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Photo: Irkutsk International Airport

Air France passengers stuck in icy Siberia

After an emergency landing, passengers and crew were marooned in Irkutsk for three days with no passports, no luggage.

Instead of roaming between the awe-inspiring skyscrapers of Shanghai, passengers on an Air France flight from Paris were kept isolated in a Siberian hotel for a full three days, the Moscow Times reports.

The legendary Siberian snow and ice greeted the Paris-Shanghai flight when it was forced into an emergency landing in Irkutsk on Sunday due to a smell of smoke in the crew resting area.

The Boeing 777-300 with 282 passengers and 16 crew on board was diverted to the nearest airport, Irkutsk International Airport.

The plane landed safely but the passengers were stuck in their seats for several hours through the night, before Russian police were brought in to escort them to a hotel as they lacked Russian visas.

Their passports were seized by the authorities and they were not given access to their luggage, according to a deluge of complaints on social media.

A replacement plane arrived the next day but could not take off due to technical difficulties – the hydraulic system froze.

“I am a survivor”
Banned from leaving the hotel premises, their clothing inadequate for Siberian temperatures, with even cigarette breaks unbearable for more than a couple of minutes, the passengers awaited a third Air France plane.

“I am a ‘survivor’ of AF0116 flight, stuck in Irkutsk. […] We are dirty, we smell bad, it’s now more than 30h that we are under surveillance without suitcase or passport. Air France, where are you?”

Temperatures plunged to -18C. However, the passengers were permitted to visit a pub and friendly locals gave them gifts to keep their spirits up.

Finally, it was third time lucky as plane number three arrived three days after the initial landing, departing this Wednesday morning, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Air France has already had problems with Russia this month. On November 2, another Boeing 777 on its way to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam was abruptly denied access to Russian airspace, forcing it to return to Paris.

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