American Airlines Mistake Lets Mexico Passengers Enter U.S. Without Immigration Check

A passenger off of Saturday’s American Airliens flight 2213 from Los Cabos, Mexico to Dallas – Fort Worth shared that as they deplaned the aircraft on arrival, they were allowed to walk straight into the terminal – rather than being diverted to immigration and customs as you’d suspect arriving off of an international flight.

AA2213 SJD>DFW took off on time, taxi to the gate, no problems. I’m bulkhead behind [first class], we exit the plane and walk straight out into D Terminal. I turned to my son and said this isn’t right but most of [first class] had continued onto their connections. We stick around because I knew this was wrong.

It was.

Gate Agent opened the wrong door dumping us all out into the US of A rather than opening the doorway leading us to customs. Got a phone call about an hour later asking if I had returned to the gate to go through customs.


Dallas – Fort Worth Airport

According to an American Airlines spokesperson,

On July 6, fewer than a quarter of the customers aboard American Airlines flight 2213 from San Jose del Cabo (SJD) to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) inadvertently entered the terminal without clearing customs after arrival. These customers were quickly identified and cleared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We apologize to these customers for the inconvenience.

The aircraft arrived at an international capable gate, but the feature wasn’t used properly. Depending on the door used, passengers are either released into the terminal, free to move about the country, or isolated down a corridor that leads to an immigration checkpoint. This is subject to human error!


DFW Airport D Concourse

Passengers with luggage would have been confused as they made their way – because if they skipped customs they’d have also skipped the claim area where their bags were sent. Their bags weren’t going to the terminal’s baggage claim area.

This happens 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 but also note this United incident).

TSA once 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 before, too. 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 realizing the mistake, tracking 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. 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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. If U.S. had dedicated international terminals like most of the rest of the first world this would never happen.

  2. We need to check immigration on flights from mainland to Hawaii … too many uncouth tourists on those flights . Turn them around and send them back to third world California .

  3. Gary-I beg you to not contribute to the destruction of the English language. There is no such word as deplaning. All other English speaking countries use “disembark “. That’s what we used to use here up until about 10 years ago when some lazy as flight attendants started using it and now it has become an epidemic. As an aviation geek and aviation influencer, you should not join the clueless sheep

  4. Many years ago during a construction phase at MIA, I was flying **domestic** but took a few wrong turns and ended up on the wrong side of immigration. There was no one there to check or stop me on my way in, so presumably anyone could have followed my path back (like I did) and skipped the check.

  5. @Fernsie, if it is not a word why is it in the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries? You sound pretty clueless to not have even checked before complaining

  6. Fernsie, Grow Up! Don’t know what your problem is. I’ve been flying for well over 40 years and my pilots have been saying deplane over the PA for as long as that. Let’s blame the flight attendants again for EVERYTHING that is wrong in the industry. So many jealous people. If you want the job apply.

  7. It happens. I had it happen with a flight at a station I managed. Thankfully the ramp agents took the checked bags to the right place and we were able to corral all but about 8 passengers at the domestic baggage claim. Of course we knew everyone who was on the flight so got 4 of them to return back (they had made it to the rental car center). Two others were already on the road and reported to another port of entry about 3 hours drive away. The last two basically said “F-you” to the Deputy Port Director and she told them they had until midnight to report to a CBP facility or there would be a federal warrant out for them. In this case, 95% of the passengers were US citizens (returning from a vacation destination).

    No, they can’t just “check them in” if they are US citizens. Each person entering the country has to be given the opportunity to make their customs declaration.

    I had a colleague who used to be a station manager in the US for a Mexican carrier. One night, he wasn’t there, one of his agents opened the wrong door and an entire flight of people from a non-tourist Mexico location (like Guadalajara or maybe it was Torreon) got out. The issue there was almost nobody was a US citizen. CBP went looking and never found something like 45 people off that flight. My colleague got fired as a corrective action (even though he was actually on vacation when it happened).

