Air India’s Russia To United States “Rescue” Flight

Air India’s Russia To United States “Rescue” Flight

42

On Tuesday, an Air India Boeing 777 flying from Delhi to San Francisco diverted to Russia due to an engine issue. Specifically, the plane landed in Magadan, in the northeast of the country, leaving passengers stranded for over 36 hours. I wanted to share an update on this situation, as all passengers have now arrived in the United States.

Air India operates Magadan to San Francisco flight

It goes without saying that diverting to a small city in Russia was less than ideal on a variety of levels:

  • There weren’t sufficient accommodations, so passengers were housed in a school, with dozens of people sleeping in each room
  • Food options were very limited, and there were major language barriers, as there weren’t any Air India representatives (the airline managed to find hotels for the crew, but not passengers)
  • In light of the ongoing conflict, there were general safety concerns about a bunch of Americans being trapped in Russia

After passengers spent 39 hours on the ground in Magadan, the Air India rescue flight finally departed. Air India had deployed a second Boeing 777 from Mumbai (BOM) to Magadan (GDX), which would pick up passengers and crew, and take them to the United States.

I was curious if this would go as planned, given the sanctions in place, which also ban flights between Russia and the United States. Fortunately it seems that everything worked out. On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the aircraft with the registration code VT-ALF operated a nonstop flight from Magadan (GDX) to San Francisco (SFO).

The flight covered a distance of just under 4,000 miles, and spent 7hr41min in the air. The plane departed at 10:27AM local time on Thursday, and landed in San Francisco at 12:07AM local time on Thursday (this “time travel” is because it crossed the International Date Line). I’m happy all the passengers made it to the United States safely, and they most definitely deserve some rest!

Air India’s rescue flight from Magadan to San Francisco

How Air India is compensating passengers

So, how is Air India compensating passengers for this ordeal? All passengers on the flight received a letter with an apology. Passengers will receive a full refund of their ticket, plus a voucher for a future Air India ticket.

There aren’t many details beyond that, though. For example, will just the one-way fare be refunded, or the entire fare people had booked? What happens for those on partner tickets? What kind of a future ticket is the voucher valid for?

Here’s the full apology letter that Air India passengers received:

Please allow me to sincerely apologise, on behalf of Air India, for the extended delay in bringing you to San Francisco.

As you are all too aware, the aircraft encountered a technical issue whereby the pilots received an indication of low oil pressure in one engine. Out of caution, they elected to land the aircraft at a nearby airport rather than continue the journey.

Your safety was the highest priority throughout. While the facilities in Magadan, a small city, may not have met the standard we would normally aim to provide, we are grateful for your tolerance and understanding that our local agents and crew did their best under the circumstances. We are grateful to the residents and business of Magadan for the assistance they provided to a plane full of unexpected visitors at short notice.

Air India dispatched a relief flight at the earliest possible opportunity given the need to obtain insurance and flight plan approvals but clearly, the duration of delay was long, and the experience was not what we aspire to offer.

As such, we will fully refund the fare for your journey and, in addition, provide you a voucher for future travel on Air India. Although we cannot change the past, I trust that this gesture conveys our sincere regrets for the disruption and inconvenience.

Thank you for your understanding and support to Air India. I hope you will allow us to serve again, to a better standard, in future.

Air India’s diversion to Magadan

Bottom line

Some Air India passengers traveling from Delhi to San Francisco had quite the eventful journey, as their plane diverted to Russia due to an engine issue. Specifically, the plane landed in the northeast of the country, in Magadan, and passengers were on the ground for nearly 39 hours.

A rescue aircraft was eventually dispatched, and passengers finally arrived in San Francisco very early on Thursday morning. Air India has compensated passengers by refunding them the cost of their tickets, and offering a future free flight.

This was no doubt an awful situation for passengers. It’s hard to know exactly what the moral of this story is. On the surface, waiting over 24 hours to dispatch a rescue aircraft seems like a long time, but this was also logistically a lot more complicated than your typical diversion.

What do you make of Air India’s handling of this situation?

