Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. In a few moments we’ll be landing in the violence-struck city of Damascus because we’re running out of fuel. Our credit card is no-good here so please look deep into your pockets and take out any cash you might have. Fasten your seat-belts and thanks again for flying with us.
Ok! That is not quite how it happened but that’s pretty much it.
Passengers of flight AF562 from Paris to Beirut had to face an emergency layover in Syria’s capital (where an armed conflict is actually going on between rebel forces and those loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad) due to a mysterious lack of fuel. To make things even more distasteful for the startled passengers, the crew asked them to open their wallets to chip-in, as they needed to pay for the fuel in cash.
Air France officials have confirmed these reports but have deemed the unscheduled layover as a “precautionary measure” because of the “very unusual circumstances”.
We could see through the window a lot of haggling going on because Air France’s fuel account with Damascus had been cancelled after they stopped flying in March. Because of the terrible relations between France and Syria, a lot of the passengers were very worried about landing there: passenger identified as Roland.
The pilot asked first class passengers to give him cash, as apparently Damascus airport authorities had refused to give fuel to the plane. Everyone started rooting around for money and managed to raise 17,000 dollars (£11,000). But in the end the pilot took nothing, telling us that Air France had resolved the problem with the airport. Then they told us to take off our seat belts as there was a risk the plane could catch fire during refuelling and that we should run if told to: passenger May Bsat.
For the AF562 flight, Air France normally uses an Airbus A330-200, a twin-engine wide-body which according to manufacturer has a capacity of 253 passengers in a 3-class configuration and a range of 13,400 kilometres.
I reckon this might as well have been the worst flight in history for quite some people.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the A330-200 has a fuel capacity of 193,090 litres, yes! More than enough to go from Paris to Beirut non-stop.
August 17th, 2012.