Air France: Out of gas? Ask passengers to pitch in

-AFP Photo

PARIS:An emergency layover in Syria's capital was bad enough. Then passengers on Air France Flight 562 were asked to open their wallets to check if they had enough cash to pay for more fuel.           

The plane, heading from Paris to Lebanon's capital, diverted amid tensions near the Beirut airport on Wednesday. Low on fuel, it instead landed in Damascus, the capital of neighboring Syria, where a civil war is raging.

An Air France spokesman explained Friday that the crew inquired about passenger cash only as a ''precautionary measure'' because of the ''very unusual circumstances.'' Sanctions against Syria complicated payment for extra fuel.

He said Air France found a way to pay for the fill-up without tapping customer pockets, and apologized for the inconvenience. He wouldn't say how the airline paid, or how much.

One woman aboard said the passengers had rounded up 17,000 euros.

'The pilot asked the passengers in first class to get their cash together.

Everyone started to collect money, and they managed to collect 17,000, but the pilot in the end didn't take anything. They resolved the problems with the Damascus airport,'' said a passenger speaking on France-Info radio identified as May Bsat.

The Boeing 777, carrying 185 people, took off for an overnight layover in Cyprus then landed safely in Beirut on Thursday.

Lebanon is a volatile mix of pro- and anti-Syrian factions, and a series of hostage-takings has raised worries about Lebanon being dragged deeper into Syria's unrest.

Mobs supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad blocked the main airport highway in Beirut on Wednesday, before Lebanese military units moved in.

The layover was awkward for Air France, the flagship carrier for a country whose government toes a hard line against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and warns all its citizens to avoid or leave Syrian soil.

France, which once ruled Syria and Lebanon, championed European Union-wide economic sanctions on Syria, including its national airline, Syria Air. Air France operated regular flights to Damascus until suspending them amid violence earlier this year.

While it was the first time Air France said it had resorted to a request for passenger cash, it wasn't the first airline to do so.

Hundreds of passengers traveling from India to Britain were stranded for six hours in Vienna last year when their Comtel Air flight stopped for fuel, and the charter service asked them to kick in more than 20,000 pounds ($31,000) to fund the rest of the flight to Birmingham, England.

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Comments (22) Closed

Whatsin A Name
Aug 18, 2012 02:55pm
Unlike PIA who asks the entire nation to pitch in. :)
Faraz Khan
Aug 18, 2012 02:45pm
I think this will happen to PIA quite frequently in the future, if its not happening already. LOL
bob ng
Aug 18, 2012 02:51pm
could this be corrupted pilot or crew members trying to pull a fast,
Faraz Khan
Aug 19, 2012 10:57pm
@Amer And you are from the Wright brothers lineage LOL, I am surprised you did not say that PIA also invented the planes.Faraz Khan
amer mustafa
Aug 19, 2012 08:30am
Faraz Khan, u know nothing. Please read about aviation and its history and then dare to write here. PIA is the airline which trained and built emirates, saudia and qatar like airlines.
amer mustafaa
Aug 19, 2012 08:32am
if you have problem with that dont fly in them.
Aug 18, 2012 02:07pm
Next time keep cash in wallet when travelling with Air France.
Aug 18, 2012 12:58pm
I know this is a serious matter but I could not help LOL
Aug 19, 2012 06:48pm
Nadeem Ayub
Aug 19, 2012 09:11am I always avoid PIA if I can
Nadeem Ayub
Aug 19, 2012 09:09am
Its Zardari who has run the airline dry
Aug 19, 2012 01:10pm
Aug 19, 2012 12:26pm
we should refrain from pointing fingers on our country or it's institutions, we should not forget this reflects us in the world. No doubt PIA gave all means of support to emerging airlines in middle east and I witnessed plane of PIA on top of all the planes at Muscat Int airport's business calss lounge. We have to step up for our country and be part of it in good and bad times. Sitting around commenting bad about it makes the situation worst.
Faraz Khan
Aug 18, 2012 07:41pm
PIA thinks Airbus planes are same as city buses, half price for travelling standing. LOL
Aug 18, 2012 09:28pm
is media who show all the bad thing happening in pakistan you know it all over world ,what happening in pakistan it's happning all over world,but we think it only happen in PAKISTAN.
Aug 19, 2012 01:28am
Is there a zardari in air france as well
Nadeem Ayub
Aug 19, 2012 09:08am
Its so sad to see comments, except about Zardari. Whilst I am not a fan of Air France when they placed me in Economy, even though I had a business class ticket (an d I got no refund for the difference); but they main reason why passangers were asked to chip in was because of Syrian Sanctions
Talat Hamdany
Aug 20, 2012 08:56am
Forget PIA it's a white elephant. Look at the railways where passengers had to hijack an oil tanker on GT road for fuel for the engine of the train. Trains can't leave on time for lack of fuel. Give who a break?
Aug 20, 2012 03:51pm
Heights of foolishness!!! Come down and live in reality.
Aug 20, 2012 07:17pm
PIA was a great airline until the free riders (government/Establishment/PIA) sucked it dry!
Jameel ur RAsheed
Aug 20, 2012 09:40pm
One can use, nowadays available, water kits for planes!
Aug 21, 2012 08:30am
Now what has PIA go to do with this??