    The bigger issue in these situations sometimes is TSA… because you’ve let a bunch of people into the general terminal who have not been through TSA screening – Mexico’s screening doesn’t qualify as equivalent. So technically at DFW, TSA would be well within its right to dump the terminal.

  8. @Mak:. The “open border” is a political myth. The U.S. is party to international treaties regulating claims of asylum. Claimants appear, are processed, and are released pending hearing. There aren’t enough immigration judges to hear their cases within 24 months.
    The entire world is awash with illegal border crossers, who are subject to deportation when found. Italy has masses of sub-saharan migrants coming by boat. France had to use the military and its Police Nationals to break up encampments near the Chunnel trying to get into the UK.
    But to say that the border is simply “open”, and anyone can just walk through with no processing, is political mythology.

    BTW, the majority of illegals here in the U.S. are those admitted on legal visas, such as students, who overstay their visas and do not return to their home countries.

  9. Well considering thousands of ppl walking on theu anyway, perhaps Biden should reward AA.

  10. @JS – Chicago O’Hare does have a dedicated international terminal, just “like most of the rest of the first world”. As Gary mentioned in the article, that didn’t stop some Finnair passengers from accidentally skipping customs and immigration.

    I’m not saying airport’s couldn’t be designed better, but you’d be a fool if you think that would solve all problems with skipping immigration.

  11. Up to 10,000 people a day come into the US without going through immigration. What’s one more?

  12. Zero chance I’m returning to the airport after I’ve already left as a US citizen in America. If it’s necessary to screen me or whatever, they’re welcome to visit me at a convenient time for me. I don’t believe the stuff about the warrant. Or rather, I believe that was said, but I don’t believe one would be processed, and I’d welcome the opportunity to find out.

  13. Yes, it should be possible to organize an airport like most countries do, so that it wouldn’t be necessary for a traveler to have a U.S. visa just to transit at an airport in the U.S. It’s the combination of indifference and incompetence that characterize the system at many levels

  14. @Jon: They were threatened with a warrant. Whether there is any teeth behind that, unknown. I doubt they would send a team to bust down the door of a US Citizen. However… what they can and will do, which has been documented in the past, is your Global Entry and PreCheck will be turned off. You can be fined for failure to display a passport upon entry to the US (even as a US citizen, unless you have a lost passport in which case you have to by law see an immigration official to be cleared into the US anyway). Next interaction you have with law enforcement will likely ping that CBP is looking to talk to you. And guarantee next time you’d try and leave the US, someone would be waiting to talk to you and unlikely you make the flight you’re scheduled on.

  15. @Fernsie: You wrote, “Gary-I beg you to not contribute to the destruction of the English language. There is no such word as deplaning. All other English speaking countries use “disembark. ” That’s what we used to use here up until about 10 years ago when some lazy as flight attendants started using it and now it has become an epidemic. As an aviation geek and aviation influencer, you should not join the clueless sheep.”

    I am confident that Gary Leff is not a “clueless sheep” responsible for destroying the English language. Furthermore, I do not believe flight attendants are guilty of creating an epidemic of poor grammar that has ruined the English language’s syntax, morphology, phonology, and semantics. Since 1923, passengers who disembark from an aircraft have “deplaned.” (Not to be confused with the character Tattoo from Fantasy Island, who used the catchphrase “De plane! De plane!”) Did you know passengers are “detained” when they leave a train?”

    There seem to be differing opinions regarding using the word “deplaning.” While some argue that it’s not a valid word and prefer “disembark,” others believe that “deplaning” has been used for decades and is appropriate. It’s essential to recognize that language can evolve over time and that different terms can coexist, especially in specific contexts such as aviation. Embracing this diversity of language usage can foster open-mindedness and a more inclusive discussion.
    References:
    https://www.oed.com/search/dictionary/?scope=Entries&q=deplaned
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/deplane
    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/detrain

  16. @NedsKids thanks for the additional info and again I wasn’t disputing your account of things; only that the action threatened would indeed be taken. That all seems mostly reasonable. I don’t live in fear of law enforcement, and while I wouldn’t purposely try to make their lives difficult, I am also not simply going to bend over and do whatever whenever just because someone at CBP asked. I know for a fact there is a process for remote clearance that can be used when necessary.

