It’s no secret that the airline industry has been a rollercoaster lately, with domestic travel taking a nosedive while international demand remains surprisingly robust. This incongruity is causing a conundrum for low-cost carriers like Spirit, who rely heavily on domestic routes. But let’s zoom in on a scene I encountered at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) during the Thanksgiving holiday that I don’t recall ever seeing before.
Now, the image I captured speaks volumes. The line for passport control snaked its way beyond the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility and into the sterile glass corridors used to separate arriving international passengers from those who have undergone TSA screening – really, almost to the plane passengers were getting off of (I was in a hurry and didn’t stop to figure out where they were coming from). It was a sight to behold, and it left me pondering a hypothetical scenario: What would you do in this situation?
The line extended well before the point where it bifurcates into channels for Global Entry and Mobile Passport Control. Would you have queued up with the masses until you reached the split for Global Entry, or would you have boldly strolled past everyone straight to the Global Entry kiosks?
Personally, I lean towards the latter. Sure, you might attract a few disapproving glances, but hear me out. The majority of those in line are likely waiting for standard screening involving an interview with a CBP officer. By skipping ahead to the Global Entry kiosks, you’re not usurping their position in the standard screening line; you’re just taking advantage of a time-saving tool – one that you’ve paid and undergone a background check and interview for. Of course, if a staff member intervenes, it’s important to comply, but don’t let the judgmental stares from fellow passengers deter you.
Thankfully, I was a mere spectator in this spectacle (I saw this while coming down the escalator from the Skylink near gate ~D12) and didn’t have to grapple with the decision myself. DFW generally has a reputation for efficiency in both TSA and Customs screening, and I’ve never personally seen a line of this magnitude at the Texas mega-hub, whether returning to the country myself or observing from the concourse below.
The only comparable scenario I recall was during the initial COVID lockdowns when people rushed to return home, causing delays amid heightened health screening measures. This line, however, takes the cake for its sheer length. It raises the question: Is the surge in international demand truly that substantial, or are CBP staffing issues over the holidays bottlenecking the process?
During the pandemic, American Airlines retired numerous widebody aircraft, anticipating the delivery of new 787s to coincide with the expected rebound in demand. Unfortunately, Boeing’s delays in delivering the 787s have left AA with severely constrained international capacity at present. As most of AA’s international flights are already completely filled with either paid or standby passengers, it’s unlikely there’s suddenly a huge surge of additional passengers flying internationally on AA. It’s not like they have the ability to add a bunch of new capacity for the holiday season, save for some narrowbody flights to Mexico and the Caribbean (Canada has preclearance at most airports so that’s effectively domestic for this purpose).
So, what would you have done in this situation?