Coronavirus Pandemic: Moscow Flight to New York Erupts Into Chaos After Being Canceled on Runway

Passengers on a flight from Moscow to New York Friday reportedly erupted in fury after the flight was canceled. The flight was already taxiing on the runway when passengers hoping to leave Russia were told the flight would not be taking off. The Aerolift flight was canceled because the plane was scheduled to return to Moscow, and Russian officials have already closed off borders in an attempt to slow the coronavirus spread there.

"People are starting to panic and go crazy," passenger Julian Mackay, a 22-year-old Montana-born ballet dancer, said in cellphone video, reports the New York Post. Mackay was on board with his brother Nicholas, 19. They were hoping to get home to see their dying father, Gregory.

In the video, officials could he heard telling passengers to "get up" and "stand up." One passenger yelled back, "We are not going anywhere!" "There's people yelling," Makay said 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."

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"Just trying to get home to be with my father in his last days WTF Aeroflot?!" Mackay wrote in a text. "You sell expensive tickets, put everyone on board, and then throw everyone out, almost provoking a riot."

Authorities reportedly confiscated passengers' passports and would not let them get their luggage back. The Russian Consulate in New York confirmed on Facebook the flight was canceled. They provided contact information for Aeroloft's offices in Washington D.C. and New York.

The Kommersant newspaper reported the flight was canceled at the last minute because President Vladimir Putin has blocked anyone from entering the country during the coronavirus pandemic, including Russian citizens. Russians are already liing under "stay-at-home" orders, and Putin ordered an "official non-work period" last week to try to slow the spread, reports NPR.

However, the number of coronavirus cases has continued to grow there. The government confirmed more than 3,500 cases as of Thursday, with 30 deaths. Moscow and St. Petersburg, the country's two biggest cities, are the hotspots.

There are more than 1 million coronavirus cases worldwide. The U.S. has reported more than 276,000 coronavirus cases and over 7,000 deaths. On Friday, President Donald Trump said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending Americans wear facemasks in public to slow the spread of the virus.

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"In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission," the CDC said Friday.

Photo credit: MAYNOR VALENZUELA/AFP via Getty Images