So here’s a crazy flight for you:
Earlier this month, an Air France flight heading from Paris to Beirut was running low on gas. So it was forced to land at an airport in Damascus.
Worse yet: the pilot came on the P.A. system and asked the 174 passengers if they could chip in money for gas. That’s right: he started the day as a pilot and ended it as a panhandler.
“Passengers on Air France Flight 562 were asked to open their wallets to check if they had enough cash to pay for more fuel,” The Associated Press writes.
The problems began when Flight 562 was an hour away from Beirut. According to USA Today, the pilot “had to find an alternate airport to land at because of civil unrest near that Beirut airfield.” A mob of protesters who supported the Syrian president were blocking the road leading to the Beirut airport (which is in Syria’s neighbouring country of Lebanon), and the airline was concerned that the passengers would be trapped if the plane landed.
So the pilot kept going, and tried to reach the airport in Amman, Jordan instead. But his fuel levels became perilously low, so he made an emergency landing in Damascus instead.
Which would be fine, most days. Unfortunately, Damascus is the capital of war-torn Syria. For a year now, Syria has been suffering through a wretched ‘civil war’, a.k.a. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is crushing his own people. Al-Assad has been using what the New York Times calls “crushing firepower” to kill 21,000+ Syrians who dared rise up against his dictatorship.
All things considered, Damascus is not a fun place to fuel up your Boeing 777. It’s a little…how you say?…tense.
Especially since the government of France has enacted sanctions against Syria and demanded that Al-Assad step down. Which he’s not doing AT ALL.
What Al-Assad is doing, apparently, is ordering/allowing his soldiers to charge outrageous sums for jet fuel. And since they refused to accept the airline’s credit cards, the French pilot started begging his passengers for spare change.
Eventually the airline somehow managed to pay for the gas on their own. Maybe they stole it (doubtful) or maybe they sold the passengers’ luggage. Who knows?
But the whole incident got me thinking ‘What’s the worst thing he could have asked for while landing that plane?’
So here are the:
TEN WORST THINGS YOUR PILOT CAN BEG FOR
#10) An EpiPen to stop his throat/face from swelling up and blocking his vision so he can still try to land this sucker
#9) The phone number for the hottie sitting in 12A
#8) Someone to play Halo 3 with him and they “gotta have mad skills”
#7) A shotgun to kill the swooping, screeching, diving bats
#6) Forgiveness for what he’s about to do in the name of all that is Holy and Right
#5) Your bank account and Facebook passwords
#4) “Listen, we’re desperate up here…does anyone know how to land a plane?”
#3) “Could everyone please move to the right of the plane. We need to balance the jet.”
#2) More booze and keep it coming
#1) You come sit on his lap. Or else.
— Ken Hegan
Read all of Ken’s travel stories here
P.S. here’s your HAPPY ENDING ALERT: the plane had an overnight layover in Cyprus, then landed safely in Beirut the next day.
Photos: Kemter/iStock (begging plot) and Air France (Boeing 777)