  17. @Fernsie: You wrote, “Gary-I beg you to not contribute to the destruction of the English language. There is no such word as deplaning. All other English speaking countries use “disembark. ” That’s what we used to use here up until about 10 years ago when some lazy as flight attendants started using it and now it has become an epidemic. As an aviation geek and aviation influencer, you should not join the clueless sheep.”

    I am confident that Gary Leff is not a “clueless sheep” responsible for destroying the English language. Furthermore, I do not believe flight attendants are guilty of creating an epidemic of poor grammar that has ruined the English language’s syntax, morphology, phonology, and semantics. Since 1923, passengers who disembark from an aircraft have “deplaned.” (Not to be confused with the character Tattoo from Fantasy Island, who used the catchphrase “De plane! De plane!”) Did you know passengers are “detrained” when they leave a train?”

    There seem to be differing opinions regarding using the word “deplaning.” While some argue that it’s not a valid word and prefer “disembark,” others believe that “deplaning” has been used for decades and is appropriate. It’s essential to recognize that language can evolve over time and that different terms can coexist, especially in specific contexts such as aviation. Embracing this diversity of language usage can foster open-mindedness and a more inclusive discussion.
    References:
    https://www.oed.com/search/dictionary/?scope=Entries&q=deplaned
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/deplane
    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/detrain

  18. It appears @Retired lawyer has his skull fully inserted into his rectum.
    And probably doesn’t live in a border state.

  19. @RetiredLawyer

    If I were in charge I would happily let anybody without a criminal record to come to the United States and immediately allow them to work . . . which is in contrast to the Biden Administration’s policy of accepting everybody – including people with MS-13 gang tattoos escaping justice in El Salvador – and not allowing any of them to work so as to assure that people with the rather impressive initiative to hump through the Darién Gap are turned into wards of the state and introduced to pathological US welfare culture.

    But whatever it is, the border is certainly open for anybody to cross, and the idea that the treaty obligations of the United States mandates this result is absurd and not based on fact.

  20. Global Entry can be revoked for myriad reasons, such as failure to process or go through customs; and even the smallest mistake affects your status as a “trusted traveler.” Failure to make a proper customs declaration (even by accident) is one of those reasons. The option to appeal the loss of Global Entry can be tedious and might take months to complete, and it is rarely successful if you have been fined for a prohibited item. The revocation of Global Entry may affect your TSA PreCheck status if you applied for both programs together.

  21. Dear Sir:

    The article”s last statement is incorrect. Under 19USC1459 you are required to present yourself and articles acquired abroad to a port of entry for inspection. Ports of entry are located along the border. Checkpoints are conducted inland.

    If you are caught crossing outside a port of entry:

    Non- U.S. citizen w/o visa- arrested and deported. Banned from re-entry into the U.S. for a number of years.

    No n- US citizen w visa – visa canceled (with prejudice) and deported . Banned from re-entry for a number of years.

    U.S. citizen – taken to the port of entry. Issued a $5,000 fine (first violation). Further violations will receive a $10;000 fine.

    By the way, “Retired Lawyer” has a point. A significant portion of the illegal population is the product of “overstays. These individuals enter the U.S. legally but, as the name implies, overstay the period of admission. Since it is the Department of State that issue visas to foreign nationals you may choose to include them in your blame game.

