In a case that has many people scratching their heads, a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight that left Dubai more than three weeks ago is stuck in Iran.
The Boeing 737 MAX left Dubai on December 14 bound for Oslo, but was forced to land in the south-central city of Shiraz after suspected engine trouble.
With 192 passengers and crew members on board, pilots on Flight DY1933 decided to perform a "safety landing" in Shiraz after experiencing technical difficulties, a spokesman for Norwegian Air Shuttle told AFP.
Stranded passengers were able to fly to Oslo the following day, but the story is more complicated for the jet, which has now been on Iranian soil for almost a month.
Mechanics face delays in getting the parts needed to repair the brand-new plane, and the airline cannot send parts because of international sanctions re-imposed on Iran by the Trump administration last year. Aircraft sales, including parts and services, are banned under the renewed sanctions.
The airline refused to comment, stating only that several options are being considered to get the plane back in the air.
A passenger travelling on the flight told The National that an hour after leaving Dubai, passengers were told that an emergency landing was being made in Shiraz, because of low oil pressure in one of the engines.
After landing, travellers waited in the terminal for six hours before being taken to a hotel. "Emotions were high at the hotel when the promised evening flight didn't materialise and we were told we would spend the night in Iran. Many argued that we should have been put on a quick flight back to Dubai, rather than kept in Iran overnight," the passenger explained.
Norwegian Air is Norway’s largest airline and the third-largest low-cost airline in Europe. According to aviation site AirLive.net, this is the first time a Norwegian passenger aircraft has ever landed in Iran.
The incident prompted social media posts, with one New York-based user tweeting:
An Iranian user tweeted: “Iran has become a Bermuda Triangle that feeds on planes."
Some passengers on the flight were concerned that they might face future travel complications when visiting the US after stopping in Iran. Since 2015, anyone who has travelled to an 'at risk' country (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), has been excluded from the US visa waiver scheme.
However, The National's source confirmed that passengers did not receive stamps on arrival at Shiraz Shahid Dastgheib International Airport, and at least two passengers from the flight have since visited the US with no problems.