By Chris Liakos, Tara John, Michael Conte and Uliana Pavlova, CNN
(CNN) — An Air India flight from India to San Francisco was diverted due to a technical issue with one of the plane’s engines and has landed safely in Russia’s Magadan airport, in the country’s far east, according to a statement from the carrier.
Flight AI173 was carrying 216 passengers and 16 crew. The airline will operate an alternate flight carrying everyone from Magadan to San Francisco on Wednesday.
“Air India will operate an alternate aircraft from Magadan to San Francisco on June 7, 2023 carrying all passengers and crew of AI173 who are presently accommodated in local hotels in Magadan,” an Air India spokesperson said in a statement.
“The authorities are extending all cooperation in our effort to ensure that passengers safely reach their destination at the earliest,” the spokesperson added.
Russia has banned numerous western countries from operating in its airspace, though some carriers like Air India continue to fly over Russia.
Russian aviation agency Rosaviation said Tuesday that it has issued a permit to Air India to send a reserve aircraft to Russia’s Magadan airport.
“The departure of the aircraft from Delhi to Magadan is scheduled at 21.35 Moscow time on June 6, 2023, the planned landing time is 06.00 Moscow time on June 7, 2023,” the agency said in an updated statement on its official Telegram account.
The United States said it was monitoring the situation. “We are aware of a US-bound flight that had to make an emergency landing in Russia, and are continuing to monitor that situation closely,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel.
While Patel could not confirm how many US citizens were on the flight, he said it was “of course likely that there are American citizens on board.”
Patel also said it would be possible if needed for the US to take steps “in assessing manifests and passengers who may be bound for the United States.”
Patel would not say if the US would need to exempt any replacement parts for the plane from sanctions on Russia.
The diversion comes amid a debate about the use of Russian airspace by some carriers.
Air India’s CEO defended its use of Russian airspace on Monday, telling an airline summit that “we operate in the accordance within the ambit of what’s provided to us by the nation of India.”
He added: “Not all nations agree. And so there are going to be different outcomes as a consequence. I think we’ve seen over the past few years the consequence of aviation not being able to connect people and economies and cultures and support all of the other things that we spin off.”
Meanwhile, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby on Monday predicted possible dangers of a plane being forced to land in Russia with American citizens on board while speaking to reporters, Reuters reported.
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