You may have seen the movie Terminal, but Michel Gallet lived it for a night in Moscow

By | December 28th, 2016

Have you seen the movie Terminal and wondered how you would cope if you were stuck in an airport and couldn’t leave? Well, Michel Gallet found out the hard way.

Gallet is a French senior engineer with expertise in spontaneous transport systems. Invited to an international conference in Rostov, Russia, by the Russian Scientific and Research Institute of Motor Transport (NIIAT), round trip tickets between Paris and Rostov were purchased for him on Aeroflot.

Gallet traveled from Paris to Rostov without incident. His return trip, however, was not so uneventful.

Aeroflot’s flight from Rostov to Moscow departed at least 30 minutes late, and when it arrived at Moscow’s overcrowded Sheremetyevo Airport, traffic kept the plane from reaching a gate for an additional 20 minutes. Once passengers were allowed to leave the plane, they were bused to the terminal, and Gallet met additional challenges.

Gallet’s original flight to Paris had already departed, so he looked for the Aeroflot connections desk. The agent there was unable to help Gallet because of a language barrier. Gallet then proceeded to the main hall and spoke to another agent at the main Aeroflot office. This agent was able to provide Gallet with a ticket to Paris — but it didn’t depart until the following morning.

Gallet’s visa was only valid for four days, and it was expiring in a few hours. It would not be possible for him to leave the airport and return the next morning. He would have to proceed to the international terminal and would not be allowed to leave — unless it was on a flight out of the country.

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Are you reliving scenes from Terminal? I was when I first read Michel Gallet’s story. Gallet was too.

The Aeroflot agent who provided Gallet with his ticket couldn’t help him with a place to stay, couldn’t allow him to use the Aeroflot lounge for a few hours and couldn’t upgrade him on his flight the next morning. When Gallet wanted to know where he was supposed to spend the night, it wasn’t the agent’s problem. Gallet received vouchers totaling 490 rubles (approximately $8) for two meals, plus a soft drink voucher and a small bottle of water.


Gallet told us his age, professional position and expertise make him a respected person at home in France — and in most places abroad. But in Russia, he settled onto the dirty and bug-infested floor of the Moscow airport to spend the night. He awoke in pain, with bug bites on his neck, made his way to the gate, and eventually arrived safely in Paris — a day later than planned, missing a family celebration. That’s when he sent a letter to Aeroflot to ask for reimbursement of the cost of his flight plus the cost of a “nice hotel room.”

Aeroflot’s website lists certain types of compensation for delayed flights. In the case of flights delayed six or more hours during the night, Aeroflot promises to provide checked-in passengers with hotel accommodations, round-trip transfers between the airport and the hotel and catering services.

While I understand that it isn’t Aeroflot’s fault that Gallet’s visa was expiring, it also wasn’t Gallet’s fault he missed his connecting flight. Further, Gallet didn’t control his visa application — NIIAT did. Leaving a country on the day a visa expires — especially one with validity as short as Gallet’s — isn’t a unique situation, and Aeroflot should have been able to make alternate arrangements for him.

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But is Gallet entitled to reimbursement of his flight cost and the cost of a hotel room? Technically, I don’t believe he is. Gallet told us that NIIAT issued his ticket, so he had no flight expenses to reimburse. Since he was never able to get a hotel room, he had no hotel or transportation expenses to reimburse, either.

Does Gallet deserve compensation? Absolutely. But is he entitled to reimbursement of expense he doesn’t seem to have expended? No. But don’t get me wrong: I do think Aeroflot should have offered him compensation.

In response to his letter, Aeroflot offered Gallet only 48 euros compensation. When he appealed, the company explained that its “company culture wouldn’t allow it.” He asked us to get involved, but Aeroflot ignored us — and now it’s ignoring him.

Should Michael Gallet have received more compensation?

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  • BubbaJoe123

    The only thing I can see that Aeroflot could have done here is to allow him access to a lounge, if there’s one in the area in which he had to remain, and if it operated all night. They can’t overrule his visa rules and put him in a hotel.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Aeroflot isn’t an EU airline, so EU 261 doesn’t apply on flights to the EU.

