A passenger off of a transatlantic flight to New York has shared what happened when they were accidentally directed straight out of JFK airport – instead of being directed to immigration.
They were sent a note by the airline that they had to return to New York JFK airport the next day and given a specific time to do so in order to present themselves to the U.S. government. It was an aggressive message from the airline, clearly trying to fix a mistake, and incredibly inconvenient for a customer who may live nowhere near that airport.
Low cost carrier Norse Atlantic, the ‘new Norwegian’ long haul airline, arrived at JFK’s terminal 7 which used to be the home of British Airways and will eventually be torn down to make way for a new terminal. The gate there can either direct passengers into the terminal, as though they were getting off of a domestic flight, or funnel them into customs. It seems that someone opened the wrong doors.
The aircraft arrived at an international capable gate, but the feature wasn’t used properly. The passenger here had carry on luggage only, which isn’t uncommon with Norwegian because of the fees they charge. However anyone with luggage would have been confused – because if they skipped customs they’d have also skipped the claim area where their bags were sent.
This happens more than you’d expect, and happens at New York JFK more than you’d expect. Several years ago there were a string of American Airlines flights from Cancun to JFK where passengers arrived, got off the plane, and just entered the terminal without ever going through immigration and customers (for instance this one and this one).
Not long after the TSA let a bunch of passengers into New York JFK terminal 5 without going through screening and then tried to cover it up. They didn’t report it for hours trying to find each of the passengers inside the terminal themselves by reviewing video footage. That didn’t work out well. Three of the eleven passengers were identified and screened once they landed at their destination. That way TSA could say none of the passengers traveled without having been screened.
This has happened at Dallas – Fort Worth airport. Then there was the Finnair flight to Chicago where passengers exited without going through customs or immigration. Passengers followed a TSA Agent through the door that lead out the airport. One passenger reports realized the mistake, tracked down a customs and border patrol agent who told him not to worry about it and just go home. In that case CBP showed up at passenger homes.
It’s unclear why it’s necessary, though, to go visit a U.S. citizen at home, or to require them to return to the airport. The government knows who the passenger is and how to reach them. In this case they identified the passenger and sent them a message! They have flight manifests and video surveillance. And as a U.S. citizen they’re in the country legally. Why not just ‘check them in’?
There is no need, by the way, for commenters to point out that anyone crossing a land border without going through a checkpoint doesn’t have to return for processing.