Friday, 14 May, 2021

The interminable Siberian stopover of passengers on Air France flight AF116


Instead of the warmth of Shanghai, the biting cold of Irkutsk: two days after the emergency landing in Siberia of an Air France Boeing, fate seems to be hitting its passengers, still stranded Tuesday after the failure of a second device to pick them up.

The interminable Siberian stopover of passengers on Air France flight AF116

Instead of the warmth of Shanghai, the biting cold of Irkutsk: two days after the emergency landing in Siberia of an Air France Boeing, fate seems to be hitting its passengers, still stranded Tuesday after the failure of a second device to pick them up.

Leaving Paris for Shanghai on Saturday, the 282 passengers and crew of flight AF116 saw a pungent odor and light smoke appear during the flight on board their Boeing-777, which had to land urgently in Irkutsk on Sunday. , a town of 600,000 inhabitants next to Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia.

After this incident, which did not cause any injuries, a second Air France aircraft landed on the spot on Monday. Supposed to leave a few hours later for China, it also experienced a technical problem and could not take off.

According to a source at Irkutsk airport, interviewed by the Russian agency Ria Novosti, a failure of the hydraulic system of this second device would be involved. Air France therefore had to resolve to resort to a third Boeing in Siberia.

Send a third plane

“Air France has made the decision to send us a third plane,” said Evguéni Elovski, director of the controllers service at Irkutsk airport, quoted by the Russian press agency TASS.

The plane is scheduled to land on Wednesday morning at 4:00 a.m. local time (8:00 p.m. GMT Tuesday), then depart for Shanghai at 8:00 a.m. (00:00 GMT).

According to a passenger joined by AFP, the travelers were stuck for several hours in their seats during the night from Monday to Tuesday before the Russian authorities allowed them to go down to their hotel.

“We don’t know when we will be able to leave. We hope for tomorrow morning (Wednesday) ”, said this passenger joined by phone.

Contacted by AFP, Air France confirmed that the third aircraft and the passengers of flight AF116 are expected Wednesday in Shanghai, almost three days after their original arrival date scheduled for Sunday at 5.45 p.m. (9.45 a.m. GMT).

Russian hotel, cold and cuisine

“We were well received and accommodated in good hotels. But we must recognize that after this second failed take-off, we are disappointed, ”said a French passenger to the Russian tabloid Komsomolskai Pravda.

According to her, there was no moment of panic on the first landing.

Images released by the popular daily’s website show passengers returning to their hotel and getting off the bus, some wearing light shoes on snow-covered sidewalks. Despite the sunny weather, the newspaper states that the temperature has dropped to -15 ° C in recent days in Irkutsk.

“We try to give them the best of Russian food,” said Tatiana Leontieva, one of the chief cooks of a hotel where passengers are welcomed, adding that some of them really liked “the borscht and the Russian meatballs ”.

The Russian authorities specified that the passengers were accommodated under the supervision of the customs services, because they do not have visas.

Chinese passengers also testified to their long wait on the Weibo social network. “We were supposed to board at 2:00 am. I am still sitting on the plane. They say there is a problem with the coolant, ”wrote one in a message broadcast at 7:00 a.m. Chinese time (00:00 GMT).

(with AFP)

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