Conversations (42)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Florida Sunshine Guest

    I can’t believe how narcissistic people are and truly bash America. Yes, things are flawed but it is still best country in world. And shame on all u bashing America. I’m sure you have profited in many ways, shapes and forms from America. But bring republicans back. If you have something bad too say on this great land you should live in coldest part Russia and have no connection to world. So don’t bash United...

    I can’t believe how narcissistic people are and truly bash America. Yes, things are flawed but it is still best country in world. And shame on all u bashing America. I’m sure you have profited in many ways, shapes and forms from America. But bring republicans back. If you have something bad too say on this great land you should live in coldest part Russia and have no connection to world. So don’t bash United States of America. So many of u want me vomit. This is travel blog, but apparently being more politics. Sad.

  2. John Guest

    That was actually a good apology letter. The old-fashioned type, where they say it out straight, unlike the squeamish 'non-apologies' which seem to be the new normal. And their recovery operation, considering the remote and rural location, was about as good as you'd expect. TATA may not get AI on an even keel straight away, but I like their attitude and direction.

  3. Steven M Guest

    Yet another reminder to never fly Air India

  4. Mike C Diamond

    @Ben, the arrival and departure days do not compute. A Wednesday departure at around 10.30am from Magadan (same time zone as Sydney) would have arrived at SFO at around midnight on Tuesday local time or early on Wednesday.

    1. JDee Diamond

      The flight arrived at 00.07, as you suggested

  5. AirIndiaSucks Guest

    This... was a thoughtful apology letter and gesture. I hope their refunds are processed quickly and Air India works on more contingency plans for issues like this in the future. All airlines actually, Siberia is a little remote.

    The oil pressure warning though, can any pilot explain, would this absolutely have not allowed proceeding the extra 400 miles to Alaska?

    And finally, it was nice to see how the Russians handled everything. I have had...

    This... was a thoughtful apology letter and gesture. I hope their refunds are processed quickly and Air India works on more contingency plans for issues like this in the future. All airlines actually, Siberia is a little remote.

    The oil pressure warning though, can any pilot explain, would this absolutely have not allowed proceeding the extra 400 miles to Alaska?

    And finally, it was nice to see how the Russians handled everything. I have had a dim view of the country considering their government's actions against their peaceful neighbor. But this is a reminder that the citizens of the country are humans and a victim of the situation too with all the mandatory military service. Incredible help to people in need, well done Magadon.

  6. derek Guest

    If I were in that situation, I would hope that I would at least get to walk around the city a little so that I can say I've been there.

    There may not be wifi so Google Translate might not work. Besides, I would be hesitant to turn on my phone in Russia because it will likely be entered into a database. Whether the database is ever looked at is unknown.

    I wouldn't...

    If I were in that situation, I would hope that I would at least get to walk around the city a little so that I can say I've been there.

    There may not be wifi so Google Translate might not work. Besides, I would be hesitant to turn on my phone in Russia because it will likely be entered into a database. Whether the database is ever looked at is unknown.

    I wouldn't want to eat Russian food or drink Russian water so that might be trouble. There is one country that I visited where I brought 5 days supply of water.

    1. Stefan Guest

      Seems like Tin Foil Hats were on sale today.

  7. michael Guest

    call me crazy - but being a travel blog and not a political site - maybe someone can comment on what might have actually happened to this plane that required diversion?

    ... and sure, if you want to get into politics, maybe speculate on how AI is going to get it fixed considering the ban on importing parts to Russia?

    1. Debo Gold

      Supposedly low oil pressure in an engine. From Air India's communication to the travelers:
      "As you are all too aware, the aircraft encountered a technical issue whereby the pilots received an indication of low oil pressure in one engine. Out of caution, they elected to land the aircraft at a nearby airport rather than continue the journey."

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      There is no ban on importing parts into Russia. There is a ban on importing parts for the benefit of Russian entities (or indeed trading those parts to Russian entities outside of Russia). Air India is not a Russian entity. This isn't a big deal.

  8. Syd Guest

    Does anyone have a picture of the arrivals screen in SFO, showing a flight from Magadan?

