How fast can I run through DFW before people start to gawk?
July 17, 2007 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm flying from IAH > DFW > CZM (Cozumel). I've got 55 minutes in DFW. Assuming my IAH > DFW is on time, will I make it?

Also, I've never flown international before. What should I expect going through customs....without an in-hand passport? I'll have proof of application, but it will not have gotten here by then.

If it matters, I'm leaving on a Wednesday morning in mid September, hitting DFW at 9:15 am.
posted by chrisfromthelc to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
You should be just fine. I fly on a weekly basis and 45 minutes is about the cutoff that I give in order to have you and your luggage get on the same plane.

Just hope that everything is on time that day.
posted by ThFullEffect at 10:39 AM on July 17, 2007

You can get between any two gates at DFW in less than 20 minutes. That is the worst case scenario. Your connection will be no problem.

There is a new automated train, Skylink, that runs around the airport. It stops twice in each terminal. If you have to go to another terminal, ride it.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 10:45 AM on July 17, 2007

Depends. DFW is huge. What terminal are you flying into and out of? With the new Skylink, you're in better shape now than you would have been two years ago when the slowness of the old monorail probably would have made that connection impossible. It'll still be really tight, though.
posted by MsMolly at 10:47 AM on July 17, 2007

ThFullEffect, 45 minutes isn't really your cutoff. It's the minimum amount of time for it to be a legal connection according to air travel rules. No air carrier is going to book you a less than 45 minute connection if you have to switch equipment. Of course, if you're staying on the same plane, 5 minutes is legal.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:54 AM on July 17, 2007

I fly out of Austin and go through DFW all the time, often w/less than an hour. When I get a trip with less than an hour I will see if I can get on an earlier flight so there's less to worry about at DFW. I'm sure there are planes leaving at least every hour in the mornings from IAH too. And if there are seats on the plane they'll put you on to make sure you get on the plane to CZM.

Skylink is nice, but when I was there last it was broken so it was only going in one direction. Then they halted the trains because some kid got lost. So yeah, it can take >20 minutes to get from gate to gate.

Customs and Immigration in Mexico is fun since there's a red and green light system when you have nothing to declare. You push a button, if it green you go, if it turns red they inspect your bag for contraband. The red light is rare. First you'll have to show your ID [Mexico will take your DL + proof of identity like an birth certificate -- which you sent to the US gov -- or voter reg card, however with this proof of documentation thing they may just accept that -- call the Mexican consulate in Houston and ask. Mexico does not require Americans to have a passport, that proof of application is really so they'll let you back into the US] and the tourist card you've filled out on the plane [along with a customs declaration card which you'll give to the customs person] to the immigration guy. He'll stamp the card and give it back. Keep the tourist card with your travel docs since you'll need to give that to the airline when you check in for your flight home.

Then you get your bags, then you go through customs for the red/green light. Even if you're flagged for the inspection they are looking for big no-nos like drugs, weapons and other things it looks like you're going to sell there versus use. Respect their restriction on bringing in too much liquor and cigarettes and you'll be fine. But odds are you'll get the green light.

If you're coming home through Dallas again, the US customs facility is pretty fast. The only time it gets slow if you're unlucky enough to come in at the same time as a few 747s full of people from Europe or Asia. The immigration hall is about the size of a basketball stadium and usually goes pretty quickly. After you clear that hurdle, you get your bags and then go to the customs line where there's no red/green lights but they will "randomly" search your shit if they suspect you're carrying contraband or look like an evildoer. After that you'll need to recheck your bags -- make sure you tell the person your destination if the flights are close since there are different drop off points to give your bag. After that you need to go through security again and off to your next plane. I always get more hassle from the Americans than from the people in customs/immigration where I visit.
posted by birdherder at 10:54 AM on July 17, 2007

I'm not sure yet.

