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Diversions To A Foreign Country With No Visa?  
User currently offlineGeoffm From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2111 posts, RR: 6
Posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 6524 times:

What happens to the pax on a flight that gets diverted to a country in which it was not destined to land, and those pax have to be offloaded for the night?

In the first case, let's assume the pax can get a visa easily... say for example a flight from Brazil to Canada ends up in the US with their US$$$ visa fee. Does the airline pay for everybody's visa that needs one?

In the second case, how about a country where it's not so easy to get a visa. Let's say China or Russia, or in years gone by, Albania, for example, where certain pax might even be denied entry. What happens then?

Let's assume there are no airside hotels and the pax have to enter the country in order to get a bed for the night.

Geoff M.

20 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineVenezuela747 From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 1451 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 6500 times:

I dont have the exact answer, but I am sure the airline can work something out for a temporary visa for the night, if not I guess they will all have to sleep on the floor or in the aircraft and have the airline compensate them after the flight

User currently offlineAeronuts From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 114 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6468 times:

Kind of reminds me of the movie "Termial" - sleep in the transit lounge...

User currently offlineAhlfors From Canada, joined Oct 2000, 1347 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6438 times:

Quoting Geoffm (Thread starter):
In the first case, let's assume the pax can get a visa easily... say for example a flight from Brazil to Canada ends up in the US with their US$$$ visa fee. Does the airline pay for everybody's visa that needs one?

In the second case, how about a country where it's not so easy to get a visa. Let's say China or Russia, or in years gone by, Albania, for example, where certain pax might even be denied entry. What happens then?

Personally I would consider the US to actually be one of the most difficult countries to get a visa for (when one is needed), and I highly doubt Homeland Security would be very accomodating to those requiring a visa who don't have one. I would expect them to set up an area at the airport (or possibly hotel) with lots of agents all around to make sure no-one escapes.

That being said, I think Sept. 11 could be an example, where a lot of flights ended up in Canada. Though not as strict as the US, Canada still requires visas for nationals from a number of countries. I would think having a US visa would help their case though.

User currently offlineScbriml From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 15244 posts, RR: 45
Reply 4, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6416 times:
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Happened to me last year.

I was flying to Baku, Azerbaijan and after much to-ing and fro-ing ended up diverting to Tbilisi, Georgia. Eventually the crew ran out of hours and we had to 'overnight' (by then it was 5:30am! We all had to fill in Georgian visa application forms and then get them processed and hey presto - a smart visa in my passport. For the planefull of pax, it took absolutely ages to process everyone. My Georgian visa shows I arrived and departed on the same day!

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana!
User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6526 posts, RR: 19
Reply 5, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6405 times:

As a conicidence, I added that post to a totally different thread minutes ago:

Back in 1991 our a/c (a DE DC-10) went tech enroute from Barcelona in Venezuela (BLA) to SDQ (and onwards to MUC and FRA) and needed a spare part to be flown in from the U.S.. The airline had to find accomodation for a full load of 370 pax. So we entered the Dominican Republic w/o any (passport-)registration and were back on our way home to FRA 20h later.

Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlineMisbeehavin From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 914 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6384 times:

It depends a lot on the country in question, of course. However, often passengers won't need to get a visa or do anything else either.

My brother was on a flight from Paris (I think) to Singapore several years ago when they had to make an emergency stop in Delhi. Since it was late in the night and they couldn't make alternative arrangements for all passengers, the Indian authorities impounded all passports and the passengers were taken to a hotel for the night. The next day, they went back to the airport, got their passports back and were on their way. No fuss at all.

User currently offlineAhlfors From Canada, joined Oct 2000, 1347 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6378 times:

I do actually remember one case where a fellow traveller had problems. I was flying from POS-ANU on BW 414 which flies POS-BGI-ANU-KIN. We were delayed by several hours and by the time we got to BGI, the airline decided they would have to skip ANU and head straight to KIN, so we were deplaned. One of my fellow passengers was Haitian, and it took a couple hours for BWIA and Barbados immigration to sort out getting him into the country (we had to overnight).

