Facing engine issues, an Air India plane diverted its Delhi-to-San-Francisco flight to make an emergency landing in Russia’s far east. A replacement plane flew all passengers safely to the United States on Thursday, Air India said.
The original plane, a Boeing 777, took off from New Delhi carrying 216 passengers and 16 crew members on Tuesday.
When the plane’s instruments indicated low oil pressure in one engine, the pilots decided to land the aircraft “out of caution” at a nearby airport rather than continue the journey, the airline said in a statement.
Flight AI173 landed at the nearest airport, Sokol Airport in Magadan, a small city of barely 96,000 people in the far eastern region of Siberia, near the Sea of Okhotsk.
“Given the infrastructural limitations around the remote airport, we can confirm that all passengers were eventually moved to a makeshift accommodation, after making sincere attempts to accommodate passengers in hotels locally with the help of local government authorities,” the airline said, thanking the Indian consulate, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and Russian authorities for their round-the-clock cooperation.
On Wednesday, Air India announced a replacement plane was en route to pick up the stranded passengers.
“The ferry flight is carrying essentials in addition to sufficient amount of food to cater to all passengers on the onward flight,” the airliner company said.
The replacement plane took off from Magadan, Russia, at 10:27 a.m. local time Thursday and arrived in San Francisco at 12:07 a.m. local time, the airline said on Twitter.
The airline said it would fully refund passengers’ fares and provide them with vouchers for future travel on Air India.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said fewer than 50 American citizens were on the plane and the department was not aware of any of them reaching out to the U.S. Embassy in Russia or other diplomatic posts.
Passenger Girvaan Singh Kahma, 16, who was traveling with his uncle and brother, said they were barred from leaving the hostel in Magadan and were unable to use their credit cards because of sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“The first day and a half was really hard for all of us,” he said. “The weather went to 3° to 4° C in the morning (about 38° F), and in the night it was bitter cold,” he said, adding that things were better when they got food and a place to sleep.
“The Russian soldiers, the Russian police, the authorities, everyone working in the hostel has been treating us extremely well,” he said.