Plane Full of Mexico Passengers Allowed to Skip Customs and Immigration in New York

An American Airlines flight AA1223 from Cancun to New York taxied to a gate at JFK set up for domestic arrivals this past Monday just two months after the same thing happened last time also to a Cancun – New York JFK flight.

Passengers arriving at Kennedy Airport on an international flight were allowed to exit the busy hub without going through Customs — for at least the second time in recent months, the Daily News has learned.

Bumbling airline and security officials let travelers on American Airlines Flight 1223 from Cancun, Mexico, out of the airport on Monday morning without having their passports or bags checked, sources told The News.

…A 34-year-old man who had been in Cancun to attend three Phish concerts .. said he even approached a Transportation Security Administration agent near the exit, but was told he was free to go.

American Airlines has been in touch with passengers to ask them to return to the airport for immigration processing because “it is a Customs requirement that every passenger entering the United States must clear Customs.”

Cue hand wringing about terrorism, even though US officials cleared everyone on the plane for boarding or else they wouldn’t have been issued boarding passes and the plane wouldn’t have been allowed to enter US airspace.

“New York remains the number one target for terrorists and it just made me think of Paris and how easy it would be for them to get in,” he said. “It’s incompetence like this that could lead to another attack.”

A nearly identical incident involving another American Airlines flight from Cancun unfolded in November, just two days after ISIS released a video threatening New York City with a terrorist attack, The News reported.


American Airlines Aircraft at New York JFK


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

Since whatever procedures were going to be put in place after this happened two months ago didn’t stop it from happening again, there’s likely going to be popular support for Customs and Border Patrol to build a giant wall at JFK airport and make American pay for it.

(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 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 »

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Comments

  1. How stupid. Like anybody who has bad intentions is going to come back to the airport to meet with customs. AA should be fined around $500,000 for every time this happens and I assure you they’ll put a procedure in place to avoid it from happening. There’s no excuse for it and it’s just total incompetence especially since this is the second time it’s happened in two months.

  2. +1 Spot-on, Mark! If a dope smuggler got such a call, he could leave his kilos of cocaine at home or deliver ’em to his dealer colleagues, then return to JFK with his suitcase full of clothing & souvenirs to say to a CBP Officer, “Here I am from the Cancun flight. Nothing (or only a sombrero & 3 t-shirts) to declare, Sir/ Ma’am!”

  3. Wow, just wow! How does American do this again, with the same airports involved? One would think that the powers that be, had made changes to prevent this from happening again?

  4. Did Donald Trump write this post?? A “plane full of Mexico passengers,” huh? That’s some loaded language. Other outlets tell us it was “a plane from Cancun,” and don’t precede ‘passengers’ with a word that sounds a lot like “Mexican.” And, not just a few “Mexico passengers,” mind you, but a WHOLE HORDE OF THEM, a plane-full, in fact, as many as you can fit on the thing. That’s a strange detail to complete the image, since the source linked to does not suggest how many passengers there may have been.

    I might have given VFTW the benefit of the doubt, if the post wasn’t followed up by an offensive video letting us know that the author really did mean to evoke hordes of illegal Mexicans storming JFK. And to think, I used to like this blog.

  5. @Frank – I think you don’t get the joke. It’s poking fun at the mindset. The video isn’t ‘offensive’ it’s the Cheech Marin movie “Born in East LA”… I write “there’s likely going to be popular support for Customs and Border Patrol to build a giant wall at JFK airport and make American pay for it” and criticize “hand wringing about terrorism, even though US officials cleared everyone on the plane for boarding or else they wouldn’t have been issued boarding passes and the plane wouldn’t have been allowed to enter US airspace.”

    Seemed pretty clear when I wrote this that tongue was planted pretty firmly in cheek…

  6. @Mark
    “Like anybody who has bad intentions is going to come back to the airport to meet with customs”

    I really hope you’re not pro-gun control.

  7. Why would anyone go back to the airport? Seems like CBP ought to send agents out to handle the immigration processing in person, assuming somebody needs a passport stamp. And what is the point of processing customs after the luggage has been brought into the country? Completely pointless.

  8. As a one off, it seems like not a big deal to me, except if you’re a passenger that has to get that stamp in your passport. Nobody could have planned anything evil, since nobody would have had any inkling this might happen. I guess my logistical question is, what happens if people don’t go back to the airport? I’m assuming that for most it would be a major inconvenience, and they wouldn’t even know where to go.

  9. While this shouldn’t be something that happens on the regular, I’m having a hard time getting worked up over it. It’s not like this is something that could be planned in advance by someone wanting to come into the country with ill-intentions. Moreover, TSA is already in receipt of the passenger manifest, and would therefore would at least have run that manifest through its databases and watchlists. The in-person screenings are more or less formalities — if someone hasn’t been ID’d before then, I don’t imagine that a person will be stopped by a CPB agent.

  10. Amusing. Someone who went on from JFK to another city is going to return to JFK. Anyway, it is not clear. Did they clear US ICE in Cancun or not?

  11. Is it me, or is there zero blame for American? They are neither in charge of gate allocation, nor assigning airport/immigration security – that is the responsibility of the CPB, right? Or is it AA personnel’s responsibility to direct people to the right airport handling area?

  12. @Gary,

    I’ll revoke my criticism of the video ( I honestly don’t know enough for Cheech or Chong to assess), but I still feel that whatever the intention, to put a headline out there like that isn’t in great taste, particular at this particular moment. But, I will say I’m very glad to hear I’ve misunderstood you!

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