User currently offlineDutchjet From Netherlands, joined Oct 2000, 7864 posts, RR: 56
Reply 8, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6358 times:

It happens from time to time........most of the time, passengers will remain at the airport in transit and do not technically enter the country, thus no visa issue. If an overnite stop is required for technical or other reasons, sometimes on the spot visas are processed, or as pointed out above, passports are collected and held until the subject passengers depart the country.

User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 6310 times:

It varies by the country and the citizenship of the passenger.

I know of a Pakistani national who unfortunately was stuck on a flight diverted to Chennai in India back during the 1980s. While the rest of the aircraft went through the "passport bond" procedure descibed by Misbeehavin, this poor guy was hauled away to the local jail where he waited until the flight was ready to leave again.

One of the lesser told stories of 9/11 is how poorly the Canadians and British treated passengers on the diverted flights who did not have appropriate documentation to enter the country. The British went so far as to keep passengers from "undesirable" countries in holding cells for multiple days before ordering their removal.

Of course, those instances are extreme exceptions and in 99.9% of the cases there is easy facilitation by Immigration authorities in the event of emergency diversions.

User currently offlineBaw716 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 2051 posts, RR: 26
Reply 10, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 6159 times:

OK, my info is a little dated, but generally speaking should be correct:
If a passenger who requires a visa to transit the USA to travel via the USA to a third country is traveling on a flight from let's say MXP to CCS (Alitalia) which AZ operates with a 767-300ER. AZ takes a mechanical in flight which requires them to divert to Miami.

When the aircraft lands at Miami, all the passengers are taken to a sterile holding area (there are several of these at MIA), during which time they are fed and watered until there is a determination regarding the situation of the aircraft. It is discovered that there is a major mechanical problem involving one of the engines which is going to require that a specific part be flown over from MXP, which cannot happen until the following day. It is therefore decided to put up everyone in hotels, give everyone hotel vouchers and meal vouchers and let them go to sleep and then call them in the hotel with an approximate time of departure. All the passengers are asked to call AZ at a special number at 1000am the following morning.

There are five passengers on board the aircraft which are citizens of countries with whom the USA does not have a reciprocal visa waiver agreement. One of those passengers is on the USA no fly list. Since the aircraft had to land in Miami for what could have been an emergency, the FAA allowed the aircraft to land at Miami with the no fly guy on board. Since the aircraft and the passengers were in an absolute sterile zone, there was no possibility that the guy could get out. What is AZ to do?

Each country's rule with TWOV (pronounce trove) passengers is different when an irregular operation or an emergency exists. This situation falls in that gray area right between the two. This then becomes a judgement call, both on the part of the airline and of the immigration officer on duty. With regard to the TWOV passengers, three of them are fine, no problems, so they are escorted to the MIA international hotel (which is in the airport and allowed to stay there under the watch of the hotel security and a TSA officer). Since all the facilities in the airport are above the airport itself, its pretty easy to maintain security. The other TWOV passengers are making a stink about not being allowed to leave the airport. Since they decided to be so vocal about it, they ended up spending the night with the no entry passenger. In the lock up at the airport police station. The next day, the problem was fixed, all the passengers were reboarded, the police brought all the TWOV passengers and the no fly passenger back and put him on the plane and have the aircraft fly straight out over the ocean on its departure. After that, the aircraft continued to Caracas as a routine flight.

The moral of this story is that things happen and as long as the people who are in this situation are flexible, nice and don't make a huge pain in the arse to the ground staff or the immigration officials, then their lives will be much easier when they are forced to stay over night in an airport when the aircraft has to divert.


David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998
User currently offlineUAORD2000 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 268 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 6045 times:

BAW716, Nice post by the way. I guess this would all depend on the country in which the plane diverted to. I would like to think that no matter where it was, all of the passengers would be treated with respect and not be required to sit in a jail cell because of a mechanical problem. I guess it is all situational. Either way, a hotel room with a clean shower and bed would be the absolute least one would expect; even if an armed security guard stood on the outside of the room.

User currently offlineGeoffm From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2111 posts, RR: 6
Reply 12, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 5964 times:

Thanks for all your input. The only question left outstanding is, would the airline pay any visa fees? I assume the answer is yes.

Geoff M.

User currently offlineCOSPN From Northern Mariana Islands, joined Oct 2001, 1925 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 5898 times:

In the Treaty with the US and a few Countries; Chile i think it .Outlines a Space Shuttle Diversion..and that Passports Visas would be arranged later ..

And the Space Shuttle can not be impounded ect  Smile

SOme people think of everthing...that would be an Awsome non Sched arrival

User currently offlineTKMCE From India, joined May 2002, 841 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 5822 times:

Off topic slightly - but what happened to the pax in the BA 747 which landed on schedule at Kuwait on its enroute stop on its flight from LHR to MAA - (the day the Iraqi invasion of KWI took place?). I know the aircraft was subsequently destroyed . What happened to the pax?

User currently offlineMEA-707 From Netherlands, joined Nov 1999, 4573 posts, RR: 31
Reply 15, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 5799 times:

The pax on that BA747 in Kuwait were taken hostage by Iraq. Saddam Hussein even had a "meet and greet" with these hostages, trying to show how nicely they were treated but this photo opportunity didn't have the effect he hoped for, in the west they were appalled seeing how he hugged a terrified boy. They were released after a month or two, way before the first Gulf War in January 1991.

nobody has ever died from hard work, but why take the risk?
User currently offlineJUANR From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days ago) and read 5708 times:

One a domestic Aerorepública flight from BOG to ADZ had to divert to PTY for technical reasons; as it was a domestic flight pax did not carry passports with them, to make it worse, Aerorepública owed some money to the Panamenian Authority so they did not let the plane depart again until they get paid and did not let the pax off the plane as they didn't have passports. This turned into a diplomatic incident and finally the plane was allowed to depart the day later.


User currently offlineEgghead From United States of America, joined May 2005, 48 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 5635 times:

Back in 1991 or 1992, I was on the last PanAm flight from KHI to LAX, via Frankfurt & Riyadh. Our plane, an A310, broke down in Riyadh and we were stuck there for two days. All passengers, even the ones who boarded at Riyadh, were taken to a hotel where we stayed for two days.

Scary thing is that our passports were taken by immigration authorities, and were given back to us after two days at the departure gate. I was eventually put on a Saudia flight to JFK from where I connected with PanAm to LAX.

User currently offlineBaw716 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 2051 posts, RR: 26
Reply 18, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 5588 times:

The answer to your question is yes. At a minimum. Depending on the country, the airline might be fined for landing the passenger despite the mechanical. If it were an emergency, international law and diplomatic protocol would likely kick in and prevent the airline getting hit with a big fine.

Let me give you a different example...this one I am painfully aware of.

One of the problems I had while at AZ was Milan boarding passengers with false Italian passports. These were usually Albanians or refugees from Bosnia et al, that were attempting to come to the USA to be with their families here, but could not get a visa the right way. There are criminals in Italy that the government there has not been able to stop effectively falsifying passports. We want them and so does the Italian government.

In any case, they get an Italian passport and because Italy is part of the visa waiver program, they do not require a visa to enter the US, simply a passport for a stay of up to 90 days. If they want anything other than a B1-B2 visa, then they must get it in advance of coming to the USA and it must be in their passport.

Anyway, the passenger gets past the check in agents in Milan, they don't bother to check the fact that the passenger holds and Italian passport but doesn't speak Italian?, then they get on the plane and come on over. When they get here, they come to immigration. Of course these passengers do not know we have been cooperating with immigration and customs (we had a very cozy relationship with immigration and customs, but that is another story), we provided them our procedural information and trained them on enough Italian to ask the correct questions....so when people arrived in San Francisco with an Italian passport, immigration greeting them speaking in Italian. If the passenger spoke Italian without any hesitation or any hint or suspicion after scanning their passport and examining it (they don't tell us how that works but they say they can detect a false passport 98% of the time), then they let them go. However, if the passenger comes up, is figeting, can't speak Italian on an Italian passport, they go straight away for secondary screening and 9 times out of 10, they are holding a false passport.

After the third warning (which they did out of deference to our relationship), and after I warned New York, Rome and Milan about this practice and the fact that Milan was failing miserably at catching this problem and that we were going to be subject to heavy fines...they said they would "look into the problem", the immigration supervisor told me that we were going to be fined and I said OK, you told us, I told them, its up to them to solve it. We can only control what we do here.

