Thinking about Using the non-US passport to travel domestically for a US citizen got me wondering.

Most large airports handle a mixture of domestic and international flights. These flights typically use the same parking stands and the same jet bridges, but passengers are discharged into different areas depending on where they have arrived from.

It seems it would only take a simple mistake to discharge a planeload of passengers into the wrong concourse. Presumably there are procedures in place to make such mistakes unlikely.

Is there any information on:

  1. Whether this has ever actually happened?
  2. What would happen to the passengers, in particular what would happen to domestic passengers who had been inadvertently mixed with international ones and who may not have travel documentation.
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    There was a story of this happening when the new terminal opened in Ottawa (YOW) in 2003. – Ari Brodsky Apr 18 '18 at 10:45
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    In many [most?] countries (ie outside of the US) it couldn't happen, as domestic and international terminals are segregated. – user67108 Apr 18 '18 at 11:08
  • Here's a more recent example: cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/… – Ari Brodsky Apr 18 '18 at 11:36
  • vancouversun.com/… – Ari Brodsky Apr 18 '18 at 11:56
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    So several reports of people inadvertantly bypassing customs, do we have any reports of domestic passengers being discharged int an international arrivals area? (maybe the US preclearance area counts since IIRC you can go from international arrivals to US preclearance without passing canadian customs) – Peter Green Apr 18 '18 at 12:02

It happens, not frequently, but it does. Here's an example: JFK allowed passengers arriving on international flight to exit without going through Customs

The mistake is as simple as a door being in the wrong position to direct arriving passengers. That's it. I've never seen anyone actually directing the flow.

Basically, the arriving passengers must be identified and processed. This is not a free pass to enter the country. Also, the terminal is not cleared so any domestic passengers might not really notice anything other that airline and airport personnel running around.

If passengers can be identified before leaving the airport, they are merely escorted back through the arrivals hall.

For those that leave the terminal, some, maybe most, must present themselves to CBP for processing by returning to the airport. Others can be processed and cleared remotely, such as over the phone. This is entirely up to CBP.

In this and another similar incident, the passengers didn't get into trouble, the airline, yes, for sure and was fined. I don't fault the passengers for leaving. I would certainly notice the error and stay put, others, even US Citizens, might just assume they don't need to see CBP.

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  • Are there any reports of the opposite? that is domestic passengers (some of whom may have a hard time proving they are in the country legally) being discharged into international arrivals? – Peter Green Apr 18 '18 at 19:45
  • @PeterGreen I really don't recall ever hearing about something like this. It's a lot harder to make this mistake because the Agent meeting the aircraft comes from the 'domestic' side and wouldn't be able to get to the aircraft on most international configured gates. There are scattered reports of CBP checking domestic passengers, but they were most likely looking for specific persons. – Johns-305 Apr 18 '18 at 21:00
  • @PeterGreen I'm not sure why domestic passengers ending up in the immigration area would be that big a problem. The passengers wouldn't all have passports, but they would all have boarding passes and TSA compliant ID, which would be enough to identify them as domestic passengers and get them on their way. I once ended up in the immigration area years ago by a different sort of error (I needed to speak to customs, but not go through customs, and an airline employee didn't really understand and just sent me down), and a supervisor showed me out pretty easily enough after realizing what happened. – Zach Lipton Apr 18 '18 at 22:21
  • @PeterGreen Yep, domestic passengers ending up in int'l arrivals isn't that much of a problem since you never technically left the country. All CBP would need to do is match the passenger to the domestic flight's manifest and see you through. It would be a huge inconvenience since the coordination between CBP and the airline would take seemingly forever. – Johns-305 Apr 19 '18 at 0:14

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