlines as its hub for Latin America and the Caribbean to serve more than 20 million passengers annually and provide more than 300 daily flights.

Noted as one of the top ten airports for shopping in the world by, the “terminals feel more like shopping malls than airports” reports the Miami Herald.

Indeed, to make airports work in today’s economy, they are becoming much more than just a place where planes take off and land. In addition to destination-like features, community leaders are pushing airport construction and expansion as a way land on sound economic ground.

“We need a healthy economy to thrive as a community. And transportation infrastructure is absolutely a part of this,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, chairwoman, when the Sonoma County California Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed an $84 million project to expand Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) to enable more daily commercial flights this week.

“In this economy, this is as close to an economic home run as we’re going to get,” said Jonathan Coe, of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

In Vermont, construction on a new terminal building at Vermont’s Newport State Airport (UUU) could begin as early as this summer. That would be a big step in a $12.8 million expansion project that officials say is designed to boost the area’s economy.

“This 9-year project has put a focus on utilizing our existing airports to mark Vermont not only a destination for vacationers, but also a viable economic force in the Northeast region,” said Guy Rouelle, aviation director for the Vermont Transportation Agency in BusinessWeek.

Utilizing existing airports, remodeling and upgrading facilities to address security concerns and improve the process for passengers has been a long time coming. Signs like these indicate overdue projects will be getting back on track and point to a bright future for American aviation.

But new airports are not popular everywhere as we see in this video.

Flickr photo by gTarded

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United States makes a fool of itself – arrests UK comedian for “sounding Cuban”

You can’t make this crap up – British comedian Paul O’Grady was arrested at Miami international airport because he sounded “Cuban”.

The award winning comedian has his own TV show, and became famous thanks to his hilarious Lily Savage drag queen character.

Apparently, the fools at Miami airport thought his accent was a tad funny, and accused him of being an illegal Cuban alien.

It took officials two hours to verify his identity and confirm that he is indeed, a British comedian, and not a Cuban immigrant.

I’m not entirely sure why they couldn’t just take a close look at him, and come to the conclusion that he doesn’t even look Cuban. But that would obviously prevent Miami airport from keeping its title as one of the worst International airports in the country.

With so many tourists visiting the United States entering through Miami, the airport may want to review its policies, and ask their immigration officials to re-read the manual on how to spot an illegal immigrant. The first step is to just read the damn passport.

Mr. O’Grady spoke about the incident on his radio show, and said “I’ve been to hell, folks – it’s called Miami airport.”.

Are slot machines at Miami airport a winning idea?

As someone who routinely gets to the airport incredibly early, I can attest that they are boring, uncomfortable places. It’s rare to find free wi-fi, sufficient power sources or quality food. Basically, you sit there, read a book and tolerate the chaos. But, if you’re traveling out of Miami International Airport, you may soon have a new activity while you’re waiting for your flight: slot machines.

USA Today is reporting that the Miami-Dade County commissioners voted 8-3 yesterday to allow slot machines at the airport. The devices would be located beyond security checkpoints and would potentially allow the county to recoup some of the money that the airport is hemorrhaging. At present, the operating cost of the airport is $600 million and could more than double in the next six years. The slots could provide a much-needed revenue stream.

Sure, more money will come into the airport and some gambling addicts will be able to pass the time while waiting for their flights (and you’ll often be waiting for your delayed flight at Miami International), but do you really want to hear that racket? Between the PA announcements, screaming children and people yelling into their phones, the last thing any airport needs is more noise. But money talks and Miami-Dade County needs the help.

So, do slot machines belong in airports? Would you pass the time waiting for a flight by pulling the handle and letting it ride? Or would you rather listen to your iPod, read a book and try to tune out all that chaos? Let us know in the comments.

Photo from flickr user Jeff Kubina.

Galley Gossip: There’s more to Miami than La Carreta

“There’s more to Miami than La Carreta,” said the well dressed passenger seated in 9D, the seat directly in front of my jump seat, as we slowly climbed to our cruising altitude.

“Oh I don’t know about that!” I laughed, as I loosened my seat belt so I could lean into the aisle and see why the woman three rows back kept waving her hands at me.

“The seat belt sign is on,” I told the woman as I pointed to the ceiling, at the illuminated seat belt sign, after she had asked if she could go to the restroom. “I’ll let you know when it’s safe to get up.”

NOTE: If the flight attendant is still sitting in the jump seat, you should certainly be seated in your seat. It’s not safe to get up yet.

The passenger wearing the nice suit seated directly in front of me just shook his head. Then he looked at the handsome guy with the longish hair from Chile sitting beside him and said, “tell Heather there’s more to Miami than La Carreta!”

The Chilean just smiled at me sweetly, so I smiled back. I don’t think he even knew what we were talking about. But the father and son team from the Dominican Republic wearing matching New York Yankee ball caps across the aisle from the Chilean knew exactly what the stylish one and I were talking about, because in unison they cried, “there’s more to Miami!”

Now this conversation began right after the passenger, the well dressed one, had asked “Do you fly to Miami often?”

“No. Not really,” I said. “Not if I can help it. I can’t even remember the last time I had a layover in Miami.” Then I went on to explain why I’m not a fan of the New York – Miami trips, which had more to do with the Miami International Airport than Miami itself.

“I think you need to give Miami another shot. It’s a fantastic city!” he interrupted.

I’m sure it is. But how would I know? Long gone are the days when I can actually do something on my layover other than shower, eat, and sleep. You see my Miami is not his Miami – the sexy exciting international Miami. Oh no. My Miami is a four hour sit at the airport between flights. My Miami is wearing a navy blue polyester dress and sweating my you know what off as my hair begins to frizz because of the heat and humidity inside the airport terminal. My Miami is swarms of passengers carrying too much heavy luggage wrapped in plastic. My Miami is a plane full of scantily dressed passengers who get angry as soon as they realize we don’t have blankets on board. My Miami originates from New York. Enough said?

I explained this to the well dressed passenger after the flight attendant working in first class made the announcement that it was safe to use electronic devices. Of course the woman three rows back who had waved her hands at me earlier began waving the hands again.

“Not yet. Soon,” I told her as I pointed to the seat belt sign again.

The woman began to crawl over her seatmate anyway.

I shook my head and yanked on my own harness straps for emphasis. “I’ll come get you when it’s safe.”

She sat back down.

Turning my attention back to the well dressed one, I added that even though the New York – Miami route isn’t my favorite trip, I do get excited, probably a little too excited, about one thing – La Caretta.

La Caretta is a popular Cuban restaurant located in concourse D outside of security. Apparently, according to the well dressed one, La Carreta has several locations in the city of Miami, but, as you know, I only have time to go to the one located at the airport. Trust me, it’s worth leaving the secured area for the food at La Caretta, no matter how long the lines.

White rice and black beans with a sprinkling of onions and cilantro and a side of beef picadillo and plantains, that’s what I order each and every time I pass through town. The best part about La Carreta, besides the good food, are the reasonable prices. The large portions aren’t bad, either. Don’t you know I can eat it all – it’s that good!

Of course, after La Carreta it’s off to Versailles for a cafe con leche.

La Carreta is as close to the city of Miami as I get these days. And I imagine it will be a very long time before flight crews see long layovers again. So when someone tells me there’s more to Miami than La Carreta, I am forced to disagree. For me, and other flight attendants, La Carreta is the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when you’re working the New York – Miami route.