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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Air France passengers spend three days stranded in freezing Siberian town

The AF116 flight from Paris to Shanghai was diverted to Irkutsk after smoke was detected on board

Air France has apologised to customers left stranded in a Siberian town for three days. EPA
Air France has apologised to customers left stranded in a Siberian town for three days. EPA

Air France passengers travelling from Paris to Shanghai spent three days in a freezing Siberian town after the plane they were travelling on and the replacement aircraft sent to rescue them both experienced technical problems.

More than 250 passengers boarded flight AF116 in Paris on Saturday evening, expecting to arrive in Shanghai 11 hours later as scheduled.

But the Boeing 777 plane had to be diverted to the remote town of Irkutsk in Russia after smoke was detected on board. The flight made an emergency landing but no one on board was hurt.

In an area where overnight temperatures in November average -12°C, one passenger by the name of Dante reported that Air France had put them up in a hotel for one night without hot water and without their luggage.

“Bad experience with @airfrance flight stopped in Irkutsk (russia) because of a technical issue and staying 1 night in a bad hotel... (no lugage, no diner, no hot water in the shower) #nothappy #indemnité,” he wrote on Twitter.

However, things were about to get much worse for Dante as the relief B777 aircraft Air France sent to Siberia to pick up the passengers broke down on arrival, leaving the airline no choice but to send a third B777 to Irkutsk.

Without Russian visas, the stranded passengers were unable to leave the hotel premises and were accompanied by police until the third plane arrived, the Moscow Times reported.

This aircraft proved to be third time lucky and passengers arrived safely in Shanghai on Wednesday at 12.45pm local time, three days later than expected.

The French national carrier said it had contacted customers affected “to propose suitable commercial measures”.

“Air France regrets this exceptional situation and wishes to apologize to customers for the inconvenience and significant delay experienced. The safety of its customers and crews is Air France’s absolute priority,” the airline said in a statement.

Earlier this month, British Airways passengers flying from Orlando to London Gatwick were delayed by 77 hours after two of the carrier's aircraft were affected by technical faults.

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