CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — The city of Calgary is preparing to host the Winter Olympics. Members of the Russian and Czech Republic world junior hockey teams were removed from a New Year’s Eve flight from Calgary to Frankfurt, Germany, after fellow passengers complained that the Russian team caused a disturbance by smoking and refusing to wear masks. The flight was scheduled to depart from Calgary at midnight.
According to a statement released on Saturday, officers from the Calgary Police Department’s Airport Unit responded to complaints of a disturbance on an Air Canada flight at 5:45 p.m. on Friday. In the statement, it was not stated who was responsible for the disturbance or whether any arrests were made, and police did not respond to demands for additional information from The Canadian Press. A plea for information from Air Canada had similarly gone unanswered as of press time.
The squad members were returning home after the COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of the junior championships in Red Deer and Edmonton on Wednesday.
“The team from the Czech Republic and Russia was removed from the aeroplane because they had violated the mask policy.” Russia’s Sergei Zubov told Russian publication Izvestia that his team adheres to “quite strict restrictions.”
The Czech team manager, Otakar Cerny, believes his team was likely grouped with the Russians by the flight crew because their grey sweatshirts were similar in colour to each other’s.
According to Cerny, “it was almost only for this reason that they bundled us together with the Russians and informed us that the entire Czech and Russian mission would no longer be able to board the plane.”
“Air Canada representatives expressed their regret to us and, at their expense, arranged for us to stay in a hotel and take a trip to Frankfurt at the same time the next day. The Russian hockey players will not be on the same airline as us, they informed us.”
Passenger Eoin Kenny, who was travelling in business class, reported that a Russian official who was seated beside him was vaping in the cabin and refused to put his mask over his mouth and nose, as required by the flight crew. According to Kenny, the flight attendants attempted numerous times to persuade the passenger to comply with the guidelines, but he refused.
“He was blasting Russian rock music on his phone,” Kenny said in an interview with The Canadian Press while at the Madrid airport. It took several attempts before he finally relented and turned it off. “I believe they had been over-refreshed.”