I know this is not a common scenario, but it's quite scary.

Imagine that you are travelling from the UK to Australia, and you intend to respect all laws in both locations. In both, you are allowed to carry Valium, codeine, alcohol, or porn with you.

However, due to an unfortunate technical problem, you have to land in Dubai, or in any other country with quite different views on what constitutes a crime. Everybody has to exit the airplane. Wouldn't you just be in dire straits now? Either you get rid of all the stuff, in a discreet way, or, you risk imprisonment.

Could this happen in real life?

  • It least you can get rid of porn. Hopefully you're not gay and land in the Maldives (or one of 10 other countries) with death penalty for homosexuality, otherwise it would be much harder.
    – Itai
    Feb 26, 2018 at 2:27
  • 5
    Technically 'being gay' is not illegal, even in the Maldives. As long as you don't engage in homosexual acts while waiting for the plane to be repaired you will be fine. Feb 26, 2018 at 5:03
  • Your scenario sounds similar to the case of Van Tuong Nguyen. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Tuong_Nguyen Feb 26, 2018 at 17:13
  • Presuming you actually passed landside with your luggage, this one of the situations you would use the red channel at customs (or otherwise tick the declaratory boxes on your landing card etc.). Your accidental contraband gets confiscated but, beyond that, nbd. Feb 26, 2018 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


The most questionable part of this scenario is whether in fact "everybody has to exit the airplane." Per the International Air Services Transit Agreement of 1944, aircraft experiencing technical difficulties are allowed to land in signatory nations, however they are NOT permitted to deplane passengers or cargo.

In the situation you describe, passengers would be confined to the aircraft until it could be repaired, or a replacement vessel could be provided. They would not be allowed to enter the airport, or proceed to customs.

  • 2
    Surprising. What if an engine is on fire?
    – Itai
    Feb 26, 2018 at 3:52
  • 2
    While countries are not required by the agreement to admit passengers, most countries will not require that passengers be confined to the aircraft if the delay will be lengthy; they will at least make arrangements with the airline for passengers to enter the terminal, if not be bused to hotels. That's not always going to be the case (say, if you land on Midway Atoll and carpenters have to make stairs tall enough to reach the aircraft), but there's no reason passengers would always be held on board. Feb 26, 2018 at 5:54
  • 4
    I was in a 747 (the late, unlamented Tower Air) that made an emergency landing in Athens after losing an engine. We stayed in the plane only until they could re-open immigration (2 a.m.) and we waited in the terminal, on the air side of security. What I liked best is they gave us all free ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Tower's business was largely Orthodox Jews. Feb 26, 2018 at 6:32
  • 3
    This does not seem to answer the question, because even if you are confined to the aircraft, you are presumably still on the country's territory and subject to its laws.
    – fkraiem
    Feb 26, 2018 at 8:02
  • 2
    I wouldn't say that exiting the plane is the more questionable point. I'd say that emergency landings are rare, but once it happens, if they have to tank the airplane (which seems pretty likely), they will have to vacate the airplane.
    – Pierre B
    Feb 26, 2018 at 13:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .