Experts explain why getting Air India passengers stranded in Russia back home might not be easy

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Here's why getting passengers stuck in Russia back might not be easy
Experts explain why getting Air India passengers stranded in Russia back home might not be that easy.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tense moments in Russia on Tuesday. An Air India flight, which was scheduled to fly to SFO, had to make an emergency landing in Siberia after experiencing engine problems.

"Diversions are rare to begin with. Let alone diversions to a foreign country. So very unusual situation here," said Clint Henderson.

RELATED: Air India flight bound for San Francisco diverted to Russia over technical issue

Henderson works for international travel website, The Points Guy.

He says the plane took off from Delhi and was meant to fly over Russia and the Arctic before landing in San Francisco.

Map shows what likely happened instead - the plane landing Magadan.

"The State Department warns it's not safe for Americans to go to Russia. So, I would be concerned if I was on that plane," Henderson said.

Another concern - the remoteness of where the passengers are stranded.

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"Ideally you would be at a hotel. There would be enough hotel rooms for passengers to get off the flight. In this case, it looks like a basketball court was converted into a makeshift sleeping quarters for the passengers," Henderson said.

Unlike Western countries, India has remained a neutral stance throughout the war in Ukraine.

A fact that will probably ensure that everyone on board, including any Americans, will be allowed to safely return home, says Steve Fish, a political scientist professor at U.C. Berkeley.

"At the same time, we're dealing here with Putin, who has not been known recently for taking any kind of sane policies," Fish said.

Fish says Russia will probably not want to disrupt its relatively good relations with India over this incident - especially given the international attention it's receiving.

"I'm sure that American officials, as well as Indian officials, are keeping a very close eye on this," said Fish.

Air India says it's working to get the stranded passengers to San Francisco as soon as possible.

But Henderson says given the border restrictions currently in place on Russia, it might not be that simple.

"It technically would not be allowed to continue on to the United States. So are those passengers going to have to go back to India and then try to book another flight? So, it gets really complicated," he said.

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