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When booking flights that transit through one or more intermediary airports, it is not often clear whether it's a 'technical stop', e.g., refuelling only while passengers sit inside the plane or whether passengers are allowed to / have to disembark. Now, if the aircraft type is different then the situation is obvious. The reason why I'm asking is that I have a flight with a layover of one hour, same aircraft type before/after transit, but a different flight number for each leg.

How do I find out what kind of stop it is (apart from having to call up the airline)?

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2  
Perhaps if you gave the flight number, we could aid in researching it for you? –  Mark Mayo Mar 5 '12 at 11:22
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9W 119 LHR-BOM and 9W 76 BOM-HKG. I'm rather interested to know a general method though, or perhaps something like SeatGuru for air transit stops that mentions this. –  Ankur Banerjee Mar 5 '12 at 13:03
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I believe if you MUST disembark or change planes, the airline's website normally says on your itinerary "change planes". I've had that happen on US flights (Continental, US Airways) within the US, as well as other airlines abroad (flying Delhi to Paris via Dubai on Emirates, for example, my itinerary said "Change planes" in Dubai.) If you don't have to change planes, it won't say anything. I flew Kochi to Delhi via Bangalore; the plane stopped to let people off and on, but passengers continuing to Delhi weren't allowed to leave the plane. So my itinerary just showed a stop, not a plane change. –  Laura Mar 5 '12 at 15:54
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Interesting question since the only way to find that out exactly would be to find out gates of arrival and departure. I would agree with @Laura that you will have to leave the plane anyway since noone will let you stay there with no crew on board and after 9+ hour flight the crew will have to change especially in Airline's Hub airport. –  Karlson Mar 5 '12 at 16:24
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Having one boarding pass is no indication that you can stay on-board. I've had stopovers with AirNZ and with Emirates where my ticket and boarding pass indicate a direct flight (e.g. LHR->AKL and DXB->AKL) but we have a stopover (LAX and SYD respectively). It's the same physical plane, and you have the same seat the whole way, but you're forced to disembark for the 1-2hr stopover while they clean the plane. In the US you even need to clear immigration! –  Ray Mar 8 '12 at 10:17
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted
+50

If the flight number changes, such as in your example of 9W 119 and 9W 76, they're different flights (in fact, nearly always different planes) and you'll have to disembark. Technically this is not a stopover at all, it's a transfer or "layover".

If the flight number stays the same, you've got a genuine stopover, and there's no easy way to know what will happen. If the stop's an hour or more, usually you will have to disembark while they clean the plane. Being allowed to choose to stay on board in these paranoid days seems to be getting more and more unusual, although it does still happen on some regional hopper routes where stops are short (under an hour) and only a few pax may get on or off at any given airport.

Not being allowed off the plane at all is even more unusual, and is mostly limited to stopovers at military airports (eg. Kwajalein on the Continental "Island Hopper" between Guam and Hawaii), domestic legs without cabotage rights feeding international flights, or those rare routes where they do a pure refueling (technical) stop. The last of these are increasingly rare in scheduled aviation, but do still happen on crappy charters flying (eg.) Scandinavia-Thailand on old overloaded planes that can't fly the full distance in one hop, or even on scheduled flights if there are last-minute equipment substitutions, really bad head winds etc.

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