Air France has whip-around among passengers to pay for fuel after emergency stop in Syria
Published 17/08/2012 | 14:01
Passengers on an Air France flight were asked to 'chip in for fuel' after their plane was forced to land in the strife-torn Syrian capital Damascus.
The jet from Paris had been heading to Beirut, Lebanon, when fighting broke out on the main road to the airport on Wednesday night.
The captain first decided to divert to Amman in Jordan before realising he did not have enough fuel to get there.
So he requested emergency permission to land in Syria, where rebels are battling to overturn President Bashar Assad's tyrannical regime.
Once on the ground in Damascus, the crew told the 174 passengers they could not use the Air France company credit card to refuel the plane because of financial sanctions imposed on Syria by the west.
They then asked the mainly French and Lebanese travellers how much cash they were carrying to pay for the thousands of litres of kerosene needed to reach Larnaca in Cyprus - the nearest safe airport.
A 42-year-old passenger named Najib said: "We went down in Syria where there were lots of soldiers looking very threatening.
"We were then told there were some problems and that there was no money to pay for the fuel.
"They asked if the passengers could contribute for the refueling which could only be paid for in cash."
But the Lebanese businessman added: "As people were rummaging through their handbags and wallets, we were told a solution had been found to the problem."
A 23-year-old engineer called Roland told France's AFP news agency later: "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."
An Air France spokesman later confirmed to AFP that the passengers had been asked for money after in landed in Damascus on Wednesday.
He added: "The crew at first offered to pay for the fuel in Damascus with a credit card but the transaction was impossible because of financial sanctions.
"As a precaution and in anticipation, the crew asked how much money the passengers had in cash to pay to fill up with fuel.
"However a solution was finally found to fill up the plane without borrowing cash from the passengers and the plane took off for Larnaca two hours later."
The plane flew on to Beirut the following day, he said.
In December last year, passengers on board a flight with Austrian airline Comtel Air were asked to pay for fuel during a stop in Vienna after the carrier ran out of cash.