I’m Curious About This Swift Air Flight…

Filed Under: Travel

As I’ve mentioned a countless number of times before, one of the things I love about living in Miami is how close the city is to the airport.

I live immediately under the approach path for the airport, and constantly hear planes buzzing overhead. Whenever I do, I open up the Flightradar24 app. There’s the usual traffic you’d expect, and then there are things like 64 year old cargo planes coming from Honduras, or Ethiopian Airlines 777s.

Collectively I’m convinced you guys know absolutely everything. My curiosity is getting the best of me, and I’m hoping you guys don’t let me down. 😉

A Swift Air Boeing 737-400 just flew over my house. Fair enough — for those of you who don’t know Swift Air, they’re a charter airline based out of Miami, and they operate all kinds of interesting flights.

However, the plane that just buzzed over my house was coming from… Brownsville (BRO). I had to look up the airport code, which I almost never have to do.

Upon looking it up, I learned of Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, which is in southern Texas, literally a few miles from the border between the US and Mexico.

The thing is, the only scheduled flights that the airport sees are flights within Texas on American and United regional airline partners.

Suffice to say I’m curious what kind of a charter this flight was. The plane operating the flight was N441US, a 30 year old 737-400 that used to fly for US Airways, before being stored in 2013, and then being taken over by Swift Air.

Looking at Flightradar24, the plane has had quite an interesting day:

  • First it flew from Miami, Florida, to Columbus, Georgia
  • Then it flew from Columbus, Georgia, to Alexandria, Louisiana
  • Then it flew from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Brownsville, Texas
  • Then it flew from Brownsville, Texas, to Miami, Florida

Based on Googling “Swift Air” and “Brownsville,” I’ve gotten some results suggesting that Swift Air has operated some flights on behalf of ICE.

So I can’t help but be curious. Obviously it’s none of my damn business, but anyone have any guesses as to what kind of a charter a 737-400 is operating between these airports at this time?

  1. I suspect it’s ICE related… there’s a facility not far from Columbus, Georgia that was in the news last year for not good reasons

    Alexandria, Louisiana has a staging facility for ICE

    Then of course Miami and Brownsville

  2. Transporting illegal immigrants from all those locations to a border city so they can be sent back to Mexico? To be fair, I’m not American and I have no idea how that process works…but it sure looks like it.

  3. These flights are (ICE)Immigration, and Customs Enforcement flights between detention centers and also Brownsville is used to send persons back to Honduras, etc, if you watch the Brownsville airport arrivals and departures on Flightradar24, one will see these flights. Since Brownsville is usually served by regional jets, the larger aircraft are these ICE flights.

  4. @Lucky – Sorry this is unrelated, but I was looking at flights between Atlanta and Heathrow in November on Virgin Atlantic and it appears their putting their A350-1000 on the route. I specifically saw it operating on the 17th and 18th. Not sure if this is permanent or what, but does anyone have any confirmed info on it?

    It’s also interesting to note that British Airways has their new 787-10 with Club Suites on that route, so I assume this is related to that (especially with it being a Delta hub).

  5. @Lucky,

    Brownsville is Southernmost Texas, but not Southwest Texas. Southwest Texas usually refers to the Big Bend area. McAllen-Harlingen-Brownsville is collectively known as the Rio Grande Valley. There are 3 airports there: BRO (Brownsville), HRL (Harlingen), and MFE (McAllen). HRL is known for being a receiving destination for Spring Breakers and “Winter Texans” heading to South Padre Island. However, BRO is actually slightly closer.

  6. @the nice Paul

    ICE is the US sanctioned terrorist organization that abducts kids from parents, confines non-US citizens in conditions that violate the Geneva Convention, and routinely runs paramilitary operations in US soil.

    Oh sorry, I meant to say Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  7. Woah, there’s a Swift Air and Air Swift? I thought you were talking about the small reginal filipino airline that flies between the islands. Great little airline.

  8. @nice Paul: frozen water.

    Sorry couldn’t resist. It’s shorthand for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement – as far as I understand it, the federal agency which handles deportations.

  9. In Nj, Swift (or iaero airways as theyre now called) is a charter flight for Atlantic City casino patrons. They haven’t updated their livery yet, and havent flown since the casinos were shut down a few weeks ago due to corona.

  10. ICE for sure. I think Swift is also running the flights to Guatemala etc where they are doing relocations, or whatever name they have come up with in sending refugees off to camps.