After the first 10 passengers at $10000 per passenger, I started getting phone calls from Rome. I told them to talk to Milan. The problem got fixed real fast.
Within two to three days, I got a call from the immigration supervisor, he told me that the flow of false Italian passports had suddenly stopped. After a month, we still had not one. I guess they fixed the problem.

The point of this story is that it is the airline's responsibility once the airline boards the passenger and departs with that passenger on board regarding the disposition of that passenger who does not have the correct documentation to enter a country. Even a passenger who does not have the right to enter a country that that aircraft overflies. In 99.9% of the cases it is not a problem. However, where the problem usually comes to light is when someone makes a mistake and does not check a passport properly and boards a passenger who does not have the correct documentation for the destination of the flight. They arrive, are arrested, detained and then sent back on the very aircraft they came in on, at the airline's expense bumping a revenue passenger if necessary, plus a $10000 per head fine (if they are entering the USA).

Each country's fine is different, but I can assure you the procedure is the same. I made that mistake 25 years ago, I checked a passport when checking someone in, but it was a chinese passport, passenger headed for Germany, did not have a visa for Germany. I was young and stupid in those days and could not tell the difference between a Taiwanese passport and a Chinese passport. I thought passport was Taiwanese and therefore OK. Passenger arrived in Frankfurt and was arrested and sent back, we were fined $5000. I got a real harsh lesson in the difference between the two passports. I didn't lose my job over it, I just spent two weeks studying the difference between different passports of the world...the ENTIRE world...before I was allowed back on the ticket counter. LESSON LEARNED.

So to your point Geoff, airlines have to be particularly careful, because if you get it wrong, it is a very expensive mistake. On a passenger aircraft with 400 passengers of all different nationalities going to all different destinations, it is very easy to get it wrong. This is just another piece of the puzzle and why airline ticket agents have to be trained so very well. An airline cannot just slap anyone out on a ticket counter, because if they get this one wrong, it is a very big deal for the station, and ultimately for the airline.


David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998
User currently offlineCsavel From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1473 posts, RR: 4
Reply 19, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 5494 times:

Great scenarios, now let me ask something related

Say you are an Israeli on a BA flight from, say, LHR to Singapore. Now I don't know the route it normally follows but say it flies over some Middle East country that is an enemy of Israel (e.g. Iran) Plane makes an emergency landing in Tehran. Pax have to stay overnight. What happens to Moshe? Same as that poor Pakistani in India? Would they even let him off the plane?

Another scenario. Jorge Cuellar from Miami, who was born in Havana but is a US citizen is flying from MIA to CCS, some major emergency forces to plane to land in Havana, can't even get back. Now Cuba says that Mr. Cuellar is a Cuban citizen, they don't give un culo de raton what the US thinks. Especially since Mr. Cuellar is a famous Miami anti-Castroite. I know some countries don't recognize dual citizenship or even giving up citizenship. Supposedly Israel, Iran, and Cuba will consider the children of citizens of that country citizens even if they've never set foot there.

I vaguely and dimly remember, when I lived in South Florida for a year that a Cubana plane had to make an emergency landing in MIA, I remember seeing the IL-62 on the tarmac. I also vaguely remember that the locos of Miami wanted everyone on the plane to get asylum or at least interviewed. It became a minor diplomatic incident. I think most opted to return to Havana.
This was about 1980, so it was a while.

I may be ugly. I may be an American. But don't call me an ugly American.
User currently offlineRP TPA From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 852 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 5440 times:

I worked at Boston Logan back in '95-'97. Air Nova (Air Canada's regional airline) used to have a flight that went Halifax-Yarmouth-Boston, and then returned Boston-Yarmouth-Halifax. A few times a year, the southbound flight had to overfly Yarmouth because of fog, and continued to BOS. There would be approx a dozen psgrs who ended up in Boston who really wanted to just fly YHZ-YQI. All psgrs arriving on this flight had to clear US immigration upon arrival. Of course, those people who only were planning on flying to YQI didnt have any proof of citizenship, usually just only a drivers licence. US immigration was cool about it, they usually just asked those psgrs to show some sort of ID. By the time the plane was ready to return to YQI, the fog had burned off and the airport was re-opened. It didnt hurt that the majority of these psgrs were elderly Maritimers, and were zero threat to the US.

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