    1. Debo Gold

      FlightAware has the flight tracked:

      https://flightaware.com/live/flight/AIC173/history/20230608/0152Z/UHMM/KSFO

  9. Mark Guest

    Did they downgrade a bunch of F/J pax in order to accommodate the crew? That would add insult to injury for those up front. I’m also curious to see how they fix the broken plane and if they just bring enough spare parts to repair their plane or if they fill a cargo plane to the brim and “sell” spare parts to Russia

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Air India cabin crew do not deadhead in premium cabins under most circunstances. So it is unlikely to have resulted in any downgrades.

    2. HSV-Flyer New Member

      I have seen Air India crew camp out in business class, about 6 of them on my flight from ORD to DEL. I was the sole passenger in First.

  10. stogieguy7 Diamond

    Yes, I agree that the media hype the level of potential danger to Americans who find themselves in Russia. That said, you would probably want to mind your P's and Q's and forgo any live streaming - just in case. As for Air India, I can't find any reason to criticise them on this incident. Looks like they handled it as well as could be expected; in fact, better than I would have given them credit for.

    1. Bagoly Guest

      The Russians are hardly likely to detain anyone just for being American.
      The interesting question is when would a target be too tempting.

      CIA employees probably safe, even if known to have caused death of Russian spies.
      It starts get less clear for people born a citizen of the USSR/Russia who have become a naturalised American (or other free world) citizen.
      (In China they flatly ignore that)
      People in that category...

      The Russians are hardly likely to detain anyone just for being American.
      The interesting question is when would a target be too tempting.

      CIA employees probably safe, even if known to have caused death of Russian spies.
      It starts get less clear for people born a citizen of the USSR/Russia who have become a naturalised American (or other free world) citizen.
      (In China they flatly ignore that)
      People in that category who are employees of hostile government/security services are getting tempting.
      Any who were defectors from the Soviet/Russian security services might be too tempting, or those who have actively worked to expose the evils of Russia.
      E.g. Vladimir Osechkin, Sergei Skrypal.
      Although the current war might actually work in their favour.

  11. Lune Guest

    I'm surprised by the people that are surprised that things ended relatively uneventfully and with no big surprises! :)

    Russia and India have good relations. If Russia had decided to give US citizen travelers problems, that would have likely escalated to a diplomatic affair with India and right now Russia needs all the friends it can get.

    Secondly, even purely from a self-interest standpoint it doesn't make sense to cause trouble. Overflights from friendly countries...

    I'm surprised by the people that are surprised that things ended relatively uneventfully and with no big surprises! :)

    Russia and India have good relations. If Russia had decided to give US citizen travelers problems, that would have likely escalated to a diplomatic affair with India and right now Russia needs all the friends it can get.

    Secondly, even purely from a self-interest standpoint it doesn't make sense to cause trouble. Overflights from friendly countries like China and India provide much-needed revenue (especially foreign currency). Start causing trouble and those airlines will indeed start avoiding that airspace. They're not going to kill that golden goose for no reason.

    And to what purpose? Why upset one of your only allies and risk one of the last reliable sources of foreign currency? To detain some Americans for a few days until they finally let them go?

    So yeah, it's not surprising that nothing bad happened here. I'm actually more surprised about people thinking it would end any other way.

    Also, I really like the apology letter too. It wasn't some smarmy non-apology, but sounded genuine. It seems like the Tata folks really are having some good effects on the airline and can't wait to see that culture take further root.

    1. Indopithecus Guest

      I was not worried about Russia giving American passengers a hard time (most were Indian-American anyway) but the US getting sticky about a direct flight from Magadan. Sane heads prevailed and gave the lie to 'exceptional empire' proponents in this thread.

  12. zver Guest

    Ostrovok.ru shows there are at least 6 hotels, a hostel, and a guesthouse in Magadan (as to be expected from a city of nearly 100,000), 4 of which show next-day availability. I highly doubt all of these were so fully booked only the crew could have been cared for.

