Some 20 Israeli passengers aboard a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to India had a bit of a scare on Monday when their plane made an emergency landing in Tehran.
Two hours before the flight was scheduled to land in India, one of the passengers on board felt unwell, and the crew announced that the plane would turn around and land in Iran.
Though some of the handful of Israelis on board grew anxious, the emergency landing passed smoothly, and the plane soon departed for India.
One of the Israeli passengers on board the plane, Benny Yekutiel, told Channel 10 Tuesday that he was not fazed by the experience.
“I think all the anxiety is exaggerated,” Yekutiel said. “Two hours before we were supposed to land in India, they announced that someone on the plane wasn’t feeling well. It did a small u-turn and landed [in Iran].”
Of the two-hour layover in the Islamic Republic, Yekutiel said, “When we landed it may have looked like a godforsaken place and the surrounding facilities reminded me of the ’60s, but we weren’t stressed out.”
He said there were several Israelis on the plane, but that the Iranian crew members who boarded it didn’t check the travelers’ passports.
“Once we had landed, a few Iranian maintenance workers and a paramedic boarded, did some check-ups and left the plane,” he said.
This was not the first time Israelis have found themselves in Iran for an hour or two. Six years ago, a plane headed from Istanbul to Mumbai was forced to make an emergency landing in Tehran due to a technical fault. There was one Israeli citizen on board at the time. The passenger, Benny Medvedayev, told Ynet News that the Iranian security personnel gave him “VIP treatment,” and even gave him a souvenir from Iran before his flight departed for India.
Flights departing from Israel do not fly over Iran. However, many Israelis traveling to South Asia and the Far East elect to fly through Istanbul, Tashkent or Amman to lower costs and shorten the journey, exposing themselves to the risk of landing in an enemy country. Still, by law, local authorities must treat the Israelis as if they are citizens of the country from which the plane originally departed.