Air France: Passing the Hat

Passengers asked to contribute to fuel costs when jet diverts to Damascus

If I were on a plane that had been diverted to Damascus and was asked to contribute to an emergency refueling tab, I’d open my wallet. It wouldn’t be much, because I usually return from an overseas trip with just enough money for the bus from the airport and maybe some random foreign coins. But they’d get what I little had. And that’s what passengers on AF562 from Paris to Beruit were asked to do.

In one of the more bizarre travel news stories I’ve read recently (and there have been some bizarre ones) the headline in USA Today reads, “Air France: Diverted fliers asked for fuel money as ‘precaution’.” According to the report:

The problems for Flight 562 began when the Paris-to-Beirut flight had to find an alternate airport to land at because of civil unrest near that Beirut airfield. Air France had hoped to continue on to Amman, Jordan, but instead opted to land in relatively nearby Damascus as the plane was low on fuel.

Reuters writes “on landing the local 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,” an Air France spokeswoman explained to Reuters.

Fortunately for passengers, a solution was found and Air France was able to refuel without passing a hat around the cabin. The situation was fraught with political overtones (or undertones), since Air France suspended scheduled to Damascus sometime ago and has publicly called for President Assad’s ouster. Passengers, who eventually arrived in Beirut after being diverted to Cyprus, report armed personnel at the Damascus stopover. No surprise.