    Far more likely is that Air India either had no knowledge of local booking sites and only checked Booking.com and the like, or the ability/willingness to deal with making payments to Russian businesses.

    1. STEFFL Diamond

      to begin with . . . it was STUPID to divert to a place that's that rural and has nothing to do with origin or destination Nation. Alaska might have just been the better choice!?
      Air India . . . what else can you expect?

    2. Icarus Guest

      Obviously have no idea with such a moronic statement. Mainland Alaska was several hundred kms away. They diverted to the closest airport as they couldn’t fly another 4-5 hours

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      My understanding is that local coordination for accomodation, payments, etc.. was handled by staff at the Consulate General of India in Vladivostok on behalf of Air India. So I don't think there would have been any gap in terms of local knowledge and ability to handle payments.

    4. Trey Guest

      Safety first - it's the pilots' call. God forbid, something disasterous happens while flying a few extra hours to reach a more accomodating city where you can maximize your hotel discounts. If there's something wrong with the plane, I'd want to be on the ground ASAP - I won't care if it's Siberia w/o 4-star hotels with included breakfast!

  13. Chris Guest

    Very good apology letter from Air India in my opinion.

  14. TooTallTraveler Guest

    I am honestly surprised they didn't keep U.S. citizens back.....

    1. E. T. Guest

      Then you're woefully uninformed. Russia doesn't arrest people just for "being American". I can attest to that, considering that I'm American, hold a Russian Residence Permit (and pay Russian taxes), and have lived in Russia for a decade. Never once have I had problems with Russian authorities. That's because I, *gasp*, don't break their laws, unlike a certain basketball player did when she brought drugs into the country. Moreover, you'd be surprised at the number...

      Then you're woefully uninformed. Russia doesn't arrest people just for "being American". I can attest to that, considering that I'm American, hold a Russian Residence Permit (and pay Russian taxes), and have lived in Russia for a decade. Never once have I had problems with Russian authorities. That's because I, *gasp*, don't break their laws, unlike a certain basketball player did when she brought drugs into the country. Moreover, you'd be surprised at the number of Americans who live in Russia and don't have problems. In fact, the only real problems I have had regarding Russia is at the US border last time I entered the US, where I was detained and agressively questioned about why I was in Russia and what my opinion on the conflict was (I told them why I live in Russia (I didn't have to, but I did), but I didn't offer my opinion on the conflict, which pissed them off - seems CBP officers HATE it when US citizens exercise their rights). They proceeded to search everything, and thought they had a "gotcha" moment when they found official-looking Russian documents in my bag. After they got someone to translate, all they realized they had found were my child's birth certificate and my paternity certificate. Boy, they looked like imbeciles.

    2. Eve Guest

      E.T. I also lived in Russia. I resided in a quant apartment in Taganskaya (Moscow), when I was working in that country.

      But you are being WOEFULLY ignorant with how you are describing living in Russia being.

      Yes I will agree, as long as you stay away from anything suspicious, the authorities won’t bother you. In fact beyond one incident on a visit to Kazan, I never had any issue.

      But how you...

      E.T. I also lived in Russia. I resided in a quant apartment in Taganskaya (Moscow), when I was working in that country.

      But you are being WOEFULLY ignorant with how you are describing living in Russia being.

      Yes I will agree, as long as you stay away from anything suspicious, the authorities won’t bother you. In fact beyond one incident on a visit to Kazan, I never had any issue.

      But how you are describing the situation of Brittney Griner is as I put it, ignorant! This was clearly a political arrest to get a prisoner exchange. The charges were ridiculous, I have been to many clubs in Moscow and kids are using drugs there. In fact I also know about brothers who are visited by members of Duma, “respected” businessmen and government officials. Let’s not even get into what happens inside those brothers. Why not arrest those people? Or even the foreign expats who visit them? But to specifically arrest a high profile individual for such minor reason and imprison them with ridiculous charges (the equivalent of this would have been a fine if this was a Russian). That is nonsensical!

