If, for example, you're travelling to the US, and the plane makes a stop in China to refuel, can you enter China even without a Chinese Visa? If not where do passengers of refuelling planes stay?

  • It is not exactly a duplicate but close enough travel.stackexchange.com/questions/40073/…
    – user4188
    Sep 15, 2018 at 6:29
  • China is one of those countries with strict immigration requirements, so airlines avoid diverting there if it's not an emergency. For example, I know for Hong Kong arriving flights, Cathay Pacific will divert to Macau, Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea if there's a foreseeable issue.
    – user71659
    Sep 15, 2018 at 16:17
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Flight diversion + visa issues Sep 15, 2018 at 17:15
  • The duplicate does answer the visa question but I think that the OP wants to know about a general fuel stop. In my experience, for a planned fuel stop, the passengers who were to get out at that destination deplane, new passengers board the plane but continuing travelers stay on the plane and they are directed specifically not to wear their seatbelts. This was on a domestic flight.
    – Newton
    Sep 25, 2018 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


Technical stops just for refueling are no longer particularly common in commercial aviation in most of the world. Long-range aircraft often make them unnecessary, and full on ordinary stops and, where legally possible, connections provide more flexibility for airlines and passengers.

Many are unscheduled (planned, but not routinely part of flight schedules) stops due to high winds. A number of transatlantic 757 flights in 2012 needed to make such stops, and it can occasionally happen on unfavorable weather on transpacific routes too. In such cases, passengers generally remain on board the aircraft while fueling takes place; no visas are required. If passengers are allowed off the plane, they won't pass through immigration controls.

However, there are some regularly scheduled stops that work differently. These stops do involve taking on required fuel, but serve other purposes. British Airways operates a flagship service from London City Ariport to JFK with an all business class A318 aircraft. Due to LCY's short runway, the aircraft takes off from London with limited fuel, stops at Shannon, discharges all its passengers so they can go through US immigration preclearance, fuels up, boards, and completes its journey to New York (you can read about that process in a review). Kuwait Airways makes a stop at Shannon between Kuwait and New York. Passengers get off the plane and clear security (but do not go through US preclerance or any other immigration control) and wait in the departure lounge before re-boarding (after fuel and a fresh crew). Qantas operates an LAX-JFK flight to provide onward connections for their flights from Australia (they do not have the cabotage rights to sell tickets on this flight to solely domestic passengers).

There are a few other examples of such flights. Whether or not a visa is required for these scheduled stops depends on the exact circumstances of the flight, the country's immigration rules, the passenger's nationality, and sometimes whether they already possess other visas, so that's a specific thing that would have to be researched for a given flight.

In summary: passengers on unexpected fuel stops generally stay on board or near the gate, while the experience for passengers on regularly scheduled stops will vary.

I'm not aware of any flights to the US that routinely make a fuel stop in China. If a stop were necessary in an emergency, provisions can be made to keep passengers in the terminal building. In case of long emergency stays, countries can and often do waive visa requirements in emergency situations, sometimes holding passports while passengers go to a hotel (see, for instance, the US rules authorizing waiver of the visa requirement in case of an "unforeseen emergency").

  • What are some example of "unforseen emergencies" wherein passengers are allowed to stay for long in the country without a visa?
    – Yap S.
    Sep 15, 2018 at 8:51
  • 1
    @Yap S. consider the case of a long flight that would get diverted to an alternate airport on a small island due to bad weather or a technical issue. Flight crew will usually reach their maximum allowed time, so a new crew needs to be flown in. This may take a little while, especially if there is persistent bad weather (think hurricane) at the base/main airports of the airline where they have the reserve crews. You might in such circumstances have to stay overnight, which often means getting you to a hotel. But such cases are rare, the flight will usually not depart at all.
    – jcaron
    Sep 15, 2018 at 9:31

Umm they stay on the airplane.


It depends on the flight and local procedures.

In general the passengers are disembarked (see it as a two connecting flights).

Sometime passengers could remain on the plane (but usually when most of people disembark. Refueling is considered a dangerous activity, so there are various special procedures and how many flight attendants should be ready (and where). On pilot should check from outside. In any case the airplane should be ready to evacuate. As far I know, because time constrain, it is not possible to have a refueling plane full of passengers.

  • 2
    I've been on a plane sitting at the gate when the pilot said we need to fly around some weather, which means we need to load more fuel. And they re-fueled the plane without letting us off.
    – Peter M
    Sep 17, 2018 at 22:59

You must log in to answer this question.

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