Help me make a connection
April 18, 2012 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Take a look at my flight plan, will I make my connecting flight?

I am arranging a last minute trip from Vancouver, BC to Puerto Escondido.

The best I could find for flights is from Sea Tac, here is the plan for the return flight:

Puerto Escondido (PXM) to Mexico City (MEX)
Depart 12:05 PM Arrive 1:35 PM

Layover: Mexico City (MEX) 3h 50m
Mexico City (MEX) to Houston (IAH)
Depart 5:25 PM Arrive 7:49 PM

Layover: Houston (IAH) 1h 16m
Houston (IAH) to Seattle (SEA)
Depart 9:05 PM Arrive 11:45 PM

I am on advanced parole so I need to go to secondary inspection at my first point of entry in the US and go get a new I-94 and have my paper stamped.

Question: will I be able to make my connection (bolded) after only a 1h16m layover? Would I have to clear US customs in Houston, or does that happen in Seattle?
posted by crazycanuck to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Probably not, but maybe. Houston is a biggish airport and you might need to switch terminals.
posted by 200burritos at 7:20 PM on April 18, 2012

You will clear customs in Houston, it's always the first point of entry into the US. 1:16 seems tight but do-able. Keep moving and hope you previous flight isn't late and you'll be fine.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:21 PM on April 18, 2012

Once you get to the lines for passport check, let an attendant know right away that you have a tight connection. They are usually able to whisk you to the front of the line or a shorter line.

You have a bit of a walk between terminals, but it shouldn't take you more than 15 min I think.

Are you planning to check luggage? You would have to collect it in Houston, then re-check it for your next flight. Luggage for international flights arriving at IAH is usually pretty quick at getting to the carousels (that depends on the airline, too) – it's usually out by the time you get through passport control, but I wouldn't count on it. It's much more likely that you'll make the flight if you travel with carry-on luggage only.
posted by halogen at 7:37 PM on April 18, 2012

There's probably no way in hell. IAH is huge, and Customs can take a long time, especially since you need a secondary inspection, and the Law of Air Travel is that whenever you can't afford delays? There will be delays.

Is the IAH - SEA the last flight of the night? You will probably be stuck in Houston and need to catch the next flight out in the morning. Maybe you can catch an earlier flight from MEX - IAH?
posted by jnaps at 7:40 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You will have to clear customs in IAH, and that's tight. You will arrive in Terminal D or E -- E if on United, D otherwise. I can't tell you what terminal you'll depart from, because you don't mention an airline.

1 15hr is a tight connection when dealing with customs, period. I wouldn't book it -- and I'm a frequent flyer with top tier status and Global Entry.
posted by eriko at 7:43 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't risk it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:44 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I need to go to secondary inspection at my first point of entry in the US and go get a new I-94 and have my paper stamped

That's going to be the first tricky thing, because you can be lucky and get CBP people who are totally familiar with advance parole processing, or you can be the person who has to wait until the secondary processing officer comes off break. And that's based upon the filthy foreigner line being relatively short and well-staffed, which is the luck of the draw based upon the composition of incoming flights at the time you arrive. Only then comes customs, which means collecting and then re-checking any checked bags.

I wouldn't risk it either. If it's a through booking, I suppose your carrier would put you on the next available flight with available seats, but that may mean an overnight stay in Houston, almost certainly without any reimbursement.
posted by holgate at 7:54 PM on April 18, 2012

I wouldn't risk it, either. If you're on United, then I see that they got Continental's reservations system that assumes zero customs/immigration wait time as part of the merger deal.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:58 PM on April 18, 2012

Houston can be highly variable. 1:15 is doable if the stars align, but will be tight and you'll be stressing out the entire time. I wouldn't. I have missed flights with longer connections through IAH. Or, on preview, what Eriko said.
posted by Runes at 8:02 PM on April 18, 2012

Best answer: I would absolutely not book this, not even if I had no concerns about customs. I'd say absolute best case, customs will take you at least 45 minutes, and that's not counting travel time from the gate to customs, then to your gate.

IAH is a nightmare, start to finish. I've been screwed there more often than in my bed.
posted by dotgirl at 8:03 PM on April 18, 2012

I have missed a connection with a longer layover than this going thru customs at LAX. I think it depends somewhat on how efficient the customs at that airport is, and it sounds like Houston is not very. It was one of my most frustrating experiences ever to know I was missing a flight home while I stood in this line that hadn't moved in 2 hours. I was freaking out and going to the TSA people "I've been here for hours! I'm going to miss my flight!" but they just tell you there's nothing they can do.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:58 PM on April 18, 2012

Response by poster: I think Mexicana is out of business. Sunwing airlines flies YVR->HUX but the flights must be full now, I can't find a flight. Air Canada flies direct YVR-> MEX but the flight is $800. I think a new destination is in my future. Thanks
posted by crazycanuck at 9:05 PM on April 18, 2012

Best answer: The first rule about Puerto Escondido is to not talk about Puerto Escondido. Escondido is Spanish for hidden. And so that means it can be a pain in the ass to get back home.

A tight connection at IAH won't work. The problem is there's not a ton of flights from Mexico City to Houston (and even fewer flights from . What you might want to try is going through DFW or LAX.

You're right. Mexicana is out of business which is a shame because I really enjoyed using it. The Click Mexicana flight from MEX to PXM was great and for me synced with AA flights into DFW. Aeromexico is still in business but can be expensive. Maybe take it to LAX and buy a cheap ticket on Virgin/Soutwest/ anything else back to the Seattle or YVR. Aeromexico does have flights from Huatulco to Houston.

Another option to check out is the more discount Mexican airlines like VivaAerobus (as the name implies it is like a bus and is owned the UK's Ryan Air and a huge bus company. It prices like a discount UK airline with flights starting at $1 and then lots of taxes and fees and they charge more for baggage and for using a credit card.) I took it one time from Austin to Monterrey to Puerto Vallarta for about 1/3 of what the major airlines had. On the segments within Mexico the flight info is all in Spanish. The problem is they only have one or two flights a day.

There's another discount carrier in Mexico called Volaris that does codeshares with Southwest and is comparable. On that you could go from Mexico City to Tijuana and they have a nice bus that will get you across the border to San Diego's airport. You'll clear passport control at the border. In the bus you get to move to the front of the line (but there's other buses, due to your situation you'll have to go to secondary) the next stop is downtown San Diego and then the airport. What you save in $ you make up for in stress because of multiple modes of transportation and on separate tickets if there's a delay along the way, they won't' put you on a later flight.
posted by birdherder at 10:03 PM on April 18, 2012

If you really want to go and must turn in the US, arrive at ORD before noon or after five, and book a two-three hour layover. ORD's Europe arrival push is between 1200-1700, so it's busy then.

The other option would be, if this trip is some time away, to get a transit visa . That way, all of the secondary clearance work would be take care of before you flew.

You still wouldn't want a 75 minute connect at IAH.
posted by eriko at 4:26 AM on April 19, 2012

Never mind the last, thought you were passing through
posted by eriko at 4:27 AM on April 19, 2012

I recommend you let the flight attendants on your Mexico to Houston flight know you have a tight connection. They should be able to reseat you towards the end of the flight to help you make your connection.
posted by emilynoa at 5:56 AM on April 19, 2012

No chance. Clearing customs in Houston takes longer than that, period.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:14 AM on April 19, 2012

Since the demise of Mexicana, Air Canada now has daily direct flights between Vancouver and Mexico City.

I suggest you book with AC, and then a separate domestic flight.
posted by wutangclan at 9:11 AM on April 19, 2012

I made it through customs and onto my connecting flight with a 45 minute layover in Houston a few years ago, but ONLY because a random airport worker stuck me in a wheelchair, fast tracked me through customs and hailed a golf cart thinger. I would not have made it otherwise. (I had been having uncontrollable muscle spasms in my legs during that time, and was in a lot of pain. I made a pretty sorry sight trying to run, and the employee insisted on getting a wheelchair for me.)
posted by Ruki at 4:05 PM on April 19, 2012

Here's data from today. I was seated at the front of the plane, have Global Entry, and "priority luggage handling". It took 40 minutes from touchdown to exiting customs. Most of that was traversing the rats maze that is IAH and waiting for the luggage, the GE kiosk had a short wait. The non-GE lines at immigration were at least 10 deep when I got there, and the non-GE line to exit customs was at least 50 deep.
posted by Runes at 4:43 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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