  11. Hi Lucky! Thought I’d ask here since the two recent posts I’d otherwise post on (the virtual happy hour one where you invite people to leave questions, or the ANA first class w/ VS miles post which relates to my question) are both reposts so they’re already bogged down with comments from the original posting date onward.

    What are your thoughts on if credit cards will be extending transfer bonuses in this current environment? I have some time as I’m planning April 2021 travels in ANA F for which schedules have not yet opened, but I’d like to be ready when those awards are bookable. I of course would prefer to transfer Citi/Amex points to VS using a transfer bonus given those are offered from both issuers with decent regularity, but don’t want to risk waiting too long after availability opens up if CC issuers are possibly freezing any type of bonus activity at this time.


  12. Probably Mexican migrants ferried to TX for border deportation and Cuban migrants being deported MIA-HAV.

  13. Has to be either a cruise charter of some sort or a military transport contract. Prisoner transport? Who knows.

  14. I used to fly ICE missions for Swift air as a flight attendant. They move the immigrants around to each of these airports (and others) around the US to get them in place to deport them. It’s a complicated process to get each person where they need to be to deport them. I was only a flight attendant so I don’t know the entire process, but those airports were common stops for us to unload and load “detainees”.

  15. Just routine ICE operation carrying a few officers and few illegals onboard. Then I don’t know where they’re going next, perhaps Guatemala City or Managua?

  16. Nice that you are in MIA
    There is a Very Long history of plane spotters here and LGBTQ airline employees from the beginnings of PanAm and the more conservative Eastern.
    Sadly we just lost one LGBTQ PanAm employee in his young 90s and still driving near his home in Kendall near Kendall Town and Country Mall. And no, he was a great driver and a lover of great conversation, fine food and drink and nightlife till the very end lol. With no vehicle or aviation accidents in his long career.

    UofM has a Pan Am archives and sporadic meetings occasionally on the top floor of the Ricker library.

    The area near the private aviation terminals, corrosion corner was filled with all types of collected aircraft for years. Some very interesting stuff. It was cleared out in the past decade.

    The original MIA airport itself has some interesting corners and un-known locations to check out.

    Miami Springs was the original airport employees city. Some corners of it has not changed since. Check it out.

  17. Swift Air also has 6 737-800s.
    I believe the longest flight they are doing for ICE using this type of aircraft is to CNF (Confins – Belo Horizonte’s Intl Airport in Brazil).
    Usually they fly from El Paso to CNF with a stop in San Juan (Puerto Rico).
    The reason they fly specifically to Belo Horizonte in Brazil is because most of Brazilians trying to illegally enter in the US come from the state of Minas Gerais and Belo Horizonte is the capital and main city of that state.

  18. John, you’re proof deplorables are everywhere.

    You think some dumb ass wall will prevent illegal immigration and border crossings? Of the wall that HAS been erected, none of it is new border, and apparently none of it can stand up to high winds. Just like Dear Leader’s hair.

    Instead, we have these flights that are operated at high cost, and high profit, by companies that probably are owned by Dear Leader’s friends. I’m not saying, I’M the one saying this, I’m just saying people are saying this.

    Poor, desperate people are being driven here in pursuit of safety for their families and the opportunity to provide for their families. When ICE rounds up illegal workers at factories, ever notice the owners of those factories being arrested too for ignoring legal labor laws?

    And have you ever thought of the cost of supporting all the children this administration has forcibly separated from their families? It’s probably somewhere along the lines of the $20 you paid for your dumbass, made in Gyna MAGA hat times 10,000, times the 2000+ children affected.

    So take your cheap-ass, lazy one-liners and just go back to monitoring your miles, status and Chloroquine prescriptions.

  19. Rob – your post is offensive. There was no need to make personal attacks on people you disagree with.

  20. ICE or maybe:

    The SpaceX South Texas Launch Site is a rocket production facility, test site, and spaceport near Boca Chica, Texas, on the US Gulf Coast approximately 22 miles (35 km) east of Brownsville, Texas, for the private use of SpaceX.

  21. @davistev,

    Scapegoating immigrants, like John and Jaylord are attempting, is offensive. The fact that our government is doing some unspeakable things in our name, and our policies are being unevenly applied by a hateful racist, is offensive. I believe the only way to counter such offense is to call it out, else small, incurious, simple-minded people get to use catchphrases to spread their hate and rhetoric.

