“Russia” is becoming a dreaded word for Air France. After an airplane was forced to divert and left 300 passengers stranded in Siberia, the French carrier sent a replacement aircraft only to see it also get stuck due to the harsh weather conditions. Will the third time be a charm?

An Air France Boeing 777-300, registration F-GSQC, was performing flight AF-116  from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in France, to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) in China on November 10, 2018. When the flight attendants reported a smell of smoke in the crew resting area, the plane was diverted to the nearest airport, Irkutsk International Airport (IKT) where the plane and 300 people on board have been stuck ever since.

Russian police escorted  282 passengers and 16 crew to a hotel, as they did not have proper visas. According to complaints on social media, passengers were not given access to their luggage, and their passports were seized by the authorities.

“I am a "survivor" of AF0116 flight, stuck in Irkutsk.... we are dirty, we smell bad, it's now more than 30h that we are under surveillance without suitcase or passport. Air France, where are you?”

A second Air France Boeing 777-300, registered F-GSQB, was sent to Irkutsk as a replacement on November 11, 2018. However, upon arrival the hydraulic system of the second plane froze and was unable to take off. Passengers were stuck on their seats for several hours through the night between November 12 and 13, before the Russian authorities allowed them to disembark from the replacement plane to go back to the hotel.

At the moment this article was written, on November 13, 2018, the third plane, another Air France Boeing 777-328, registered F-GZNE, just took off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and will hopefully be able to take the stranded passengers to their final destination.

This month has been quite unlucky for Air France regarding Russia. Indeed on November 2, 2018, a Boeing 777 of the French flag carrier on its way to Ho Chi Minh City International Airport (SGN), Vietnam, was approaching Russian airspace when it was denied access, forcing the plane to turn back and return to Paris.

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Air France flight AF258 experienced an extremely rare incident on November 1, 2018. As the carrier’s Boeing 777 was approaching Russian airspace, it was denied access, forcing the plane to turn back and return to Paris.
 

EDIT – 14/11/2018: The third airplane was the charm! According to data collected by flightradar24, the Air France Boeing 777-328, registered F-GZNE, landed in Irkutsk International Airport (IKT) on November 14, 2018, at 5:33am (UTC +8), and took off four hours later to finally land in Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), in China, at 1:03pm (UTC +8), four days after leaving Paris.