I could not believe the chaos at the American Airlines check-in counters in Miami this past weekend!
Getting to the airport 3 hours early on Saturday, we found that the American check-in areas were mobbed. Most of the rest of the airline counters were quiet, but there were many hundreds, probably thousands, of passengers trying to figure out what to do to get checked in with AA.
There was no signage to help people sort out what was what, and lines were at best "fluid." After asking three or four different AA agents (who were overwhelmed but pleasant), we finally figured out that the best approach was to find an international check-in electronic kiosk that worked (some didn't). The kiosks were hidden in a mass of people milling around, so it took awhile to find them, figure out which ones were for international flights and which ones actually worked.
Then, it took a few minutes to figure out that once you checked in electronically, you waited in a crowd of people, many speaking languages other than English or Spanish, for American agents to print out your luggage tags and yell out your name, or at least your flight destination. This is in a crowd of dozens of people all milling about and shouting.
No, the agents who printed out the baggage tags didn't take your bags. You had to wait, in our case about 30 minutes, in another series of lines (I use the term loosely, as these lines appeared and disappeared randomly) to give a different agent the bags. Then, the bags were collected and packed up on a huge cart and wheeled somewhere, right through the middle of the terminal, I assume to a conveyer belt somewhere.
After that, you then had to go to another line to go through security. Happily, the security line was actually pretty short, in part because everybody was still waiting at various American Air counters trying to get checked in.
I've flown through Miami many times, but it's been several years since starting a trip at Miami. I would think that by starting your trip elsewhere you'd save some of the hassle of trying to check bags in Miami, (though not necessarily, given the procedures at MIA) but the Miami airport, and in particular the American section -- American dominates the airport, with its extensive service to Central and South America -- offer a truly chaotic, Third World experience.
I feel sorry for anyone who is not fluent in Spanish and/or English trying to negotiate this mess, or indeed for anyone who is a little shy about asking for help.
It's hard to believe that a huge international company like American couldn't do a better job at one of their main hubs.
I also imagine that this chaotic system for check-in and checking baggage means that the security system is potentially vulnerable. Hundreds of people were just walking back and forth, pushing and shoving, trying to figure out what to do, while huge piles of luggage were being moved right through the crowds by airline employees.
I've heard many people say, "I'll never fly through Miami again," but until this past weekend I didn't really know what they meant.
It certainly is a terrible introduction to the U.S. for international visitors flying through or from Miami.
True, it was Labor Day weekend, but I'm told American Air at Miami International is often like it was last weekend.
It was truly an incredible experience in inefficiency and incompetence, not so much by front-line American Air staff, who were trying their best, but by American Air management.