    I can disagree with people and still get along with, or even respect them. But if someone’s argument is only one or two sentences long, and absent any thoughtful consideration or logic, I’m left with only one thing to target. I’d quote John here, but apparently his comment has been removed. I am also open to the idea the he and Jaylord are just trolls, but at 1:17am, in a comments section, during a pandemic, I guess I was easily set off. 😉

    @Tim, if your comment was a response to mine, please indicate exactly where I said open borders was a good idea. Or that we should have unlimited immigration.

  22. Well said Rob. I love how the Trump cult immediately asks for kindness, no personal attacks, etc when they can not respond to rightful criticism of their hate.

  23. Swiftair will be rebranded as “iAero Airways” which is probably the dumbest name they could have come up with

  24. @Rob: They are repatriation flights, provided to people who need to be in their home countries and don’t have the means to get there on their own. A fine and generous service that we don’t even charge for.

    Or, we could be like Mexico and send them to corrupt prisons where they are abused, beaten and often killed by savages. Yeah, we’re just awful. [rolls eyes at idiot Rob]

  25. Political insults doesn’t feel the same without @Debit.

    To stick the true nature of this blog, maybe a Swift Air trip report?

  26. Swift Air has a government contract with ICE. The only other contracts they have are with several sports teams. There are holding facilities in many locations across the US where they hold the detainees. The stops are made to load/unload detainees before flying them back to Honduras, Guatemala, San Salvador and a few other places. Their stops prior to the Covid-19 also frequently included Maine, Pennsylvania, Minneapolis, Arizona, and Washington to name the majority.

  27. Also these planes don’t just carry a few detainees and a few ICE agents. They still continue to fill each plane as much as they possibly can. About 60-70 detainees per flight, along with flight attendants, flight mechanics, pilots, and ice agents.

  28. As I am watching Ozark right now, I would caution about enquiring too deeply into flights such as this one in case you start attracting unwanted attention.

  29. Swift Air – reminds me of the CIA operated airline, Air America, during the Viet Nam war. I thought it was disbanded, but maybe it was just rebranded by INS and now ICE. Are they moving drugs on the trips back from south of the border to cover their expenses and pad their pockets like Air America?

  30. IQ O: As someone who knows a lot of people employed by the company, if you knew what these people are paid. You’d certainly have to wonder!!

  31. @Stogieguy … is it safe to assume you think our American prisons aren’t corrupt and safely house our criminal population? I’m not so naive to think that prisoners here in the US deserve a plush lifestyle, but the level of inhumanity that can be found in some prisons is only eclipsed by the inequality of how prisons as a deterrent is applied to citizens.

    And none of that applies to detention centers, or those “generous” repatriation flights you’re Trumpeting about. The only thing that’s “generous” about those services is the profit margins Swift Air/iAero and the corporations running the centers ensure for themselves. And who do you think it paying that?

    And @John, no, the current state of isolation isn’t getting to me, nor are the walls closing in. I will admit that if it wasn’t for this new reality, I’d be out flying you around somewhere, instead of reading and reacting to comments on a travel blog.

    Finally, as much as it would probably be in poor taste to post a review of one of these flights, it is pretty funny to think about Lucky booking himself on one. Lol.

  32. ICE has been deporting thousands over the past few weeks. It’s most likely a charter flight to round up people from detention centers and taking them to the border to transfer them to Mexico

  33. @Rob: These ICE flights were quite numerous under the Dear Leader Obama’s tenure. In fact, they increased substantially under Obama. I know as the charter airline I was working for at the time had to increase their fleet to keep up with..um… demand.

  34. Worked Formerly at Swift Air as a FA. Brownsville Flights are ICE Flights to Central America bringing illegals back into their country. You will not be surprised seeing the same person who came to the county illegally, is back on the next ICE Flight.

    Most of the flights fly from Brownville into Nicaragua and El Salvador for example. Swift Changed its name to iAero Airways after being acquired in December of 2019.

  35. We took swift air for a exotic car rally’s charter flights. Basically have 2 options, all domestic first class, or standard domestic cabin.

    Used for a lot of baseball teams and other stuff. We took a flight from some tiny private airport in Cali to Dallas and MIA to Havana.

    Nothing really that special they can just use private airports with long enough runways. Planes are old mainline 737s, with deactivated seatback phones. It’s a meh way to fly, and personally I would rather book a bunch or seats commercially than do swift air. Most times they didn’t have access to great catering and the last flight we went on we had Applebees…

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