Here is a thought experiment... Assume one wants to go from the EU to Japan. There will of course be different carriers (and paths) available to choose from, and usually there will be a stopover in the carrier's home country: If you go by, for example, Air China, the journey will likely be a 2-leg with stopover at PEK. Similarly, Aeroflot has a stop at DMO/SVO.

Now, visa-less transit at the airports is permitted provided there is a dedicated international transit area. Suppose that the flight gets, for whatever circumstances, redirected to an airport that has no such transit channel (inspired by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Russia#Direct_airside_transit ). That is likely not going to be a situation one wants to be in.

tl;dr; Is it something one should take into consideration that flight paths that do not include a stopover in a country that is generally not visa-free (for the particular person)?

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    Welcome to the site! Bear in mind that as per our help center, subjective questions like "should I" are likely to get closed. I strongly encourage you to reword the question to indicate what it is you want to know, rather than just soliciting opinion. Thanks! – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Jul 1 '13 at 3:48
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    I've heard of planes being diverted so that someone wanted by the USA would be in their jurisdiction, but I assume you aren't facing that scenario. – Andrew Grimm Jul 1 '13 at 20:54

TL;DR: I wouldn't worry about it, and would place this slightly below availability of complimentary hand moisturizer in economy class bathrooms on my list of priorities when choosing an airline.

Airlines hate to divert planes anywhere, since it royally messes up their schedules and causes all sorts of knock-on effects. When they do have to do this due to terrible weather, medical incidents or whatever, pilots usually choose large airports with good amenities so they can refuel, offload sick passengers to a waiting ambulance, etc, and it's those same airports that usually have transit lounges as well. Not that it really matters: unless there's something wrong with the plane itself, passengers typically stay on board and terminal amenities are irrelevant.

And since the plural of anecdote is data, here are the five times I've ended up diverted in my 1 million plus miles of flying:

  • LGW-TLV, diverted to LCA to refuel because of strong headwinds. Passengers not allowed off, took off again about an hour later.
  • AUH-SIN, diverted to BOM due to sick passenger. Sick pax offloaded, rest stayed on plane, took off again about an hour later.
  • SIN-KUL, diverted to PEN because of terrible thunderstorm at KUL. Passengers were allowed into terminal for about an hour before we tried again.
  • SIN-CGK, diverted back to SIN because of engine problems. Passengers released into gate area while a new plane was prepped, took off about an hour later.
  • IAH-MEX, diverted to VER because of hailstorm at MEX. Passengers not allowed off, took off again about an hour later.

And if the volcanic eruption/terrorist outrage/Godzilla rampage really hits the fan and everything is jammed up for days on end, usually airport authorities make exceptions and grant temporary visas to those that need them. But even the absolute worst scenario is being cordoned off in a gate area for a while; you're not going to be charged with illegal immigration or something just because your flight was diverted.

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    I'd just add the situation of September 11 when a whole bunch of flights were diverted to Canada from Europe and Asia – Karlson Jul 1 '13 at 11:38
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    Additionally, an airline based outside Russia might still need to divert to a Russian airport if enroute trouble develops while you're flying over that country. – Henning Makholm Sep 23 '18 at 23:49

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