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US-bound passenger flight makes emergency landing in Russia

Air India flight

Air India flight

Nicolas Economou via Reuters Connect

An Air India flight heading to San Francisco was forced to land in Siberia, Russia, on Tuesday due to engine problems. US citizens aboard the flight were reportedly nervous, given the state of US-Russian relations amid the war in Ukraine.

The incident comes just days after United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby warned such a thing could happen. He noted that United refuses to take the risk that carriers from China and India take by flying over Russia. He was pointing out the possible risks of needing to make an unplanned landing in Russian territory, but Kirby was also highlighting the competitive advantage that airlines like Air India enjoy by taking to the skies over Russia, compared to their American competitors.

While some passengers complained about the makeshift accommodations they were provided on the ground in Russia, the airline said the support was the “best possible” given the unusual circumstances. Air India, for its part, is sending a retrieval plane that’s due to arrive in Russia on Thursday morning.

“Given the high amount of tension between the US and Russia and the detention of US nationals by Russian authorities,” says Alex Brideau, Eurasia Group’s lead Russia analyst, “the concern among US nationals on the flight is understandable. That said, Russia probably does not want to create a precedent that could be applied to Russian nationals abroad.”

Also, since India is an increasingly important economic partner to Russia, Brideau adds, Moscow will want to avoid creating a situation that would cause a problem for the Indian government.


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