On a cool winter morning a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 touches down at Orly International Airport, 7km South of Paris. It is 11am on the 3rd of March 1974. Turkish Airlines Flight 981, which left Istanbul at just before 8am has arrived at its intermediate stop before its final destination of London Heathrow. The aircraft is carrying 167 passengers, most of whom are Turkish.

At Orly airport, 50 passengers are scheduled to disembark. While the second stage of the route from Paris to London is normally under-booked, today is different. Hundreds of passengers are stranded at Orly airport due to a strike by Air France and British European Airways personnel, cancelling scheduled flights to London. Many have booked onto Turkish Airlines 981 in order to get to London. A total of 216 additional passengers have booked to board the aircraft, filling it to capacity, most of them British. Those who secure a seat consider themselves lucky, there are many stranded travelers who are not able to travel.

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