Fists Fly but Not Much Else in Iced Moscow Airports
Dec 29, 2010 – 12:15 PM
Theunis Bates Contributor
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin slammed airport bosses today for leaving up to 20,000 passengers stranded for four days, after Moscow’s main terminals were forced to shut down following an ice storm.
Freezing rains covered runways and jets with a thick layer of ice over the weekend, causing a 14-hour blackout on Sunday at Moscow’s largest airport, Domodedovo. That power failure left passengers waiting for their flights in the dark, with no information as to when their planes might leave. And without electricity, terminal cafes and restaurants couldn’t provide food or water.
Natalia Kolesnikova, AFP / Getty Images
Hundreds of people gather around information stands Tuesday at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, which has been paralyzed by bad weather.
Some power was restored Monday, but airline and airport officials again failed to address delayed passengers’ complaints. “There is absolutely no information and they just keep sending you from one place to another,” would-be passenger Dmitry Menyayev told Agence France-Presse. Infuriated by these conditions, hundreds of travelers tried to barge their way past passport control on Tuesday, AFP reports, leading security officials to call police for help.
Meanwhile, dozens of flights were canceled or delayed at the capital’s second-biggest airport, Sheremetyevo, where the national carrier, Aeroflot, reported severe shortages of de-icing fluid. The airport restarted operations Monday, but a backlog of delayed flights left thousands stuck. On Tuesday, a group of angry travelers attacked Aeroflot attendants — including several women — over the lack of flight information, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.
Airport officials initially denied reports of beatings but did admit that riot police had been deployed to a terminal. One Sheremetyevo employee, Anastasiya Dunayeva, wrote on her Twitter account, “OMON [riot
police] are watching over our office, passengers are forcing their way in, and there is still no information,” AFP reports.
Tough-guy Prime Minister Putin made it clear that he thought airport officials were responsible for these outbreaks of violence, telling a cabinet meeting that the officials should “stop whining and start working,” according to The Associated Press. He also berated bosses for failing to keep passengers updated. “You had zero information for the public,” he said, according to the AP. “What kind of work is that?”
Some senior airport officials could now face the sack. President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered his chief prosecutor to look into the disruptions and examine whether airport executives have broken any local or international transportation laws.
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