Originally Posted by zagorsky
I just got curios as I read on Flightaware that an Aeroflot flight from Cuba to Russia, with a medical emergency, British Citizen, was denied permission to land in JFK and had to divert to YYZ. I understand SU, Cuba ( 4 or 5 years ago), but we are talking a human life: he was vomiting blood.
I think you are relying on incomplete or inaccurate information.
1. The ill passenger was not a British citizen, but rather a German citizen.
2. Although the aircraft did have an ill passenger aboard, the flight crew did not declare a medical emergency. (There is a difference between requesting to divert for medical assistance and declaring an emergency, medical in nature, requiring landing.)
3. Had an emergency been declared, the aircraft would have unquestionably been accommodated, either at JFK or a closer airport; such is required under international treaty. U.S. aircraft, for example, have regularly made emergency diversions to Cuba without incident. Besides, SU has regular operations at JFK. (At the point of diversion, JFK was not the closest suitable airfield).
4. There is no authoritative information to suggest that the flight was denied landing in the U.S. Although the flight crew announced that the flight was "not accepted" at JFK, it is not clear what that means. Perhaps JFK was not accepting any flight - WX, emergency on the ground - or was simply unable to arrange for quick medical care. Even in an ambulance, at the wrong time of day, one cannot get through traffic to a hospital.
Or it could simply have been that SU operations told its pilot that diversion to the US was not acceptable; perhaps out of concern about how long it would take US officials to process the crew, passengers, and cargo for departure once on the ground. This point is important. No doubt the flight had Cuban citizens aboard it. Under U.S. law any Cuban who lands in the United States, regardless of reason, has a right to remain in the U.S. It is entirely possible that SU – or even Russian government – did not want to anger the Cuban government by assisting in the defection of Cuban citizens. It is also likely that the flight had goods of Cuban origin aboard, in which case these may well have been confiscated and destroyed by US officials.
5. It is entirely likely that the flight changed its diversion to YYZ after the flight crew consulted with SU operations, and the two doctors aboard. Perhaps even the passenger indicated a preference for Canada owing to an irrational fear about the cost/speed of American medical treatment or the possible presence of family in Toronto.
6. Had landing clearance not been granted for political reasons, then surely the Russian press would have made hay of it; I don't think they even reported the incident.
Originally Posted by zagorsky
Anyway, what happens if any flight from anywhere in Europe must absolutely divert to USA? Do they clear Customs? I guess not if it is a refuel only. But the flight has to stay overnight, let' say BOS, and there is an Indian passport holder allowed to work in Britain. What happens?
Safety protocols require that prior to refueling, passengers must be deplaned from the aircraft (unless the aircraft is parked at a gate with an air bridge). The passengers would likely be kept in a secure area without needing to transit through immigration; however, they would be subject to U.S. laws and it is likely that TSA would do some spot screening, perhaps running through the area with dogs trained to detect drugs and explosives.
If an overnight stay is required, then passengers would have to pass through immigrations/customs. Those without the right to enter the US (e.g. needing, but not having, a visa) would be kept in a secure area by CBP, unable to enter the air terminal proper or leave the airport. The United States is no different than any other country in this regard. There are many stories of people lacking visas having to sleep in European airports. What is different is that U.S. airports do not have regular international transit lounges; secured areas would be rather barren – perhaps even jail like conditions at some US airports.