Tons of Of US Residents Stranded In Russia As Their Flight Is Canceled At The Final Minute


Nicholas (left) and Julian MacKay

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Trenton Thurber and hundreds of other US citizens settled in his seat for the flight from Moscow to New York. He was relieved to be the last before Russia closed its airspace amid the coronavirus pandemic. He buckled up as the engines turned and the flight crew was preparing to take off.

Just a few rows away were Julian and Nicholas MacKay, two Montana brothers who were desperately trying to get home to see their dying father.

Then an announcement came over the plane's loudspeaker and in an instant their hopes of coming home were dashed – again. The voice was the pilot who told everyone that the flight from Sheremetyevo airport to JFK had been canceled and they had to get off the plane.

Then, according to Thurber, the MacKays, the situation got into a mess. Another American spoke to BuzzFeed News on the phone. The cancellation of the Aeroflot flight also leaves more than 100 Russians hoping to stay in suspense in New York. They had hoped to be on the plane's return flight to Moscow.

Trenton Thurber, a 26-year-old Arizona resident who had previously described BuzzFeed News's attempt to get home when Russia locked its borders amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, passengers began to move Shouting at flight crew and calling for the plane to take off. The cancellation instructions are damned.

“There was a small group of determined passengers who said they weren't. I will not get off the plane, ”said Thurber.

They held out more than an hour before they finally disembarked, according to the MacKay brothers.

Julian, 22, and Nicholas, 19, flew earlier in the day from St. Petersburg to Moscow, where they worked as a ballet dancer and photographer. They recorded their full-day 450-mile journey in a series of videos that were posted on their Instagram accounts. Some of these, as well as others, have been shared with BuzzFeed News.

In a video, the MacKays are excited and hopeful to finally catch the apparently last flight from Moscow on board the Russian flagship Aeroflot after two weeks of trying.

"We just received a call from the Embassy [US] saying that I hope it won't be canceled," says Nicholas.

Courtesy of Julian and Nicholas MacKay

The next video shows them waiting in a crowd of fearful people at the gate to get on the plane.

Courtesy of Julian and Nicholas MacKay

A video shot minutes later shows the chaos on board the plane after the pilot announced that the flight had been canceled. "People panic and go crazy," says Nicholas, when masked passengers yell at the flight attendants.

Courtesy of Julian and Nicholas MacKay

The brothers then show the resulting pandemonium back at the airport after going through passport control.

Courtesy of Julian and Nicholas MacKay

The McKays bought their Friday flight tickets to New York days earlier after several attempts to get a flight to the United States, hoping to eventually return to Montana to spend time with their dying father.

"We wanted to return to Montana to be with our father who dies of cancer," said Nicholas. "We wanted to be with him in the past few days."

After their flight was canceled and Russia suspended all future international flights, including those for the return of citizens, on Friday, the young men fear they would not have won. Be by her father's side before he dies .

"It really is his last days," said Julian. "So it's really bad timing because my father basically gave his whole life to being these independent people and I can pursue a ballet career."

The MacKays and Thurber Are Now Hundreds of other US citizens have been stranded at Moscow's largest airport without being able to return to the United States. They said that neither Aeroflot employees nor airport employees gave the passengers support or information.

"I and my brother speak Russian, but there are hundreds of Americans who have no idea what's going on," said Nicholas.

A fourth American, Joshua Tesmer, is one of those who do not know how he will get home after Friday's flight cancellation. The retired Air Force veteran was working on an oil platform in Russia when the corona virus spread around the world. "It's pretty daunting to think we'd go home and pull the rug out from under our feet," he told BuzzFeed News.

Even more frustrating for the group was the lack of help and advice from the US Embassy in Moscow. Flooded with calls from disgruntled citizens who are stuck in a foreign country, diplomats no longer answered calls there, the MacKays and Thurber said.

"There is no information that is more scary than saying, 'I don't know'. Said Julian. "It's ridiculous and scary to feel like you're stuck and you can't go anywhere."

Later on Friday, the US embassy in Moscow said in a tweet that she was aware of the situation and was working on a solution. Russia also seemed to blame the cancellation.

“The flight was full of US citizens anxious to get home. We are waiting for a statement from the Russian Federation, ”said the embassy.

The US Embassy is aware of the inexplicable cancellation of today's Aeroflot flight to New York. The flight was full of US citizens anxious to get home. We are waiting for a statement from the Russian Federation. We continue to work on finding ways for US citizens to return home.

15:14 – April 03, 2020

One of the replies to the embassy's tweet indicated that a flight from Moscow to New York had arrived on Wednesday, the day Thurber's previously scheduled Aeroflot flight was canceled.

"So, we can send a plane to collect medical supplies, but no citizens? “Read this answer.

It referred to a Russian government aircraft filled with 60 tons of medical supplies and flying to New York, which has emerged as the new global epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone Monday about the deteriorating situation in New York and the need for essential supplies such as masks and ventilators.

 🇷🇺🇺🇸 After a telephone conversation between the presidents #Putin & @realDonaldTrump #Russia sends the largest cargo plane An-124 Ruslan ✈️ with 😷 medical care (masks + equipment) to #US to help combat # COVID19- Helping Pandemic and Saving Lives American Citizens. 🤝 The plane is on the way #RussiaHelps

🇷🇺🇺🇸 After a telephone conversation between the presidents #Putin & @realDonaldTrump #Russia sends the largest cargo plane An-124 Ruslan ✈️ with 😷 medical supplies (masks + equipment) to #US to help combat # COVID19- Helping Pandemic and Saving Lives American Citizens. 🤝 The plane is on the way #RussiaHelps

06:32 – April 01, 2020

It was reported for the first time that the deliveries are humanitarian aid, with Russia having to pay the bill. But the U.S. State Department later said it paid for them. However, a Reuters report on Friday cited a US official who said Washington had paid for the entire aircraft load, and Russian officials said Moscow had paid half the cost. Amidst the confusion, Russian social media experts have described the aid delivery as a PR coup for the Russians.

For some, it looked as if the Kremlin was trolling the USA on Friday after the Russian RBK news agency reported that some of the fans on the plane were from a company that was currently operating under US Sanctions stands. Crates of them unloaded from the plane were seen in a video released by the Russian agency Ruptly, which is affiliated with the state outlet RT.

Meanwhile, at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, Tesmer and Thurber are unsure of what to do and whether they will be able to come home or be forced to crouch and the coronavirus – Ride the wave abroad.

"This is the third flight I was on that was canceled and they are now telling us that there are no other flights outside Russia without a specific date for the resumption of flights in the future" said Tesmer.

"It's back in first place," said Thurber.

The MacKays decided that the best thing to do is get on a train and return to St. Petersburg "where we can at least control the environment for water, food, and friends," said Julian.


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