Air France Flew 282 Passengers to Siberia Without Russian Visas or Winter Clothes

They say any flight you walk away from is a good flight. But out of flights that all passengers walked away from this one may have been the worst: Air France stranded 282 passengers for three days. In Siberia. Oh, and they had no Russian visas so required constant police monitoring.

Passengers on an Air France flight en route to Shanghai were left stranded in freezing Siberia for three days after their plane was forced to make an emergency landing and their replacement plane suffered a technical issue.

The flight from Paris to Shanghai was forced to land in the Siberian city of Irkutsk on Sunday after smoke and an “acrid” smell filled the cabin,

Flight AF116, operated by a Boeing 777 diverted on Saturday. It was 70% of the way to Shanghai at the time. The airline sent a replacement but it couldn’t make the journey back.

Here’s the worst part:

  • No one had the right clothes to be outside in Siberia.

  • There wasn’t much going outside anyway because without Russian Visas everyone had to remain under police surveillance.

Everyone was finally flown out of Siberia on Wednesday.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have friend in Irkutsk. Flying out there 20 years ago was a nightmare. And gangs of criminals were all over.

  2. You missed an opportunity to pimp the Priority Pass lounge(s?) at IKT and any credit cards that may offer such benefits.

  3. The flight was never planned to land in IKT, you think, an airline prepares visa for all nations a flight passes over ‘just in case’?
    Do you carry clothing for Greenland in case you have a transatlanic flight?
    Do you expect your airline to carry clothing for Greenland on a transatlantic flight? (a part from the emergency coats they have to carry anyhow).
    You could blame the airline, it took them so long to get the people on their way (with the firsts replacement having a tech issue) but not for the first plane ending up there (including the clothing and visa situation).

  4. Some great comments but ….this isn’t the first time something “like” this has happened. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines went through this same sort of problem back in 1985 🙂

  5. 100% agree with XIF. Why would a Russian visa or winter clothing even be thought of on this flight.

  6. I was in Irkutsk in March of 2017. Weather was not too cold and the city was lovely. There are a lot of nice restaurants in the downtown area and the parks and paths along the river were teeming with locals out for a seasonably nice winter day. Best part was spending the day on frozen Lake Baikal-we took hoverboats from land to the middle of the lake and went ice fishing, dog sledding and snow mobiling . It was a blast! Don’t knock Siberia until you’ve been there. BTW, I’m an American from Chicago with no Russian ties/family. 🙂 If Russia was smart, they should have offered to loan passengers appropriate outerwear and taken them on a local tour.

  7. “I have friend in Irkutsk. Flying out there 20 years ago was a nightmare. And gangs of criminals were all over.”

    I flew TransAero from Moscow to Irkutsk in 1997. It was a nice experience and Irkutsk was a wonderful walkable city… spent several days there before taking the Trans-Mongolian railway. One wonders what city you are talking about.

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