After abruptly and unexpectedly suspending international air traffic yesterday, hundreds of Americans and thousands of others find themselves trapped in Russia. One asthma-stricken man remains stuck without a visa in Moscow Airport almost out of medication.
Yesterday, April 3, 2020, an Aeroflot flight was supposed to operate to New York to repatriate Russians trapped in the United States. Many Americans had purchased tickets in a last-ditch effort to get home prior to Russia’s borders closing and international airports shutting down.
The flight boarded, pushed back, and taxied to the runway for takeoff. Suddenly, the captain announced that the plane was returning to the gate as ordered by the government and the flight would be cancelled.
Check out the reaction onboard:
Julian Mackay is a Montana-born ballet dancer trying to get home to his dying father.
The flight was cancelled because Russia decided to close its borders to citizens and non-citizens alike, meaning there was no point to a repatriation flight. To make matters worse, The New York Post reports Russian authorities entered the aircraft, confiscated passports, and forbade passengers from retrieving their luggage.
Some remain trapped in Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO). Trenton Thurber, a 26-year-old American man, has been trapped for a week. He suffers from asthmas and tells BuzzFeed he is nearly out of asthma medication. He reached out to the U.S. Embassy for assistance and was told to try to make it to the Finland border and plead for mercy…700 miles away.
Reacting to the unexpected cancellation yesterday, the U.S. Embassy sent the following email to Americans registered in Moscow:
“To those of you who were boarded on that flight today only to have it cancelled moments before takeoff, we understand and share your frustration. We had received confirmation from the Government of the Russian Federation as early as this morning that the flight would go forward as scheduled. Despite those assurances, the Government of the Russian Federation ordered the immediate suspension of all international flights without warning. At this point, we do not believe any international flights will be departing from the Russian Federation until further notice.”
TASS, a state-influenced Russian news agency, reports the next potential flight to New York is not until April 7th. Even that may not operate if the total ban on entry to Russia persists.
Imagine boarding a flight, pushing back, leaning back, only to have it cancelled. I hope that everyone trapped in Russia will soon find a way home.