This story, recounted by The Telegraph, demonstrates how challenging—and potentially dangerous—operating flights to some parts of the Middle East has become in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The Air France flight chronicled by the article was headed for Beirut from Paris Charles de Gaulle, but violence near the airport and low fuel forced the Airbus A330-200 to divert—to war-torn Syria.
There, owing to sanctions and acrimony between France (and the entire Western world) and the brutal Assad regime, fueling the plane so it could leave Damascus became, shall we say, complicated. Use of an Air France credit card would violate sanctions against the regime, and it doesn't appear authorities in Damascus were eager to help the carrier out. The situation became so tense that the flight crew began canvassing passengers to collect cash to pay for fuel! Talk about an unexpected ancillary charge. According to a passenger who spoke to The Telegraph, $17,000 was raised. But the airline was able to resolve the situation without needing the travelers' cash, though how is unclear.
But settling the financial issue hardly ended the extreme stress of the ordeal. Check out this quote from a passenger: The pilots “told us to take off our seat belts as there was a risk the plane could catch fire during refueling and that we should run if told to.”
This adds a bit of perspective regarding the usual “hassles” associated with air travel.