Air India flight AI173, which has been stranded in Russia for more than 36 hours, finally takes off for San Francisco

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Based on a statement released by Air India on Thursday, the replacement flight, which was carrying all of the crew and passengers, took off from Russia’s Magadan for San Francisco.

The airline confirmed in a tweet that the replacement flight would arrive land in San Francisco at 12:15 a.m. PDT (07:15 a.m. GMT) on Thursday.

The replacement aircraft had left Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon to ferry the stranded passengers and crew members to San Francisco, where their flights had been scheduled to arrive. The Boeing 777, which was operating Tuesday’s AI173 from Delhi to San Francisco, had to make a diversion to the remote Russian town due to issues with one of its engines. At 6.14 a.m. local time, the replacement plane landed land in Magadan before departing for San Francisco four hours later.

Air India has mobilized additional on-ground support at SFO to carry out the clearance formalities for all passengers upon arrival. The team at SFO is prepared to provide all necessary assistance to the passengers, including but not limited to medical care, ground transportation, and onward connections in applicable cases,” the Tata Group airline said had said in an early morning statement on Thursday.

Airline Faces Criticism as Passengers Stranded in Magadan Resort to Makeshift Accommodation

On Wednesday morning, the airline confirmed that all passengers were being housed in a makeshift accommodation in Magadan “after making sincere attempts to accommodate passengers in hotels locally with the help of local government authorities” given the infrastructural limitations around the remote airport.

This came after videos of the stranded passengers being put up at what appeared to be a nearby school appeared on social media. Videos of stranded passengers pleading with the airline for help getting to San Francisco have also surfaced.

“As we do not have any Air India staff based in the remote town of Magadan or Russia, all ground support being provided to the passengers is the best possible in this unusual circumstance through our round-the-clock liaison with the Consulate General of India in Vladivostok, Ministry of External Affairs (Government of India), local ground handlers, and the Russian authorities,” the airline had said on Wednesday morning. 

According to sources within the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Jyotiraditya Scindia, the minister responsible for civil aviation, was closely watching the situation and in constant touch with Air India.

Given its contentious relationship with Russia and the reality that US citizens were among the stranded passengers, the US was also closely watching the situation. Less than 50 US citizens were among the passengers, US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel told journalists in Washington.

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