      And these all, and the fact that on my recent visit to Moscow last year, I was interrogated at immigration for over half an hour, says a lot about how much of a threat it is for westerners

    3. STEFFL Diamond

      . . . IF you visit a foreign country, you better know the rules and restrictions about it.
      That sports person obviously did NOT know anything, maybe was thinking to fly from Los Angels CA to Dallas TX, nobody would then care about you, even you you wear no cowboy outfit, but that IS different in different countries and cultures!
      So be prepared or stay where you are.
      E.T.'s lines have NOTHING...

      . . . IF you visit a foreign country, you better know the rules and restrictions about it.
      That sports person obviously did NOT know anything, maybe was thinking to fly from Los Angels CA to Dallas TX, nobody would then care about you, even you you wear no cowboy outfit, but that IS different in different countries and cultures!
      So be prepared or stay where you are.
      E.T.'s lines have NOTHING to do with being ignorant i think, was a good example.
      it's his point of view, and i agree on that.

    4. E.T. Guest

      Eve, there is a big difference in trafficking drugs across an international border and doing them recreationally in a brothel. Maybe YOU are woefully ignorant. And, if a person is high profile, then it is even dumber to traffick. Plus, let's get real, is a WNBA player really high profile? Moreover, the US was holding Viktor Bout illegally. He "violated" some American "rules" that they set, but had never committed a "crime" on US soil....

      Eve, there is a big difference in trafficking drugs across an international border and doing them recreationally in a brothel. Maybe YOU are woefully ignorant. And, if a person is high profile, then it is even dumber to traffick. Plus, let's get real, is a WNBA player really high profile? Moreover, the US was holding Viktor Bout illegally. He "violated" some American "rules" that they set, but had never committed a "crime" on US soil. However, the US saw fit to have him arrested by another country and sent to the US. The US had absolutely no jurisdiction to try and convict Bout. They basically kidnapped him and held him as a political prisoner.

    5. Indopithecus Guest

      Yes, you are probably right that Griner's arrest and incarceration had political overtones but she DID have an illegal substance on her! Get arrested with that in US allies Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore and your life might be at stake. Moreover, consider the harassment of Julian Assange by the Americans. No drugs, just publishing inconvenient truths and US throws the book at you! Cannot have it both ways. Or do you want to?

    6. STEFFL Diamond

      agree 100% . . . if there is 1 country involved in maybe causing trouble, it's the US.
      Trouble is, majority of US Americans never look outside of there own countries borders and BELIEVE what they have been told on TV or by friend of friends (or at least of what they very easily call friends as we all know).
      I remember about the same experience as a NON US Citizen working as...

      agree 100% . . . if there is 1 country involved in maybe causing trouble, it's the US.
      Trouble is, majority of US Americans never look outside of there own countries borders and BELIEVE what they have been told on TV or by friend of friends (or at least of what they very easily call friends as we all know).
      I remember about the same experience as a NON US Citizen working as an air currier, US Immigration is THE MOST UNWELCOMING part to ever arrive in a different country, Russia was direct and straight forward, but the US . . . that's a kind of itself.
      That country that still praises and teaches to there people about the SS German Nazi people and how rude these people are and nothing anywhere can be compared with the US . . . trouble is, most believe that 1:1 as they've never experienced anything else or other countries by themselves other then what has been reported to them.
      Sort of what Putin is now trying to do with the older folks in all over Russia.
      What amazes me, that well traveled people even try to "PUSH" possible trouble over and over again, IN EVERY POST in that matter.
      Sad to see!

    7. WFB Guest

      Hitler invades Poland? Shrug. No opinion.

    8. SBS Guest

      E.T.: Sure, you'll be ok in Russia if you don't break their laws - such as using the words "war" or "invasion", or being a gay parent, or "disrespecting" the emperor (president, prime minister, president again - he's been in power for 23 years and has no intention of leaving). After you were questioned "aggressively" by CBP, were you beaten up or put in jail for a few years? Do you think you would be...

