Easy return flight to US customs question

You’d think finding the answer to this via google would be easy but I can’t seem to get a straight answer from any source. I figure anyone here can give me a quick straight up easy answer.

I have a flight from Cabo Mexico to Minneapolis this Saturday with a connection in Dallas (2 hour layover).
So where do I go through customs? Dallas or Minneapolis?

When I flew Mexico to O’hare to MKE, if the everything went as planned*, we would have cleared customs in Milwaukee. As long as you don’t leave the international part of the terminal, you don’t have to clear customs yet.

*After a long layover and several hours on the tarmac, the flight got cancelled.

Normally, you go through customs at your point of entry, so Dallas.

(2 hours seems a little tight to me in ordinary times, BTW, much less the current situation).

According to this article:

Although that article is more talking about flights between two other countries that have a stop in the US, rather than ones that continue domestically.

There is no “international part of the terminal” in US airports.

OP, you will clear customs in Dallas. You will also need to retrieve your luggage and recheck it.

If you’re connecting onward on to a domestic flight, you have to leave the international part of the terminal to get to said flight. You always clear customs at the first airport you land at in the US. If you didn’t clear customs until you got to Milwaukee, how would they know who on your ORD-MKE flight was arriving from a foreign country and who wasn’t, since you’re all mixed together on the same plane?

Does MKE even have customs facilities? According to this the only direct international flights are from YYZ (Toronto) and YYZ has preclearance facilities so you clear US customs before you get on the plane.

I’ve only flown internationally once, and it was a long time ago, so it’s very possibly I’m misremembering. However, Milwaukee and O’Hare have entirely separate buildings for their international arrivals.

We came into O’Hare, from Mexico on a large plane and were supposed to leave from a small plane. Isn’t it possible that all the people flying from O’Hare to Milwaukee were also on the Mexico to O’Hare plane as well?

But, like I said, it was a long time ago and there were a lot of problems with that leg of the flight anyway, so I don’t recall all the details.

Two other points:
1)It’s possible that they said that our luggage wouldn’t clear customs at O’Hare, so we wouldn’t have access to it until our final destination and that’s what I’m thinking of.
2)I’m seeing websites (not from airlines, just travel blog type things) that explain it both ways. Some saying you clear at your first point of entry, some suggesting it could go either way depending on other factors like how long the layover is.

And, none of this gets into flying from one country to another with a layover in a third country.

Apparently flights from Canada still have to land at airports with customs facilities, even if they departed from an airport with preclearance. IIRC it’s because US Customs technically has the right inspect any international arrival even if it was pre-cleared. Several years ago Air Canada announced they were planning to start service to one of the smaller Southern California airports like Burbank or Orange County, only to have to scrap the plans because the airport didn’t have customs facilities. Apparently Air Canada didn’t even know of the rule.

But that said, it wouldn’t surprise me if Milwaukee had the odd flight to Cancun or someplace like that that only operates during the peak tourist season but not year round.

Maybe if it was some kind of unique situation, like it was a special charter flight for a tour group specifically for your Mexico trip. Not if it was a regular scheduled flight. Then the flight would be open to anyone who wanted to buy a ticket. The odds of all of them also being on the Mexico flight, or just from international flights in general, would be infinitesimally small. Even if by some random fluke they all were, I’m almost certain the airline would still operate the flight from the domestic terminal as usual.

There are a few exceptions, like Qantas’s LAX-JFX flight. Foreign airlines aren’t allowed to carry domestic passengers, so that flight is only open to passengers arriving from Australia on other Qantas flights. I’m actually not sure where they clear customs in that case.

The Qantas flight (QF 11) clears at LAX.

For the USA, all passengers have to clear both immigration and customs at their first point of entry, which in your case would be Dallas.

That’s odd. I thought one of the benefits of preclearance is that precleared flights can land at LGA which doesn’t normally have the capabilities for international flights. (My mother-in-law routinely takes advantage of this).

Actually, it looks like I misread that map quite badly, and there a bunch of stars in Mexico that I just didn’t notice. So there are routine international flights that go there directly. It seems like there is a proper international terminal that international flights (other than those from Toronto) land at.

And you have to go through TSA security in Dallas.

Well. I’ve been annoyed that my usual travel forums have been dead so finally a travel question I can answer.

You clear immigration (movement of people) and customs (movement of goods) at your first point of entry into the USA.

Once you’ve completed both of these tasks, then you’ll recheck your baggage and then go through a TSA screening just like you are flying DFW to MSP

Yeah, it’s a pain. I have no idea what they’re doing regards to covid once you reenter the USA.

My above is based on the assumption you have a USA passport.

LaGuardia can’t receive international commercial flights, but it does have a small facility for private flights. This is enough to qualify it to receive precleared flights.

We just arrived back in the U.S. from Mexico on Sunday. We had originally booked a nonstop flight to O’Hare, but after seeing the footage of the crowds at CBP packed like sardines for hours, rebooked so we cleared customs in Houston instead, which wasn’t accepting arrivals from Europe. My asthmatic self was not thrilled at prolonged exposure to people arriving from quarantined areas. It took us a good hour and a half to get the United app to work, even at 1:00 am, but we finally managed it.

Best $20 I ever spent. I had never flown through IAH so don’t know what it’s like normally, but there were no special procedures or health inspections other than being asked before boarding in Mexico whether we had been to China in the past 15 days. (And the security staff in Houston seemed very eager to keep people moving, which made me happy.)

I think Dallas is one of the airports still taking European flights - if at all possible, I would rebook to clear Customs at a different airport.

ETA: yep, Dallas is one of the airports accepting European flights.

Good call, Eva Luna. You may have very well saved a few lives with your action – no joke.

Yeah, I can’t figure out why CBP itself didn’t suggest something like that. Or heck, a high school friend of mine was flying into Detroit from France, and she said CBP boarded their plane to inspect people in place. I haven’t checked to see whether things at O’Hare have improved since Saturday, but why don’t they find some way to separate the people arriving from quarantined areas to reduce infection risk?

When we return from the Caribbean we have to pick up our checked bags, go through customs/immigration then recheck our bags for the second leg of our return. It’s a pain in the ass, the connection is always a bit too tight.