Sunday, June 6, 2010

Airport Report: Mazatlan (MZT)

Tiny little airport! It is so small, it is actually kinda cute. Overall, I have to say it was better than the Cabo San Lucas airport. When we landed, there was not a swarm of people trying to "help" us and then box us into a timeshare tour - in fact, we only had one guy chase after us for a couple of minutes. Also the air conditioning seemed to work much better in the Mazatlan airport. Yeah!

Arriving in Mazatlan:
Landing and getting through customs was pretty simple - we played the "push the button" game and won! Yeah! No customs inspection for us. Not familiar with this? As you go through customs you will be asked to push a button. If the light (which is suppose to be random) comes up green, you get to go - red, you get your luggage searched.

Once you clear customs, there is a bar just outside the arrival area near the ubiquitous Senor Frog's, along with an ATM and currency exchange counter. The car rental counters are also right here and the actual car lots are just up the way. On a good day or when the heat isn't too bad, you can probably walk over there in 10 minutes or less.

Leaving Mazatlan:
Coming back to the airport, plan some extra time. Traffic can be heavy getting through Highway 15 in Mazatlan but the route is clearly marked and very direct. Depending on the airline, you may be in for some long lines at check-in. Mexicana was showing their stellar service with humongous lines on the day we left. US Airways only had a few check-in counters but things went relatively smoothly. Alaska Air had the self-service kiosks and a few more counters and seemed to be going well.  All airlines will do the hand search of your checked luggage before you get to the ticket counter. This slows things down and if you had trouble getting your bag to zip close before you went to the airport...well, just be ready to sit on it again to get it to zip up.

Once you are checked in, there are a couple of places to grab food upstairs, but Medas was not impressive. Service was slow (not just for us, but those around us too) and the food and drinks were seriously sub-par. Do NOT buy water or soft drinks unless you plan on finishing them before you get on the plane - TSA will not allow you to bring these onto the plane even if you bought them after the security checkpoint. I cannot actually find this clearly documented, but the rule seems to be if you buy beverages or liquids past security in countries outside the US, you will not be able to board with them.

The security checkpoints do not require you to remove your shoes, but the prepartion area for the x-ray is small and the baskets are tiny compared to what you find in the US. There are no reminders to remove your 3-1-1 baggie of liquids and your laptop, but we took things out anyway and didn't get in trouble. ;-) Once through security, there are restrooms but I did not see any food, drink or newstands. There is free wi-fi advertised, but when I tried to connect it was pretty slow and it appeared that only the first 15 minutes were free.

If you have a "SSSS" on your boarding pass, you will get the extra - special - additional security search at the gate. Your whole party won't be searched and cannot stand with you while it is done. Your carry-ons will be searched, you'll get the wand and maybe a pat down, and might then be asked to sit down and remove your shoes.  How do I know this? What do you think? I won the random boarding pass printing of SSSS, looked suspicious, or both and was thoroughly searched.

Your plane may not have a jetway, so be prepared to lug your stuff up those lovely rickety stairs that are provided for you to get up to the door of the plane. On the day we flew out, Mexicana and US Airway had jetways, Continental did not.

Best advice: give yourself plenty of time so you aren't rushed and plan ahead. Be ready for the differences in security and things will go smoothly... um, assuming your plane takes off on time.

-- Safe Travels!

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