Plane Full of Mexico Passengers Forgot to Go Through Immigration in New York

An American Airlines flight from Cancun to New York taxied to a gate at JFK set up for domestic arrivals this past Friday.

American flight AA1671 arrived about 8:30pm on Friday night, and passengers simply got off and left the airport without going through immigration or customs.

A source familiar with the matter said passengers disembarking the plane “just followed” a gate agent. …

“Some passengers on Flight 1671 did not complete immigration and customs process upon arrival when they were inadvertently directed to the domestic terminal,” American Airlines said in a statement.

American Airlines Aircraft at New York JFK

Apparently American reached out to the 150 passengers and instructed them that they had to return to New York JFK for processing. 144 of the passengers did so. The other 6 are US citizens, and one imagines that some had traveled far from New York by the time they were contacted.

American Airlines Boeing 737 Interior, the Cancun – JFK flight was operated by a 737

Passengers report the airline is being quite insistent that they return post-haste. It’s not clear to me, though, why they such records cannot be updated electronically and that if they do need to show up in person why it cannot be to the nearest port of entry.

(HT: Point Me to the Plane)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Big deal… Happens thousands of times a day across the entire southern US border with Mexico.

    Maybe this was a stipulation of the DOJ approval of the AA/US merger 😉

  2. So 144 folks entered the country from Mexico on an American jet without passing through immigration? Hardly news since it has been estimated that over 6 million folks had come in from Mexico without passing through immigration between January 2000 through January 2011.

  3. A few weeks ago I was on an AA flight from Leon, Mexico to DFW. Before landing a flight attendant announced that checked baggage would be transferred to our connecting flights. I assumed it was just a ditzy employee who forgot this was an international flight. I guess AA pilots can be ditzy, too. Or was it traffic controllers?

  4. This is reminiscent of the AA foul-up sending a non-ETOPS aircraft LAX-HNL. These are “must never” events for an airline.

    One wonders if the merger integration isn’t going as well as it otherwise seems.

  5. My friend from Panama, a cmu grad in comp Sci can’t get a visa to visit because she can’t prove substantial ties aka she may come and take a job.

    While the dumb f=%^/k democrats want to give citizenship to 14 million gardeners.

    Ever thought of politicians as grandstanding, hypocritical jerks? Me too. Including the one in the white house.

  6. Tell the Syrian refugees that there is another way to the U.S. without going through the hassles of immigration…

  7. For non-US citizens, CBP is required to collect their picture and fingerprints. Hence they can’t just simply update the records, even though they have the passport information collected by AA.

  8. One has to think that some heads will have to roll, after this major flight processing error. Hello, the Captain didn’t realize, he/she was at domestic arrivals? That person was the final controlling agent that could have prevented this error. That doesn’t even count Ground Control sending this flight to the wrong side of the terminal. This is a comedy of errors that could result in American being fined. I just think American will “not” get off lightly on this error. This stuff is like a political hot potato!

  9. @credit ahhh yes, because those “gardeners” are apparently subhuman and don’t deserve citizenship, unlike all the trailer park white trash that contributes so much to our society, while voting for republicans to kick out the immigrants “who took their jobs” that they don’t want and won’t work for.

    But anyway, this was about a failure of AA, and they should get a big hefty fine and should be providing *substantial* compensation to every single person who had to go back to JFK.

  10. JohnB – there is no “domestic arrivals” gates at JFK for AA. When passengers deplane, either the gate agents open the door into the terminal or the passengers are directed to the internal passageway toward customs. Can’t imagine it’s the pilot’s fault.

  11. @credit: got nothing to do with the Democrats. As an EU PhD was harder to get in that an Irish Guy turning up to be a cab driver. It’s the US system.

  12. Mister Sam I am all for giving citizenship as long as they are handed out like candy to people that decided to obey the law instead of break them as well. So everyone who is not a terrorist and wants to become a us citizen should be made one.

    The liberal bs of pulling the guilt trip wouldn’t work on me. A criminal is a criminal unless I also get a free pass for breaking the laws.

  13. @Jeff

    Sorry Jeff, I haven’t been in American’s JFK terminal for 8 years and 16 years since I arrived on an Inter. flight. But someone didn’t communicate to the gate agents that this was Inter. flight. Since the Captain is usually the person communicating with the ramp agents, before the doors are opened. So, if he didn’t say where his origin was, it obviously was assumed to be a domestic flight. Just another thing for terrorists to find out….

  14. I’m a little confused. I’ve read a few stories that seem to suggest that it was the whole plane that went without going through CBP while another article or two said it was only a small percentage (one even said it was only 13 passengers). I’ve also read the plane had anywhere between 70 and 150 passengers.

    Anyway, I’m also surprised that their baggage came out. Usually the baggage would be sent through to the international CBP area instead of to domestic arrivals.

    It seems a number of people dropped the ball on this.

  15. Gary, can’t you moderate these so that some asshole can’t just go on a political rant when there is a serious issue to discuss. Hate all they want – on their own time. But to hijack a forum so they can excrete their poison just diminishes the conversations you are trying to start.

  16. Lol. I see someone was there to pick up my slack in the rant department.

    Have a safe and happy thanksgiving.

  17. Yeah Gary. Please moderate. I get off balance some times. There was no place for this rant here. Though the article did have to do with immigration. I didn’t rant about obamacare.

  18. MarkD, can’t you moderate these so that some a-hole can’t just go on an expletive filled rant when there is a serious issue to discuss. Hate all they want – on their own time. But to hijack a forum so they can excrete their poison just diminishes the conversations you are trying to start.

  19. @credit – stating that the article had something to do with immigration makes it ok for you to rant about the POTUS and US immigration policy is disingenuous, at best. I’m sure there are thousands of other web sites where you can join others who love to do that. It seems there just aren’t any places that one can go and not see that cr*p.

  20. If I was a US citizen on that flight who went beyond NY there is no way i’d go all the way back because of their screwup. Even living in NY I’d probably not even bother going through the hassle of returning to the airport. If I was in a foreign country I would though.

  21. Haha,

    Same thing happened at YVR not that long ago with a flight from China. This is what happens when a gate agent opens the wrong doors, or a flight goes to the wrong gate. No blame to the passengers that’s for sure.

  22. Maybe “no passenger blame” but how many who read this blog wouldn’t know immediately upon stepping off the jetway that you were in the wrong place and would just keep walking; not worrying about the other 149 passengers not going through proper screening.

  23. At least this isn’t like the comments in my hometown newspaper, the Las Vegas Review Journal.
    Every thread, no matter what the subject, devolves is comparing Obama to excrement.

    I thought the rule was as any internet discussion thread got longer, the probability of someone mentioning Hitler or the Nazis approached 100%.
    So, please stay on topic and discuss WWII Germany. Gary has rules.

  24. About 20 years ago – coming into LAX – United T7 from LHR – I was first off the plane gate agent who met the flight had the door to the terminal airside open and the door to the Fed Inspection was closed. I saw what was about to happen. Peaked through the door and told the agent working the gate area I’m closing the door and they need to come in and re-work the doors. Suffice to say the few people behind me were confused on why I closed the door – but caught it quick when the agent came through – opened the door to the Fed Inspection walkway and said “Thank you – we totally missed that”. A bit off that no passengers caught this at all on this specific flight.

    PS: You folks making this political – Reddit may be more you’re thing

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