Saturday, August 18, 2012

Air France asks passengers to pony up for fuel

The headline does not refer to a fuel surcharge with which most air travelers are at least passingly familiar. No, this time, Air France almost literally "passed the hat," asking passengers for cash to pay for fuel.
Granted, the circumstances were extraordinary.

To make a long story short, Air France flight 562 from Paris to Beirut was forced to divert because fighting in the ongoing civil war spilled into the area near the airport, making it too dangerous land.

The crew would have preferred to divert to Amman, Jordan, but lacked the fuel to get there safely, so the flight landed in Damascus, Syria, instead; a bit like going from the frying pan into the fire but at the time, it was the best option.

Enter politics.

France pulled its ambassador from Damascus in March and France has been among the Syrian regime's most vocal critics. As recently as Friday, Aug. 17, the French foreign minister was harshly critical of Syrian rules, saying "The Syrian regime should be smashed fast," according to the New York Times.

Also in March, Air France suspended flights into Damascus in March because of the fighting.

So that meant the airline no longer had personnel on the ground, France no longer had diplomatic relations with Syria, and the Air France Boeing 777 no longer had enough fuel to get ... anywhere, really.

And the airport does not accept credit cards.

According to published reports, the pilot asked the first class passengers to come up with cash so they could get enough fuel to move on. They reportedly managed to come up with €17,000. And remember, that's just what they had in their wallets and purses!

In the end, the airline was able to work out a deal with the airport -- thought it isn't saying how they worked things out -- and the passengers' money was returned to them.

Read more from The New York Times.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
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