Hawwian flights


I have a question I hope someone can help me with. I am due to fly from PHX to HNL with my wife and daughter this July. However I am right in the middle of immigration processing so can not leave the USA. I have been told by my Lawyer that if the plane was diverted outside of the USA for some reason then I wouldnt easily get back in the country. The question I have is, if there was a reason to divert this plane, what is the likelihood of it being diverted outside of the USA. Does anyone have any experience of Hawaiian bound planes being diverted outside of the USA if so what country are they likely to go to. Any advise on this would be real helpful. Thank you . I am aware this is a domestic flight and not manypeople would be carrying passports.


While I can’t answer the question about your immigration status, there are no countries between the mainland and Hawaii, so I can’t imagine where a divert to another country would be plausible.

If something were to happened, I’d suspsect the pilot of the airplane will have to decide whether to do a 180 back to the mainland or proceed on to Hawaii.



It completely depends on what the city pair is for the ETP (equal time point).

For an overwater flight there will be a point in space where it requires the same time to continue or return. Assuming zero wind this would be the half way point but zero wind almost never exists. If you are going into a headwind your ETP will be beyond half way and if you are going with a tailwind yout ETP will be short of half way.

Normally there are three ETP points calculated. One for a perfect airplane, one for loss of an engine, and one for loss of pressurization.

The city pairs for ETP don’t have to be the same as the origin and destination. For a trip like yours where the origin is inland it would make no sense to have a problem just short of the ETP, turn around, then overfly all of So. Cal. enroute to KPHX to land.

Going between KPHX and PHNL my guess is the mainland ETP city would be in the US as it would not make sense to pick a city in Mexico since it would be further away than anything in So. Cal.

So there is a little info on the thought process of overwater flight but just remember, anything can happen.


Here’s a real UNscientific but sensible thought: If the diverting a/c can make it to land, it will either return to LAX (perhaps SAN or SFO) or continue to Hawaii. If the a/c must divert and cannot make it to one of these locations, I’d say the chances are pretty slim that it would make it to Cabo San Lucas (for example) or wherever else might technically be “closer.”


I’d also guess that since it isn’t a scheduled international flight, if they did have to divert to a foreign country, they wouldn’t even process you through immigration. Chances are, few people on the plane would have any kind of documentation (passport) for that type of thing. It would be like you were never “in” the country (hopefully :wink:). I doubt they would have you pass through immigration when you reentered the US.


I have also heard it called PONR. Point Of No Return. Once you pass that point you must press on.



I disagree. Nowadays, US Customs and Border Protection will take any chance they can to screen passengers that arrive from any foreign destination.

We have to clear US CBP when on a transfer in any US city, even if we do not leave the secure area in that airport. (Example: From Europe to Canada, via JFK)

Another post 9-11 security measure: I once took 2 back-to-back cruises, embarking and ending in Fort Lauderdale. On the 8 hour stopover between the 2 cruises, all passengers that took back-to-back cruises had to disembark, clear US CBP and reembark.

In the case we are discussing in this topic, who says no additional passenger (Or some substitution) took place in Cabo?
CBP really wants to know who is entering the US.
That’s what they call secure borders.


I hear you. And I’ll assume you have more experience with this than I do.

A retort…
So, how are all of these people traveling to Hawaii expected to be able to re-enter the US without passports? The assumption being, since it’s a domestic flight, many won’t be carrying them.

I don’t necessarily think your cruise analogy is the same. We’d be talking about a very unique circumstance of a flight being diverted and re-entering US territory. Not a cruise ship unloading at Port Everglades and you going on another cruise. Just my $0.02.


Uhhhh, if you went to Hawaii from the mainland you never left the US.
What I assume you really mean is how would someone fly from say Japan to Hawaii then on to the mainland. The answer is they clear customs in Hawaii. It would be no different if they flew from Japan to Los Angeles and then on to Chicago. They would clear in LA.


No, he’s speaking hypothetically if the a/c diverted to Mexico (or wherever) and the passengers had to return to the US without their passports, since they didn’t plan on leaving the country. If customs treats it as any other “international” flight, then the pax would need to provide passports, according to the new law and the point you made in your previous post.


Here is one to make you shiver in your boots for a second celticboy.

This recent Canadian, Maher Arar, was in transit from his previous home back to Canada by way of JFK. Though this does not really provide a specific answer to your question about a possible diversion to an airport outside of the US even though you are on a domestic US flight, this link may give you some insight into the powers that Customs and Imigration has when you are in a country even for a short period ( and only within an airport terminal ).

As for your Hawaii question, my best guess would be that if your flight did face a diversion, it would more than likely divert back to mainland or go on to Hawaii.



All of this reminds me of the movie “Terminal” with Tom Hanks. His home country was taken over by revolutionists and the US no longer recognised his passport, so he couldn’t step foot on US soil. He couldn’t go back because the airline wasn’t flying anymore. He had to stay in the international terminal until things could be worked out.


Thank you all for replying. I figured it would be unlikely though not impossible for the a/c to be diverted to another country. Looking at the geography, unless there is another little island I dont know about, then the only practical place to land in a diverted situation would be the USA. As everyone says there would be a plane full of US citizens mostly having no passport trying to get back in to the USA. I guess I was hoping that someone would say the rules for a domestic flight is that it cant leave the USA if there is a US airport available to land but thats probably just common sense. One last thing , does anyone have any experience or knowledge of a flight to or from the mainland to Hawii being diverted. And what airport was it diverted to . Thank You


What is more important to you, US citizenship or a trip to Hawaii?


That’s what I was thinking.


I’ve checked the flight tracks of several KPHX/PHNL (and PHNL/KPHX) flights and seen nothing that enters Mexican airspace. Entering Canadian airspace seems even more unlikely, given the distance that would take a flight off its great-circle route.

In any emergency within the first hour or so, the front-line diversion destinations would be KPHX, KLAX, or KSAN. Alternate destinations would be KLAS or KSAN, maybe KSFO.

Once the flight is over the Pacific, you get into the ETP/PONR calculations. The flight would come back to a California airport or go on to Hawaii, possibly diverting to an airport on the island of Hawaii before Honolulu if it had to. But that’s still in the U.S.

The real prospect of a diversion to a non-US airport is for Hawaii-blound flight originating in Chicago or the East Coast. Calgary could be just the place, especially for a medical emergency. Even so, except for anyone removed for medical purposes, I can’t imagine this flight being considered anything other than a domestic flight.


I don’t think any airline flights between the mainland and Hawaii would divert to Mexico or Canada because, with the exception of flights between SEA/PDX and Hawaii, they all fly between the mainland and Hawaii on one of the established airways between California and Hawaii. Even the flights from IAH and ATL go over Southern California or Northern California.

Additionally, I can’t see a domestic flight filing for an alternate in a foreign country. Even SEA, being close to YVR, would probably file YKM, PDX, or GEG as an alternate.


No arguments with you, dami, on flights from the west coast, IAH, or ATL or on alternate destination filings.

My hypothesis was for east coast flights (say, from BWI and further north) whose flight route could enter Canadian air space and might then have a severe medical emergency. If Calgary were the closest airport, they wouldn’t turn back to Chicago.

Admittedly, that’s a very unlikely event.


There is no little Island between here and Hawaii. Because Baja curves to the East as you move South, the closest airport for a Hawaii bound plane to divert back to is San Diego. I don’t know this to be fact, but when I was in the Air Force, I was told that when you are halfway between California and Hawaii, you are the farthest away from land that you can get on the planet. Once you pass Hawaii there are all kinds of little Islands. But there is nothing between California and Hawaii other than a few small islands off the California coast.


I fly the Hawaii to US mainland routes and have had to turn around and return. The shortest path between Hawaii and the West coast is SFO to Hilo. This is also the longest overwater route with no place to land of any commercial route. Therefore if you were out over the Pacific and something went wrong, you will either be going to Hilo, SFO (or bay area airport), or for a long swim!