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The Dallas-Fort Worth Debacle

After having a very nice time on vacation in Cancun, Mexico, the last thing I expected was to encounter problems getting home. I’ve traveled to my fair share of international locations and granted, Mexico has its own little reputation often requiring some more scrutiny. However, what happened yesterday in Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) while trying to get home was downright insanity.

The flight originally arrived from Cancun around 14:30 and as we walked to immigration control, we were all astounded to see a total lack of personnel indicating the correct lines to go into. The first line as you walk in is actually for foreign nationals; that line is normally longer than the US citizen/permanent resident line so I wasn’t terribly surprised. When we walked further down to the next line for the US citizens, the line wound around 7 times and into the hallway at the back of the room. If there was a full staff of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) immigration agents, then maybe it wouldn’t have been a problem. There were 5 people working to service at least 600 people waiting on line. AT LEAST.

Our connecting flight was 2.5 hours away — we MISSED that 17:35  flight because we were still in immigration!

Let’s remember how the incoming international flight process is normally supposed to go:

– Immigration control
– Customs
– Bag check / recheck (if it’s a connecting flight)
– Get to your connecting flight

This entire process can take up to an hour in some other ports of call, but in DFW, the whole thing took almost 4.5 hours! Customs — the process of checking your baggage and declaring anything for tax purposes — was thankfully not too long. But the rechecking process… it’s as if NO ONE in this airport had a clue about how to coordinate scheduling and shifting things based on the situation.

Fine, DFW — the immigration staff scheduling MAY be beyond your control (blame DHS), but if you knew there weren’t going to be enough people, surely you would have anticipated the missed flights, the severe delays in getting baggage rechecked… honestly. Whoever is managing this airport and the scheduling should be fired. Actually, I took a look around on the internet for the delay issue at DFW and this does not seem to be a secluded incident. Going back several years, Dallas-Forth Worth has had a reputation of delays for incoming international flights particularly from Mexico and other locations in South America. It may be a security tactic on the part of DHS, but heaven above, there is NO excuse for making me miss my flight!

Add to the fact that DFW is a massive airport. Their intra-terminal train system is like a massive series of figure-8’s and the distance between terminals is pretty substantial. I couldn’t imagine a short domestic transfer in this airport, much less international!

The only somewhat consoling thing about this is that American Airlines didn’t give me a hard time about the flight rebook when I called them. While I was transferred twice, I eventually got to someone that did the rebook rather quickly. But they still need to coordinate their on-site crew in terms of the rebooking process at the gates. While I’m on that subject, there was one woman at the ticket counter that was so rude to me that it was ridiculous! I was rebooking my car service pickup and she busted my balls about being on the phone when I was clearly listening to her. Her “bedside” manner needs a serious improvement.

Bottom line, here’s what I learned from this:

– Never fly through Dallas-Fort Worth. NEVER. Not domestic nor international. For that matter, avoid Chicago-O’Hare (CHI); they’re a HOT MESS.

– If you have to rebook your flight, call the airline directly to change the flight. Do NOT wait until you get to the gate to change the tickets. You will be waiting there along with everyone else.

– Fly non-stop if at all possible. Sure, there’s a cost and time consideration, but dealing with layovers in general makes it things THAT much more complicated.

If any of you know me, I’ll be seeking a way for me to file a complaint both with the airport for their shoddy handling and with DHS for their poor scheduling management, either purposeful or not. I suggest that all passengers do the same.