An Air India plane bound for San Francisco carrying 216 passengers and 16 crew members was diverted to a port town in Russia on Tuesday after it experienced engine problems.
Flight AI173 developed a mid-air malfunction and was then diverted “and landed safely at Magadan Airport in Russia,” according to a statement by the Tata Group-owned airline. The aircraft in question is a Boeing 777.
Magadan is a port town on the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia.
A relief plane will depart Mumbai at 1pm on Wednesday for Magadan to bring stranded Air India passengers to San Francisco, the statement said.
Russia’s aviation agency Rosaviatsiya said an Air India reserve plane was expected to land early Wednesday morning in Russia’s far east to pick up passengers, Reuters reported.
“The planned landing time is 6 a.m. Moscow time. [0300 GMT] on June 7,” Rosaviatsia announced on Telegram.
Meanwhile, the US State Department said it was “closely monitoring the situation”.
“We are aware of a flight to the United States that had to make an emergency landing in Russia and continue to monitor the situation closely,” said Deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.
“I cannot confirm how many American citizens were on the flight at this time,” he said, adding that “of course there is a possibility that there are American citizens on board.”
The airline said in the statement that there are no Air India employees in the remote town of Magadan or in Russia.
“Any ground assistance provided to passengers is to the best of our ability in this unusual situation through our 24-hour liaison relationship with the Consulate General of India in Vladivostok, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Government of India), local ground handlers, and Russian authorities.”
Videos on social media have emerged of temporary arrangements being made for passengers. Some said the passengers were accommodated in a school with minimal facilities.
A 16-year-old passenger stranded in Madagan told The Associated Press he was traveling on the flight with his uncle and brother.
He claimed the authorities forbade them from leaving the dormitory where they were staying in Magadan and said they could not use their credit cards because of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
An Air India spokesperson said in a statement: “Authorities are extending all cooperation in our efforts to ensure that passengers arrive at their destination safely as soon as possible.”