Air France crew asks passengers for fuel cash on emergency landing in Damascus
Reuters in Paris
The crew of an Air France plane that was rerouted via Damascus this week asked passengers how much cash they could stump up after Syrian authorities refused credit card payment to refuel the aircraft, the French airline said.
Ultimately, it found an alternative arrangement, it said.
The plane that was headed for Beirut on Wednesday night was diverted due to civil unrest in the Lebanese capital and sought to go to Amman, but was forced to land in Syria due to lack of fuel.
Air France stopped flights to Damascus in March as fighting in the country escalated, and relations between France and Syria have collapsed since Paris demanded that President Bashar al-Assad resign.
"Because of the terrible relations between the two countries and the situation in Syria, the passengers were really worried about landing there," said a friend of one passenger, who asked not to be identified.
On landing, the local airport authorities said they could not accept a credit card payment and would only take cash, an Air France spokeswoman said on Thursday.
"As a precaution and in anticipation, the crew asked how much money the passengers had in cash to pay to fill up with fuel," she said.
She said the airline was able to pay without taking money from passengers, but declined to say how it had paid or how much the fuel stop cost.
The plane, which had departed from Paris, took off two hours after landing in Damascus for an overnight stop in Cyprus. It was due in Beirut on Thursday evening.
The European Union has imposed a series on sanctions on Syria, including a ban on the national airline that will prevent the flag carrier landing at EU airports, although it will be able to fly over EU countries and make emergency stops.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Beirut on Thursday, as part of a three-day trip to the region to garner support ahead of a meeting on Syria in August at the United Nations. France currently chairs the UN Security Council.