Fliers desperate to escape Russia erupted in a near-riot Friday when officials canceled Aeroflot’s last Moscow-to-New York flight — even though the plane had already begun taxiing on the runway.
“People are starting to panic and go crazy,” one passenger, Montana-born ballet star Julian Mackay, 22, said in a cell-phone video he recorded from his seat on the suddenly-going-nowhere plane.
Officials could be heard in the background, shouting in Russian, “Get up! Stand up!” as a passenger shouted back, “We are not going anywhere!”
“There’s people yelling,” Mackay says in the clip. “This is the last flight of the month and they’ve paid a lot of money to be on this flight … It’s chaos.”
Mackay, a leading star with the Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet in St. Petersburg, was on board with his brother Nicholas, 19.
The two were desperate to return to the states to be with their dying father, Gregory.
“Just trying to get home to be with my father in his last days WTF Aeroflot ?!” Mackay said in a text.
“You sell expensive tickets, put everyone on board, and then throw everyone out, almost provoking a riot.”
Authorities confiscated the passengers’ passports and forbade them from even touching their luggage, further fueling the on-board outrage.
Kommersant newspaper said the flight was canceled at the last minute because it had been due to pick up Russians stranded in America — but Vladimir Putin’s government has now blocked anyone entering Russia, even its own citizens, due to coronavirus concerns.
The Russian consulate in New York confirmed that the plane’s New York-to-Moscow return flight had been canceled.
“According to information we have, Rosaviatsiya(Russia’s Air Transport Agency – TASS) has canceled the Aeroflot flight from New York to Moscow,” said a message posted on Facebook.
“The task now is to inform the passengers about the flight’s cancellation.”
TASS reported earlier that the next flight from New York was scheduled for April 7-8 unless Aeroflot managed to agree to an additional flight.
Mackay was the first American to graduate from the upper and lower schools of the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy.