San Francisco-bound Air India plane forced to divert, lands in Russia

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An Air India plane flying from Delhi to San Francisco was forced to divert and land in Russia after it developed a technical issue with one of its engines, the airline said on Tuesday.

The 216 passengers onboard are being offered support on the ground and will be provided with alternative options to reach their destinations at the earliest opportunity, Air India said, adding the plane also carried a crew of 16.

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Russia’s aviation authority said it was checking on the plane’s technical condition after landing at Magadan airfield and was ready to give the airline permission to land a reserve aircraft after the incident.

The diversion of the Boeing 777 widebody aircraft comes a day after the chief of the world’s largest carrier raised safety concerns about airlines flying through Russian airspace with American citizens onboard.

“What’s going to happen if an airline lands in Russia with some prominent US citizens on board? That is a potential crisis in the making,” Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines said on Monday.

“I think we should solve it before the crisis happens.”

Russia has barred US airlines and other foreign carriers from using its airspace, in retaliation for Washington banning Russian flights over the US in March 2022 after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.

However, Air India and some Gulf-based, Chinese and African carriers continue to fly over Russia, making flying times shorter and American rivals uncompetitive.

In February, US senators urged the Biden administration to halt Chinese airlines and other non-American carriers from flying over Russia on US routes.

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