Frustrated Jewish passengers storm security at Kiev airport

"The assault was really an expression of frustration. Nobody threw a punch; it was mostly just concerted screaming. A couple of Breslav hassidic boys started singing and dancing."

February 23, 2010 02:15
3 minute read.
Frustrated Jewish passengers storm security at Kiev airport

airport airplane 88. (photo credit: )


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Seventeen Jewish passengers flying Aerosvit Airlines from Tel Aviv to New York City were stranded for 19 hours at the international airport in Kiev Monday after their connecting flight to John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport was canceled. The frustrated passengers physically stormed the airport security installation at 1:00 a.m. in a desperate effort to receive answers from the Ukrainian airline.

According to flight passenger Matt Metz, the passengers conducted the early morning assault after 12 hours of neglect from the airline, which according to him provided them with no information about the flight cancellation and no solution to their travel plans.

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"They started off by telling us that the flight would be delayed by an hour, then they told us it would take 12 hours. At that point they started simply ignoring us completely," said Metz.

He said the passengers were forced to remain in the transit hall for hours on end, provided only with fruit and water. "Three times they came out to us and handed each person an apple, an orange and a kiwi."

Metz said that the group included young people in their 20s and older passengers.

"Some of the older passengers were particularly concerned because they didn't have access to their medication and didn't know when they would be able to take it," said Metz.

He said he was shocked by the airline's failure to address their questions and inform them of their fate.

"The airline staff literally turned their backs on us when we approached them with our concerns," he said.

"The assault was really an expression of frustration. Nobody threw a punch; it was mostly just concerted screaming. A couple of Breslav hassidic boys started singing and dancing."

Metz said one of his fellow passengers was able to make contact with the United States Consulate in Kiev and that the consul came to visit them, giving one passenger a mobile phone to make local calls and to keep him posted on the proceedings.

According to the Foreign Ministry spokesman's office, no similar calls were made to the Israeli consulate.

At 5:30 a.m. the airline notified the passengers that they were to be transferred to Moscow and put on flights to JFK.

Aerosvit's representative in Israel, Shimon Mostovoy, was out of the office all day and failed to respond to reporters' questions, but the airline's central office in Kiev issued the following response: "On Sunday, February 21, flight no. 131 Kiev-New York, scheduled for 1:55 p.m. [local time], was delayed due to the malfunction of one of the aircraft systems. After system diagnostics it was decided to replace the broken unit. The new one had to be delivered from Great Britain.

"In this connection the employees of the airline [around 2 a.m.] proposed rerouting for the passengers - to New York with the flights of other airlines, via Moscow, Frankfurt, Rome, Istanbul, Prague, Warsaw and other cities.

"According to the information of the passenger handling department, some of the passengers traveling to New York, including transfer passengers from Israel, refused to fly with other carriers and decided to wait for [the] Aerosvit flight. Twenty passengers received accommodation in hotels. All the passengers, waiting for their departure at the airport and in hotel, were provided with hot meals; passengers from Israel were served kosher meals at their request.

"On Monday morning all the transfer passengers have agreed for rerouting and by 2 p.m. today have departed to the USA with the flights of other carriers."

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