    Also note that obtaining a visa from an embassy or consulate does not guarantee admission. A visa gives you the right to present yourself to an immigration officer and apply for admission. The admission decision is made at that time,

  22. @Jon: Oh, completely understand. And having lived through this situation with my employees (and it was one of those gates where you had to configure doors a certain way… and it was an extra section operating at a time we didn’t usually have a flight… when the Captain deplaned at the end asked the agent “why aren’t we going to Customs?” and the agent broke down and basically said “I’m fired.”)… a lot of the postulating comes from the Port Director just being pissed off at having to deal with the situation, so of course trying to exercise authority to make things easiest for them in an unplanned event. Lots of chests puffed out. In the end, got a LOI from TSA for the violating the sterile area (which was mitigated with training, and also tagged the airport for failure to have any safeguards on these gates… which CBP had questioned the design when under construction). CBP threatened to fine, but if you go into the regulations, you can’t illegally enter the US as a US citizen and the way the regulations are written you can get tagged for not entering the country properly but not for being in the country… so they could have fined for like 2 non-US citizens on the plane. What didn’t help was the following week on another gate (a usual international offload only gate got assigned for a domestic diversion) a couple domestic pax ended up in customs….. That got me screamed at face to face.

  23. @Gregory Jenkins

    It used to be true that TSA could revoke your Global Entry for essentially any reason, good or bad, but Federal Courts have now recognized that you have a Constitutional Due Process interest in your Global Entry, and that it can’t be taken from you so arbitrarily.

  24. @Mak: That is true…. they can’t take it from you for being rude to a customs officer but it isn’t difficult to find some CFR you’ve violated….

  25. MERRIAM WEBSTER: de plane. to disembark from an airplane

    Deplane, deplaned, deplaning, deplaned. Yup, it’s a word and I’ll continue to say it.

  26. I’ve found it weird on some recent international trips that there was little to no customs people on staff at the desks. We did get routed into the GE area and baggage claim but no one asking questions or stopping anyone at the customs desks. I’ve had this happen on two cruise ships returning to the USA and also trips from Japan and Europe. I thought it was odd at the time, I had a GE slip but no one even wanted to look at it.

  27. That’s how all flight arrivals should be. US Immigration knows who is on a flight before it takes off. If there is someone who shouldn’t be allowed to enter, they should meet the plane and detain those pax without forcing US citizens and legal visitors to wait in lines.

  28. Not possible. Names and date of births may be similar. Please note is not only immigration formalities that you must meet but conveyances and luggage are subject to inspection

  29. It’s quite hilarious that CBP wastes time tracking down a few airline customers (who are most likely legit entries as they had to show passports before boarding) when millions of illegals cross the southern border every year. The priorities are a bit off

  30. All these homeschool dropouts complaining about open borders need to watch less yellow journalism

    News is simply supposed to report current events. If you’re watching something designed to make you feel a certain way, it ain’t news. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts

  31. And you kinda do need to return for processing:

    1) If you’re a foreigner, you’re technically in violation of the law and (in theory) could be deported and banned from future visits, Most foreign visitors who fly in here are of good will and are sophisticated enough to understand that this is a problem, which is why they try to do the right thing.

    2) If you’re an American, they’ll find you one way or another. And it’s best if you just show good will and turn yourself over for screening. Otherwise, they’ll suspect that you’re hiding something and – at a minimum – you could lose your Global Entry and/or TSAPreCheck privileges.

    Of course, none of this applies to third world smugglers, criminals, cartel members, and the illiterate masses – none of whom would ever be eligible for a green card. No, they can just enter at will through the southern border, where a Dem minion will hand out welcome baskets and amenity kits including an Obama phone with free data.

  32. Don’t Worry – PROJECT 2025 – will end all of this.
    Google It – it’s scary and it will happen if the Republicans take the White House in November

  33. @Andrew: disinformation. It’s not even the party platform, which can also be googled. Still better than the free for all on the Rio Grande (and Chula Vista) with rampant inflation and crime.

  34. @AngryFlier

    Uhm it may not be the party platform but all the authors are former Trump administration officials and the President of Heritage Foundation admitted on Fox News over the weekend that the new administration will implement many of the things in Project 2025 if/when Trump becomes president in 2025. Google it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *