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When I look at my flight itinerary, it says that the flight includes a technical stop. What does that mean compared to a layover?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Usually it's a refuelling stop, and you just sit on the plane. You don't go into the terminal, the plane isn't cleaned, and you're soon on your way again. As an added bonus, the airline isn't charged for using the terminal, so the tickets are sometimes cheaper as a result.

Edit

After some reading of forums, the whole leaving the plane thing is possible depending on airline or terminal.

In addition, another type of technical stop is where for example you have a fuel leak or engine failure and have to land to get it sorted. However these are usually (obviously) unplanned, so the fact it's on your itinerary means it's likely the former (fuel stop).

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3  
fuel leak, etc... That is an "emergency landing" not a "technical stop" – JoelFan Apr 27 '12 at 15:04
    
Regarding leaving the plane thing - this sometimes has to do with the type of fuel being loaded; as per the following from the Airbus reference on refueling (PDF) - "Refueling with wide cut gasoline type fuel (JET B, JP4 or equivalent) or when a mixture with these types of fuel might occur, is not permitted with passengers boarding, on board or disembarking." – Burhan Khalid Dec 2 '15 at 5:27

A technical stop is for the benefit of the PLANE. That is for refueling, inspection, repairs, etc.

It is not a stop for the benefit of the passengers. That is, it is not for loading or unloading passengers, and it could be in some out of the way place.

The plane has "technically" stopped. (In U.S. car traffic terminology, it might be referred to as "standing.") But it has not made a stop for the usual purposes.

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So if it is announced before the flight, it has to be a refueling stop, correct? – RoflcoptrException Sep 21 '11 at 19:03
    
@roflcoptr:I believe so. – Tom Au Sep 21 '11 at 19:47

As others have mentioned, it can be a brief stop for fuel. In addition, the plane may change crews and take on meals. In my experience, the passengers will be often asked to leave the plane for about 30 minutes or an hour, spending some time at the terminal and having an opportunity to do a little shopping and have a drink at a bar airside.

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A technical stop might be primarily for fuel or crew scheduling. Some routes may have technical stops depending on weather, for example, LAX-HKG when operated by a 747 often makes a technical stop for fuel during the winter (when the headwinds are stronger in that direction) but not in summer. It's rare for such weather-dependent stops to be published in the itinerary, since they may not be decided until shortly before departure.

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A crew scheduling tech stop would be....strange. I suppose it could happen during disruption recovery? (Say if you had a crew at an outstation and needed them to fly, but they didn't have the duty day for the full flight, just getting back to a hub.) It certainly wouldn't happen on a regular basis, considering that in the worst case, you can just stick an entire relief crew on the plane to begin with. – UnrecognizedFallingObject 2 days ago

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