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