The good news is, we've landed safely. The bad news is, we're in Syria, out of fuel and they don't take credit cards
There is also the small matter of European Union sanctions on Syria that make buying jet fuel, let alone on credit, a little complicated.
Authorities at the Damascus airport told the crew that they could not accept credit cards because of the sanctions — cash only. So as a "precaution," an Air France spokeswoman said, the crew asked the passengers how much money they happened to have in their wallets to help pay for fuel.
One woman aboard said the passengers rounded up 17,000 euros, or about $21,000.
"The pilot asked the passengers in first class to get their cash together. Everyone started to collect money, and they managed to collect 17,000, but the pilot in the end didn't take anything. They resolved the problems with the Damascus airport," said a passenger speaking on France-Info radio and identified as May Bsat.
In the end, the airline managed to settle the bill without help from the passengers, and the plane took off two hours later to spend the night in Cyprus, where the troubled Cypriot banks still take credit cards. The plane landed safely Thursday in Beirut, which apparently had calmed down sufficiently in the interim.
An Air France spokesman apologized for the inconvenience Friday and declined to say how the airline paid, or how much.
While it was the first time Air France had resorted to a request for passenger cash, it wasn't the first airline to do so. Hundreds of passengers traveling from India to Britain were stranded for six hours in Vienna last year when their Comtel Air flight stopped for fuel, and the charter service asked them to kick in more than 20,000 pounds, about $31,000, to pay for the rest of the flight to Birmingham, England.
We wonder if there isn't a lesson here for all those pretending to be appalled by Congressman Paul Ryan's straight talk abut entitlements. When you're out of money to meet your promises, you have to improvise.
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