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Travel Faux Pas: My Boyfriend Missed His Flight From Mexico City

The moral of this story is pretty simple: When an immigration officer gives you a piece of paper, you hold and cherish that paper until you leave the country.

Since I wasn’t there for the events, I’ll let my boyfriend, Brendan, tell you the story in his own words. I received live updates from Brendan and eventually, I was able to put my points and miles knowledge to use.

“I was waiting in line at Gate 31 of the Mexico City International Airport. Once I reached the front of the line to board my Volaris flight to Denver, the boarding agent asked for my immigration paper. I racked my brain, trying to recall where I stored the paper (or whether or not it was still in my possession), but I couldn’t find it after a frantic session of rummaging through my backpack. The gate agent informed me (in Spanish) that I had to go to puerta diez (Gate 10) to get a replacement paper from the immigration office.

If you’re not familiar with Mexico City International Airport, it’s more or less laid out as a straight terminal, so going from Gate 31 to Gate 10 means running with shoes not suitable for running and a bouncy backpack.

I arrived out of breath at Gate 10 to see no trace of an immigration office. The security guard informed me (in Spanish) that the migration office was actually at Gate 28. Unfortunately, he was telling me the location of the immigration desk for citizens of Mexico so I ran to the next location to only be informed once again that I had to run to Gate 10. Simultaneously, I was keeping track of the departure time of my approaching flight.

Arriving once again at Gate 10, the confused security guard realized he had told me the wrong immigration office location and directed me to the real migration office.

In Spanish, puerta is used for both “door” and “gate.” So when the security guard described how to get to puerta diez I needed to get to from puerta diez where I was currently at, I realized that I had made multiple cross-airport runs and that I was supposed to go back through security to the landside puerta diez instead of the airside puerta diez.

By the time I arrived in the immigration office, my flight was minutes from departing. A good samaritan lent me some cash to pay for the new immigration paper with a promise to repay her on Venmo. But by the time I reached my gate again, the plane had already pushed back (with a delay, thanks to my checked baggage. Sorry fellow travelers!).”

While Brendan was running sprints across the airport, I was getting updates from him. It was tough to search for alternative options but I managed.

The next Volaris flight to Denver wasn’t until two days later, and Brendan didn’t want to wait that long to return home. There was a Volaris flight to Las Vegas for the following day, but Volaris wasn’t willing to put him on that flight for free. If they had been, it would have been a matter of purchasing a cheap Frontier flight to get him the rest of the way home.

Unfortunately, flight prices weren’t cheap and award availability wasn’t great either. The best option was to book a cash flight with United for $380. Brendan had a good stash of Chase Sapphire Reserve points and decided to redeem some of them for 1.5 cents each through the Chase Travel Portal. The damage ended up being 19,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and $97.33 for a one-way ticket the following day. Luckily, since I was in Mexico City, he was at least able to crash at my accommodation for the night and didn’t have to pay extra for that too.

A wise friend of mine once put events like this into perspective as a “stupid tax.” We all have to pay it from time to time. Unfortunately for Brendan, this was a pretty expensive travel mistake, though it could have been a lot worse! But it also gave him (and me) a good lesson to always keep track of whatever piece of paper I get when entering a country.

*Story edited for clarity


[Featured Image: iStock]

Comments are Closed.
KenTarmac June 24, 2019

Had the same thing happen to a co-worker who is quite careless. I made the flight - he didn't.

ftfmdtw June 22, 2019

When you arrive in Mexico City airport, you need to fill out a FMM immigration form. If you fly in, you will receive the form to fill out on your flight. Or, you can fill out a form at the electronic kiosk. After waiting in line and submitting the completed form to the immigration officer, your forms will be stamped and you will be handed a copy of a part of the form. To preclude any difficulties, I would guard this form with my life as I would with my passport. From researching this matter on various forums and on YouTube, this situation is not a rare occurrence and would not surrender this form until I arrived at the boarding gate.

ConnieDee June 22, 2019

Good reinforcement for me: I've visited other countries that give you a flimsy piece of paper that you need to show upon exit. Up until now I've managed to find them in my passport, but it's terribly easy to lose stuff like this. The other lesson: when you travel on a budget, accept ahead of time or even EXPECT that you might have to arrive home with an extra $500 on your credit card. Sometimes penny-pinching isn't worth it; your finances need to be able to withstand unexpected problems. (Routine frugality builds up this financial resilience--the next step is not to get too upset when you need to dig into reserves.)