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San Francisco-Bound Passengers Forced to Sleep On School Floor in Remote Russian Town After Plane Suffers Engine Problems

San Francisco-Bound Passengers Forced to Sleep On School Floor in Remote Russian Town After Plane Suffers Engine Problems

The passengers and crew who were onboard a San Francisco-bound Air India that ended up diverting to a remote Russian town in Magadan Oblast on Tuesday were forced to spend the night sleeping on the floor of a local school after attempts to secure hotel accommodation failed.

Air India flight AI-173 departed Delhi on Tuesday morning but was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Magadan after the 13-year-old Boeing 777-200 suffered a technical issue with one of its two GE90 engines.

In a statement, Air India said it had made “sincere” attempts to put the 216 passengers and 16 crew members up in hotels, but there was very limited availability in the town, which is most famous for its links to the Russian Gulag system during the Stalin regime.

“Given the infrastructural limitation around the remote airport, we can confirm that all passengers were eventually moved to a makeshift accommodation,” a spokesperson said after photos of the passengers squashed together on mattresses of the school floor were shared on social media.

The airline said it had been working with the Indian consulate general in Vladivostok as it didn’t have any local Air India staff in the region.

“All ground support being provided to the passengers is the best possible in this unusual circumstance,” the spokesperson added.

A ferry flight was expected to depart on Wednesday afternoon to pick up the stranded passengers and crew, although the airline warned that this was subject to the “necessary regulatory clearances”.

The aircraft departed Mumbai bound for Russia at around 3:30 pm, operating as flight AI-195.

“All of us at Air India are concerned about the passengers and staff, and we are making every effort possible to operate the ferry flight as soon as possible and to ensure the health, safety and security of all while they wait”.

The impromptu landing of a U.S.-bound flight in Russian territory came just a day after United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby criticised the likes of Air India for overflying Russia amidst the war in Ukraine.

Kirby warned that an unscheduled stopover in Russia could put U.S. citizens at risk, especially prominent celebrities or politicians who could be targeted by the Russian authorities.

Air India has refused to disclose information about the passengers onboard AI-173.

Along with the logistical challenge of getting the passengers and crew out of Magadan, Air India will also have to work out how it will recover the stranded Boeing 777 owing to Western sanctions that prevent spare aircraft parts from being imported into Russia.

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