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New customs wing at MIA ready for grand opening

Facility to allow faster processing

MIAMI – After a bit of a delay, the new customs and immigration wing at Miami International Airport is ready for its grand opening.

Coming into the U.S. through MIA can be a real challenge.

"Our old Concourse E facility had reached capacity, so at certain times, we reached a point where we couldn't process them all," said MIA Communications Director Greg Chin. "We had to send some passengers to temporary facilities."

That takes valuable time. On average, it takes an hour or more to get through immigration and customs.

So, the airport is opening a new facility to speed things up.

"We are thinking, on an average, it will be 15 to 20 minutes less than it was before," Chin said.

Convenience is key for international travelers. That is why the Sky Train drops them off just one floor above. As soon as they walk into the immigration hall, they realize how massive it is -- a full football field long.

The new facility opens July 31 at a cost of $180 million. Its 72 passenger lanes are double the number at the old facility.

It also will include six global entry kiosks, which travelers can use for a small fee. All users have to do is have their passport scanned, their fingerprints taken and their retinas read, and if they are approved, they are on their way.

Customs officers have just as much room behind a one-way mirrored wall, and a new baggage area is connected to American Airlines' fully automated baggage handling system.

For security, there will be 25 inline explosive detection units at $1 million apiece, X-raying every piece of checked luggage.

"We have five carousels that will open this month, and then at the end of March next year, we will have all 10 carousels working with the new baggage handling system," Chin said.

In order to staff the new facility with immigration and customs officers, the airport will temporarily close Concourse E until further notice.