My main concern is if customs is going to be a big hold-up. Since I'm flying from IAH, would I actually go through customs in IAH, or would it be in DFW?
posted by chrisfromthelc at 10:54 AM on July 17, 2007

Be prepared to hustle, though. I've done the Houston-CZM link a few times and refer to that as the 'Houston Invitational 5k'. Not so much on the way there... but getting through customs on the way back.
posted by lilithim at 10:54 AM on July 17, 2007

Since I'm flying from IAH, would I actually go through customs in IAH, or would it be in DFW?

Leaving the US is basically just like getting on any other domestic flight - you don't have to go through any sort of "exit" immigration or customs inspection.

Coming back, you go through immigration and customs at your first point of entry to the US, so in your case, you'll do that in Dallas.
posted by mdonley at 11:02 AM on July 17, 2007

You don't go through customs leaving the US. When you check in at Houston they'll ask for you passport of other docs. You'll get your boarding pass for CZM and when you get to DFW, you just walk up to the gate to get on the plane.

The only slowup you should worry about in Dallas is if your plane is late or Skylink decides to take a nap.
posted by birdherder at 11:03 AM on July 17, 2007

Going is no big deal, but coming back you will have to get your bags in Dallas and take them through customs and immigration (that's two sets of standing around waiting) before rechecking for your flight to Houston.

Your layover on your return should reflect that, but if it doesn't it's no big deal. There are flights to Houston every 25 minutes, you'll get on one of them. If you land too close to your departure, the airline will probably already be re-booking you before you're off the plane.

Every time I've come back from Mexico (to Dallas) it's been absolutely dead in the immigration hall, but there's only been like 2 immigration lines open.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:14 AM on July 17, 2007

"How fast can I run through DFW..."

Don't run. Some low rent cop/TSA agent might think you are a terrist and rugby tackle you.
(Don't laugh I saw this happen in PHL)
posted by Webbster at 11:20 AM on July 17, 2007


:-D It was mostly sarcasm, though, I did have to hump an' git it through Terminal B in IAH trying to make the last flight to Nashville late on night. My flight from LCH pulled into IAH about 10 minutes after boarding started for my connecting flight. Once I got TO Terminal B (I flew into A since I was on a regional jet), I had to sprint from the SE side to the NW side....if you've ever been to IAH, you know that it isn't no hop , skip and a jump.

The door was closed before I even was within view of it, but luckily, I squeeked in there. I got on the plane huffing and puffing and sweating like a triathlon runner, and the guy across the aisle goes "Hey, man! Glad you could make it! I was savin' a seat for ya!"

I was not amusable at that point, really. :-D
posted by chrisfromthelc at 11:45 AM on July 17, 2007

@dirtynumbangelboy: Let me clarify.

I am not worried about the regulations (because I have had much shorter connections before). What I was referring to was having enough time for you AND your checked luggage to make it on your next flight. No one wants to fly out of the country only to find that their checked luggage won't be coming in for another 24 hours.

Boarding typically starts 30 mins prior to take off and ends about 10 mins prior. 45 minutes is my personal safe time because it leaves room for error on my part and on the airline's.
posted by ThFullEffect at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2007

Yeah. Never run in an airport, for two reasons:
-What Webbster said
-The airline you're flying will make EVERY effort for you to connnect. As soon as you get off, talk to a gate agent. Say you're worried about making your connecting. They will either tell you not to worry and that you have plenty of time, ir if it's actually a squeeze, they'll call up one of those motorized courtesy carts to whisk you to your destination.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2007

I've flown plenty enough to know better. My story was an extenuating circumstance.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 12:10 PM on July 17, 2007

Never run in an airport? Why not? I fly almost every week, and there have been 2 or 3 times in as many years that I've had to flat-out run to make a connection. I caught the flight each time, and I'll run again if I think it's tight. Who cares about gawkers? Last time I had to do it was from C5 to F11 at ORD. I knew I was late, and as I exited the plane, the board showed my connection was On Time and in fact Boarding, so I hoofed it (took only about 8 minutes, as I remember), and made it. I never check bags, so that was a non-issue.

