Air India to dispatch new aircraft to ferry passengers from Russia to San Francisco

It has been 21 hours since Air India’s Boeing 777, registered VT-ALH, landed in the remote eastern part of Russia at Sokol Airport while on its way to San Francisco when it had to divert there due to Engine Trouble. Details have begun to emerge about the way forward for the passengers now.

Air India’s passengers are put up in a school.

Sokol Airport (GDX) is 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of the Magadan city centre. The passengers were offloaded from the plane and put up in a local school. Remember, there is no ground handling contract or Air India representation at this tiny remote Russian Airport, so all of this has had to be whatever the locals could do for them, presumably under instructions from Moscow and the Government of India liaising for them.

Per social media, not enough hotel rooms were found (always hard in such circumstances and given the remoteness), so images are floating around of these passengers being given a mattress and accommodated in a local school. Temperatures can go as low as 6 Degree Centigrade in the area.

Air India to dispatch replacement aircraft.

Air India will have a replacement aircraft fly from Mumbai, India, on June 7, 1 PM IST, which should take 7-8 hours to arrive in Sokol from then. At this stage, I’d find it impossible for the aircraft to continue the journey on the same night out to SFO due to crew time-outs and so on.

a map of asia with a red line

Air India’s statement

Air India has launched the required operation. In an update they issued, they said,

Al173 operating Delhi-San Francisco on 06 June 2023 had developed a technical issue en route with one of its engines. The flight with 216 passengers and 16 crew was diverted to Magadan, Russia (GDX), where it had safely landed. We engaged with the local authorities at GDX that extended all cooperation and support upon the flight’s arrival at GDX

Given the infrastructural limitations around the remote airport, we can confirm that all passengers were eventually moved to a makeshift accommodation, after making sincere attempts to accommodate passengers in hotels locally with the help of local government authorities. As we do not have any Air India staff based in the remote town of Magadan or in Russia, all ground support being provided to the passengers is the best possible in this unusual circumstance through our round the clock liaison with the Consulate General of India in Vladivostok, Ministry of External Affairs (Government of India), local ground handlers, and the Russian authorities.

A ferry flight is scheduled to operate to GDX from Mumbai, India (BOM) at 1300 Hours IST on 07 June 2023, subject to necessary regulatory clearances, which would take passengers and crew of Al173 onward to San Francisco. The ferry flight would be carrying food and other essentials for our passengers. All of us at Air India are concerned about the passengers and staff and are making every effort possible to operate the ferry flight as soon as possible, and to ensure the health, safety, and security of all while they wait.

Air India will keep you updated.


Air India’s AI173 diverted and landed at Sokol Airport (GDX) in Eastern Russia, which is a remote airport. With no local representation available, the customers have been put up in a local school. The airline will fly a relief aircraft from India today, June 7, 2023, at 1 PM IST. This relief aircraft will be used to fly the passengers forward, and the crew on board will hopefully be able to fix the aircraft and fly it back to India shortly.

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

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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