BEIRUT

Middle East

Air France asks passengers for cash to fund Damascus refuel

PARIS: The crew of an Air France plane that was re-routed via Damascus Wednesday asked passengers how much cash they could stump up after Syrian authorities refused credit card payment to refuel the aircraft, the French airline said Thursday. Ultimately it managed to find an alternative arrangement, it said.

The plane was scheduled to arrive in Beirut late Wednesday but was diverted due to civil unrest in the Lebanese capital. Attempts were made to land in Amman, but it was forced to touch down in Syria due to lack of fuel.

Air France stopped its flights to Damascus in March as fighting in the country escalated, and relations between France and Syria have collapsed since Paris demanded that President Bashar Assad step down.

“Because of the terrible relations between the two countries and the situation in Syria, the passengers were really worried about landing there,” a friend of one of the passengers, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

On landing airport authorities said they could not accept a credit card payment and would only take cash, an Air France spokeswoman said.

“As a precaution and in anticipation, the crew asked how much money the passengers had in cash to pay to fill up with fuel,” the airline spokeswoman said.

She said the airline was eventually able to pay the bill without taking money from passengers, but she declined to say how it had paid or how much the fuel stop cost.

The plane, which had departed from Paris, took off two hours after landing in Damascus for an overnight stop in Cyprus. It arrived in Beirut at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The European Union has imposed a series on sanctions on Syria, including a ban on the Syrian national airline that will prevent the flag carrier landing at EU airports, although it will still be able to fly over EU countries and make emergency stops.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 17, 2012, on page 8.

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