      E.T.: Sure, you'll be ok in Russia if you don't break their laws - such as using the words "war" or "invasion", or being a gay parent, or "disrespecting" the emperor (president, prime minister, president again - he's been in power for 23 years and has no intention of leaving). After you were questioned "aggressively" by CBP, were you beaten up or put in jail for a few years? Do you think you would be even if you did express an opinion that Russia was justified in starting this war? Yes, it's a war, not a "conflict" as you call it, and the fact that you can't call it a 'war" in these comments says everything there is to know about Russia (and you).

      Here is what living in Russia is really like:
      18-yo son: "Father, why I we sitting in the back of a truck with AK-47s?"
      Father: "I don't know, son, I don't meddle in politics"

    9. digital_notmad Diamond

      lol I see the ethnonationalist trolls are in rare form today. I'd say I hope they get conscripted, but they are of course lying about living in Russia.

    10. E.T. Guest

      Digital_notmad I actually do live on Russia, and I actually am an American (born and raised in Alabama). And no, I won't get conscripted, considering I'm not a Russian citizen.

    11. Stefan Guest

      What a bunch of nonsense. Why would that be? The U.S. is not at war with Russia and there are countless Russian citizens and diplomats in the U.S. just like there are plenty of U.S. citizens in Russia.

  15. Mitch Guest

    Probably one of the best corporate apology letters I've seen. Very transparent and not full of BS fluff.

    1. AirIndiaSucks Guest

      Absolutely, it felt more human than all the ChatGPT generated apology garbage usually sent out by companies these days. I bet the new CEO himself dictated it. I didn't expect anything more than a tweet from Air India after all of this.

    2. Bagoly Guest

      The admission (or excuse?) of insurance was definitely novel.
      I expect true, although the insurance department may be due some criticism for not having an out-of-hours procedure or for not having thought about the possibility of a diversion to Russia, which due to current sanctions, would indeed be difficult to insure.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Lune Guest

I'm surprised by the people that are surprised that things ended relatively uneventfully and with no big surprises! :) Russia and India have good relations. If Russia had decided to give US citizen travelers problems, that would have likely escalated to a diplomatic affair with India and right now Russia needs all the friends it can get. Secondly, even purely from a self-interest standpoint it doesn't make sense to cause trouble. Overflights from friendly countries like China and India provide much-needed revenue (especially foreign currency). Start causing trouble and those airlines will indeed start avoiding that airspace. They're not going to kill that golden goose for no reason. And to what purpose? Why upset one of your only allies and risk one of the last reliable sources of foreign currency? To detain some Americans for a few days until they finally let them go? So yeah, it's not surprising that nothing bad happened here. I'm actually more surprised about people thinking it would end any other way. Also, I really like the apology letter too. It wasn't some smarmy non-apology, but sounded genuine. It seems like the Tata folks really are having some good effects on the airline and can't wait to see that culture take further root.

9
E. T. Guest

Then you're woefully uninformed. Russia doesn't arrest people just for "being American". I can attest to that, considering that I'm American, hold a Russian Residence Permit (and pay Russian taxes), and have lived in Russia for a decade. Never once have I had problems with Russian authorities. That's because I, *gasp*, don't break their laws, unlike a certain basketball player did when she brought drugs into the country. Moreover, you'd be surprised at the number of Americans who live in Russia and don't have problems. In fact, the only real problems I have had regarding Russia is at the US border last time I entered the US, where I was detained and agressively questioned about why I was in Russia and what my opinion on the conflict was (I told them why I live in Russia (I didn't have to, but I did), but I didn't offer my opinion on the conflict, which pissed them off - seems CBP officers HATE it when US citizens exercise their rights). They proceeded to search everything, and thought they had a "gotcha" moment when they found official-looking Russian documents in my bag. After they got someone to translate, all they realized they had found were my child's birth certificate and my paternity certificate. Boy, they looked like imbeciles.

6
Trey Guest

Safety first - it's the pilots' call. God forbid, something disasterous happens while flying a few extra hours to reach a more accomodating city where you can maximize your hotel discounts. If there's something wrong with the plane, I'd want to be on the ground ASAP - I won't care if it's Siberia w/o 4-star hotels with included breakfast!

5
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT