It sometimes happens that because loss of radio communication or because wrong frequency tuned in during ATC handover etc... a country has to send fighters to intercept an aircraft in its airspace. If such happens, does the airline have to pay a fine (presumably this would/should cover the expenses of the dispatched fighters)? What happens with the pilots who make this mistake?

Let's assume a European country, member of NATO and a commercial flight.

EDIT - 2018-12-17

It looks my country (Hungary) will be the first in the EU which will charge airines (actually based on the Hungarian Official Gazette they can charge anyone not just commercial flights) in this case. The amount itself is not defined, the Aviation Authority will be responsible for determining it (of course along with the military counterparty). Link for the Hungarian Official Gazette - in Hungarian

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    $\begingroup$ I’m not aware of any nations that do. I’d have to say that’s getting pretty stingy on the part of a government to start charging for emergency services or other public goods outside of conventional taxes $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2019 at 11:15

2 Answers 2


Probably not very likely. In 1978 Soviet Union asked US\$100,000 (\$375,200 today) for "caretaking passengers" after their interceptors forced to land KAL 902 on the frozen lake (has never been paid). However firing the two R-60 missiles from interceptors into the airliner was for free.

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    $\begingroup$ Given that Korean Airlines is flying to Russian Federation cities on a regular basis, it's more likely that the Russian government rescinded that fee. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 13:18

The answer depends entirely on the country the aircraft is overflying when an intercept is ordered or requested. I can't imagine payment being demanded by an EU country if the intercept is performed due to a bonafide emergency, or simply out of an excess of caution. However, I know of countries where airport staff will deliberately leave airport runway lights on during the day just to be able to send a bill to the aircraft owner for the service.

That said, I can envision an airline being asked to pay the costs if the situation takes place as a result of pilot incompetence or something similar.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand this answer. Charge what aircraft owner? If they leave lights on all day and have 100 takeoffs during that time, who pays for these lights? Also, if you say they would indeed receive an invoice, please provide a reference? $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Jul 26, 2018 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ Pretty much all aircraft except ultralights are required to display registration numbers. In the country's registry, that tells you who is the registered owner. The owners are charged for whatever services they consume, such as overlight fees, landing fees, etc. The Federal Aviation Administration manages the overflight fees charged to aircraft who overfly the US but neither land nor take off in the country. The system is explained here: faa.gov/air_traffic/international_aviation/overflight_fees. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud: All 100 of them, of course. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenSprunk is right. In some third world countries they'll leave the runway lights on to charge unsuspecting aircraft owners for the service -- in full daylight. They won't turn them off until you yell at them 3 times and threaten to storm the tower yourself and turn them off. LOL! :) $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2018 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ In many developing countries, govt fees are not for cost recovery or to discourage undesirable behavior; gouging foreigners (for as much and as often as possible) is a critical sector of their economy--whether it actually ends up in the treasury or just the collector's pockets. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Dec 18, 2018 at 19:37

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