U.S. Customs deplane regulations?

According to the flight crew, our recent flight from Frankfurt to CLT easily could have been at our arrival gate 45 minutes early, but US Customs would not allow us to deplane until scheduled arrival time. Assuming the Customs office doesn't open at 1:00 pm (our arrival time), what possible reason is there for this inefficiency? I'm hoping I misunderstood, considering the time and fuel wasted killing time in the air. Anyone?

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

The immigration/customs hall may only fit a limited amount of people, so to avoid violating fire codes they made you wait in the plane until they could handle the rush.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Sequestration has caused personnel to be cut back and/or furloughed all across the U.S. Federal government. The people who work Passport Control and Immigration at the nation's airports are employed by the Federal government. If you were unlucky to arrive on a furlough day, minimal staff would have been available to process passengers through. This could also have been a reason for the delay. Think about this during the next election cycle.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Actually, the FAA air traffic control functions were exempted from sequestration about ten seconds after the effects were initially felt, so the whole premise is moot.

Posted by Will
Columbia, SC
315 posts

I wonder if the gate was actually vacant 45 minutes early. Interesting if it was in fact Immigration policy that kept the aircraft airborne rather than lack of space on the ground.

Posted by colleen
dallas, TX, USA
149 posts

Rose hit the nail on the head. I have a friend who's husband is with Customs at DFW - they are as frustrated as the passengers because they take all the flack for our politician's decisions.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10884 posts

Not sure of the purpose of this rant. Would it be more efficient to have the staff sitting around doing nothing for an hour or so waiting for a plane that might be early. Charlotte is not a big international airport so maybe there was just one plane to process. It hard to comment on a situation without knowing the whole picture but some people can rise to the occasion.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

Seems to me that the original poster was just looking for an explanation. And a couple of people gave some. Although if it was due to a shortage of staff, it would seem that the plane wouldn't be kept in the air, but rather on the tarmac.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

If a person doesn't have anything constructive to say, except to rudely criticize the OP for 'ranting' and pass meaningless judgment on those who at least tried to offer a possible explanation, it would probably be better for that person to keep silent. As far as the plane staying in the air instead of landing and waiting on the tarmac, don't forget that Air Traffic Control also continues to be affected by sequestration. Even if Charlotte is a small(er) airport, it's ATC operations may be impacted by the larger coordination performed at surrounding ATC centers that process traffic in/out of larger airports. Sequestration has far-reaching impact, much of which is not being reported and therefore not known to the public in general.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Even if Charlotte is a small airport, It's the fifth or sixth largest in the world in operations, ahead of both Paris and London. ATC operations may be impacted by the larger coordination performed at surrounding ATC centers Charlotte is a Tracon wholly contained within Atlanta Center.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Actually, the FAA air traffic control functions were exempted from sequestration about ten seconds after the effects were initially felt, so the whole premise is moot. Actually, the above statement is not correct. Broader ATC functions were exempted, but there are still internal impacts. I have worked closely with the FAA and know this through back channels in the Federal government. Don't believe everything you read in the print media or hear/watch on CNN or Fix (oops... I meant Fox).

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

Sequestration shouldn't have any impact on airport immigration/customs services as you pay for that via a user fee tacked on to you airplane tickets.

Posted by Brad
Charlotte, NC, USA
214 posts

Just a little clarification, Charlotte is one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of takeoffs and landings... but the vast majority of those are domestic. As for international, you're only talking about flights from Frankfort, Munich, London and Dublin, with summertime flights from Paris, Madrid and Rome. There are also smaller planes coming in from the Caribbean. Anyhow, the arrivals hall is only fully staffed at certain times of the day. Outside those times, there are just not enough folks working to process you efficiently.

Posted by Catherine
Springfield
18 posts

Thanks for the explanation, Brad. It sounds plausible considering the sporadic arrivals of international flights at CLT. Since Customs has the national security trump card on their side, the airlines could be stuck with the passengers for the entire scheduled time. It's easier to keep restive passengers under control when they are in the air watching videos rather than sitting at the gate clamoring to get out. It doesn't help that arrival times are so padded these days (I assume that's the case with international, as it seems the norm on domestic flights). Once we were off the plane processing went very quickly and smoothly, but I heard some folks with tight connections who sure would have liked to have gotten started earlier, even it if was slow. Most people know to allow plenty of time, so perhaps they had limited options. Thanks to everyone for your contributions! It made for an interesting discussion of what I thought was a straightforward question.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10884 posts

The best way to avoid US immigration lines is to use Global Access. Worth the price in more ways than one.

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
869 posts

'The best way to avoid US immigration lines is to use Global Access. Worth the price in more ways than one' .....or fly in from Dublin or Shannon, and skip Customs! (You actually go thru Customs there. It takes a couple of minutes VS the hours it can take back home.

Posted by Nadine
Orlando, FL, USA
1 posts

As someone who has worked in International arrivals in MCO and has dealt with ICE for many years I can give you a little background on INS/Customs. They are scheduled for certain hours and if there is no approval for OT they will not work an early flight. So if in my case, Virgin comes in 30 minutes early with 508 pax on board they will pull up to the gate and if we have a waiting room available they will deplane into a waiting room until their normal scheduled arrival time. Not a minute earlier. We also have 2 international terminals in MCO and if a large flight comes in on AS4 and a smaller one is on AS1 then AS1 is worked first and the ICE agents trickle over to AS4 to finish, while only a skeleton crew is working the larger flight. If you are on a late flight they all go home and come back at the time they were last told the flight would be there. If the flight arrives earlier than that the flight is held until all the agents clock in for the time they were told. They do this to make sure the airlines give them the right time and don't screw around with them. It only takes once for the station manager to be yelled at by 500 people about waiting and not being let off their plane to make sure their times are accurate.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10884 posts

You confirmed what most of us had speculated about - a staffing situation.