Which airport best for connecting flight?

Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 10:29 AM
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Which airport best for connecting flight?

Hello! We'll be travelling to Belize from Canada and have three choices of airports for our connecting flight - Atlanta, Houston or Miami. Would love to hear any comments as to which airport would be preferable based on experience. We clear US Customs and Immigration here in Toronto before we leave so that might help save some time. I'm mainly concerned about airport/security efficiency. Is there an airport that stands out as one to avoid as far as connecting flights go? We have a few choices of layover time as well, anywhere from 50 minutes in Atlanta (which is great if all works, but I'm hesitant) to 3 hours or more in Houston or Miami. I will also post on the Belize forum. Thanks for any help!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 11:03 AM
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For what it is worth, I've connected through all three airports on numerous occasions (for domestic flights) and have never had any significant problems. Miami can sometimes be problematic when connecting from an inbound international flight but that's not your situation.

Since you'll have already cleared US Immigration & Customs in Toronto your flight into the the US will be no different than any other domestic connection. That is, you should be able to have your luggage checked through to your final destination and you'll be able to deplane and go directly to the gate for your connecting flight with having to leave the secure area and reenter without having to clear the TSA checkpoint. So it doesn't really matter too much which airport you use - the experience will essentially be the same you'll just be doing it in a different airport.

Now, a 50 minute connecting time is doable assuming your inbound flight arrives on or near schedule but it is cutting a little close, especially if you are traveling in winter. On the other hand a 3 hour layover time is more than adequate to make a connection.

Remember two things:

1) Murphy's Law of Air Travel says the shorter your connecting time the more things go wrong - your inbound flight can be delayed, you'll have to sit on the tarmac waiting for the gate to open, you'll be sitting in the back of the plane and be the last to get off and your connecting flight will be leaving from the gate that is the furthest away from your arrival gate. Conversely, if you choose the longer connecting time your inbound flight will arrive early, you'll be one of the first to deplane, the gate for your departing flight will be just across the hall from your arrival gate and your outbound flight will be delayed.

2) This is most important - it is much better to have a longer wait between flights than to arrive at your connecting gate 1 minute after the plane pushes back from the gate.

No one can give you any assurances. You'll have to decide which works best for you.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 11:43 AM
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I, too, have flown to and connected through all those airports, and I agree with RoamsAround: choose the layover time that you are most comfortable with, regardless of connecting airport. They're all about the same.

<I'm mainly concerned about airport/security efficiency. >
Since you won't be going through any security at the connecting airport, it doesn't matter.

<Is there an airport that stands out as one to avoid as far as connecting flights go?> Not IMO, no.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 12:04 PM
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Well, I think Atlanta is the best of those airports. Inherently logical setup, decent food options, it is simply a good airport. However, 50 minutes is pretty tight and I'm not sure I'd be that comfortable choosing that routing.

Of the other two, I'd call it a toss-up. MIA still isn't that great, it isn't logical like Atlanta, and walks are long, but it has gotten much better and isn't the complete mess it used to be. IAH is a bit more logical, but still a bit of a PITA. Some decent food options. To me, the tie-breaker would be that I prefer AA to United, so I'd choose Miami, working from the assumption that you are flying AA.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:07 PM
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I too transferred at all three and numerous times at MIA for international flights and that includes trips to Belize. I avoid MIA at all costs. Atlanta can be odd depending on the change where you might have take their tram system.

If MIA has improved, I would not know it because I have not used it a few years

Although it does not apply in this case, it is important to avoid northern airports for transfers during the winter.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 01:21 PM
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Miami is a pit. Wouldn't do that transfer again.

I'd take Houston - we cleared an 80-minute layover coming back from Belize no problem.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 02:03 PM
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If MIA has improved, I would not know it because I have not used it a few years

Miami is a pit. Wouldn't do that transfer again

The AA concourses have been renovated pretty nicely. Not much to be done with the suboptimal layout, but it isn't relentlessly depressing like it once was.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 02:33 PM
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80 minutes--I should say you cleared it, why on earth would that even be close?

MIA isn't a pit, at least not all of it. IME, every airport these days has shiny new concourses and others that smell like feet and despair. (US airports, that is. We've fallen woefully behind in infrastructure improvements, but that's another topic.) Unfortunately, you can't predict when you book what gate assignments will be, which terminals you'll be in, etc.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 02:37 AM
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50 minutes would be way too close for me in Atlanta.

My second choice would be based on how many more flights are available from YYZ to your transfer point in case your flight is canceled. I wouldn't want to be booked on the last flight of the day to either in the winter or the early spring.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 05:09 AM
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Thank you all for your comments! I don't think we'll risk the 50 minute connection so will either get to know Houston or Miami airports quite well. Appreciate the help!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Miami is a mess on two levels: (1) the horizontal ziggurat layout - the airport is relatively close to downtown and it has had to expand on an ad hoc basis, not much can be done about that without spending $2B for a new airport; (2) TRANSFERS TAKE LONG. Miami is AA's hub for flights to and from South and Central America and has been a port of entry for the drug trade for decades. CIS knows this and uses its resources accordingly.

I'd stick with IAH.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 08:56 AM
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<Miami is AA's hub for flights to and from South and Central America and has been a port of entry for the drug trade for decades. CIS knows this and uses its resources accordingly.>

Yes, but the OP is not going through security at all in Miami, so this is irrelevant.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 09:46 AM
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the airport is relatively close to downtown and it has had to expand on an ad hoc basis

Despite being further from downtown (a relatively meaningless distinction in Houston), IAH has also expanded on an ad hoc basis.

If you haven't been to MIA since the renovations to the spaces used by AA, then I'd hesitate to speak too poorly about it. From a space/amenities perspective, it really isn't bad (speaking of the AA side of the facility - I can't speak for the rest of it). For the YYZ>MIA>BZE leg, I think it isn't actually that bad of a place to connect, aside from the potential for some long walks, but you face a similar risk at IAH.

The primary issue one might encounter with MIA would potentially be some delays at immigration for the BZE>MIA>YYZ leg. MIA is second to only JFK in international arrivals, and the sheer number of people can lead to lines.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 09:50 AM
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The OP might have to go through security twice, if he is Canadian and clears customs in MIA, then he will probably leave the secured area only to return.
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