Even if there's a later flight option, I am very much a "bird in the hand" kind of person. Never give up. Don't take No for an answer. Get on the plane. I'll do anything necessary to minimize potential extra nights on the road. I'll play my status card as necessary also. Last week I cut it tight and the security line was longer than I expected, so I got to the gate after the door was closed. "I'm sorry sir, but you missed it. We paged you several times." Assuming they had given my seat away to a standby flier, I politely played my status card, and the gate agent opened the door and yelled "Hey, Doris!" down the jet bridge, and out walked a lady who apparently hadn't made it too far down the jet bridge, and didn't look too upset, and was apparently an airline employee flying standby since she walked to one of the terminals at the desk and logged in (to look for a different flight I guess).

It's rare for me to be in an airport and not see at least one person running to catch a flight...usually it's a small group, presumably from the same late inbound flight. I can't imagine security tackling anyone. Not saying it didn't happen at some point for some strange reason...just that running is a very common activity in airports.

As for the golf carts, yes I've used them a couple of times to make tight connections, but they're not guaranteed to be there when you need them. The airlines might "care" about me making my connection, but they sure as hell don't care as much as I do.

In the past 4 years of averaging 45 weeks/yr flying, I've been stuck overnight exactly 4 times, and each time was due to booking the last connection of the day and having it cancelled, never by lack of tenacity on my part. Without my "get on the plane, period" attitude, that number would be more like 20 or 30.
posted by Bradley at 1:20 PM on July 17, 2007

Ditto, Bradley.

I was on a jammed full regional coming in on a last flight from my hometown to make a last flight to Nashville. The gate that the bus drops you off at is 90% of the time deserted of any gate agents that late at night (you MIGHT see a lone janitor taking a smoke break).

Early morning job interview in Nashville + my new hot girlfriend who would be waiting to pick me up = me not missing that flight!

(btw, what do you mean by status?)
posted by chrisfromthelc at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2007

Status = being a Gold Card MVP Executive Platinum Plus Mileage Plan Deluxe member.
posted by mdonley at 2:49 PM on July 17, 2007

Yes, status in my case means NWA Platinum, and previously I was United 1K (until I got sick of O'Hare).

Top-tier status comes in handy sometimes. A while back I was waiting at a gate counter to inquire about something (it wasn't a gate for my flight) and a college-age gal at the counter was pleading with the gate agent to let her board. The door was closed, but it was obvious that the plane was still there, not pushed back yet. I stepped forward and told the gate agent I was a Platinum flyer, and this lady was a friend of mine, and I would very much appreciate it if she would check with the crew and see if they could maybe take one more, even though the flight was "closed". It worked.

But sometimes gate agents have an attitude of "status-schmatus". It always pays to be nice, but that still doesn't mean you have to take No for an answer.

Another tip: always avoid standing in line when you can. If you're on a flight that has left the gate but returned due to weather or mechanical issues, call the airline immediately, BEFORE you even get off the plane, so the online agent can start looking at other options for you. Then the flight attendant will instruct everyone to stand in line at the gate to be helped by the agent, but ignore that and walk away. Find a different gate with a less-busy agent to complete whatever you have started with the online agent. This has gotten me onto a few flights that I'd have missed if I had been queued up with everyone else as instructed.

If there are massive weather issues at a big hub, this is especially true. There will be a designated Customer Service area with a huge line, but just ignore it and walk 'til you find a gate with no line and an agent that has maybe just finished closing a boarded flight so has time to help you. There's nothing the Customer Service counter behind security can do for you that any other gate agent can't do.

Another tip: Keep a copy of all airline schedules. I keep them in my Palm as pdf's, but use your laptop if you prefer. You can get them from each airline's web page. There have been many occasions when I was standing at a gate after a canceled flight, with the gate agent looking in the computer and telling me what options I have, while I'm looking at my copy of the schedule asking, "Did you check other airlines yet? This is an Involuntary situation, so how about checking that flight that leaves in 30 minutes on this other airline? Please print my voucher and send me to them."
posted by Bradley at 4:43 PM on July 17, 2007

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