  • Dutchess

    How was a gate agent from a regional airline supposed to help him with an issue stemming from an expiring Russian visa???? What else could the agent have done? Access to a lounge which most assuredly isn’t open 24 hours would have left him in the same place, sleeping in the terminal. I’m not sure what else they could have done.

  • MarkKelling

    Aeroflot is NOT a regional airline. It is one of the largest in the world and can fly you nearly anywhere you want to be.

    Other points I agree on. NIIAT should have added a day to the visa to account for travel time home.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Agreed. Moscow is Aeroflot’s hub, like London for BA or Frankfurt for Lufthansa.

  • Flyonpa

    Moscow has a “Airside” hotel. Hotel Novotel Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, Edward Snowden used it for a week while he was “Stuck” at the Moscow airport. Don’t know the booking requirements to get into it but, seem to be a Secure Bus that goes there, and you can’t leave the secured floor you are on.

  • Jeff W.

    I am going to have to agree with the people posting previously.

    Any compensation should come from NIIAT. They are the ones who booked an itinerary that included a connection of less than an hour. They are the ones that issued the visa that expired on the same day the conference ended, leaving no room for travel issues.

    Complicating the fact, is of course, that all of the expenses were paid for by NIIAT, Which means they would be the recipient of any reimbursements by Aeroflot. If NIIAT is a department within the Russian government agency, that is pretty much the end of the line.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, even Russia has Air Passenger Rights legislation and it appears this passenger did not receive what he was entitled to under Russian law. He should follow-up with Aeroflot and also contact the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency and follow the instructions for Consideration of Appeals, Claims and Suits:

    In conformity with the requirements of the Federal Aviation Rules (FAP) “General Rules of Air Carriage of Passengers, Baggage…” approved by Order of the Russian Transport Ministry No. 82 of 28 June 2007, in case of delay, cancellation, rerouting of a flight:
    […]
    The airline is obliged to organize, free of charge, the following services for passengers at the points of departure and at intermediate points in case of interruption due to the carrier’s fault as well as in cases of flight delay or cancellation as a consequence of adverse meteorological conditions, for technical and other reasons, or rerouting (Item 99 of FAP):
    […]
    two telephone calls or two electronic mail messages if waiting for the flight departure for more than two hours;
    supply with refreshment beverages if waiting for the flight departure for more than two hours;
    supply with hot food if waiting for the flight departure for more than four hours and subsequently every six hours in the daytime and every eight hours in the nighttime;
    hotel accommodation if waiting for the flight departure for more than eight hours in the daytime and more than six hours in the nighttime;
    transport from the airport to the hotel and back in the cases when the hotel is provided without an additional pay;

    […]
    The carrier is obliged to pay a fine to the consumer for delay in the delivery of the passenger, baggage or freight to the point of destination in the amount of 25% of the Minimum Amount of Payment for Labor established by federal law for each hour of delay, but not more than 50% of the carriage charge, unless the carrier proves that the delay was a consequence of insuperable force, elimination of malfunction of the aircraft threatening passengers’ lives or health, or other circumstances not depending on the carrier (Art. 120 of the Air Code).

    […]
    Procedure of Consideration of Appeals, Claims and Suits

    If the carrier has not taken measures to protect the rights of the passengers of the flights, the consumer must submit a claim (see example at the bottom of the page) within 6 months from the day of ensuing of the event that served as grounds for submitting the claim (Art. 126 of the Air Code).

    http://www.koltsovo.ru/en/passenger_rights_on_flight_delay

  • Michael__K

    Aeroflot is a Russian airline, so the Air Code of the Russian Federation, including the Air Passenger Rights provisions similar to EU 261, DO apply, regardless of whether Aeroflot thinks those laws match their “company culture.”

  • C Schwartz

    I think the main problem was with the visa expiration date. A hotel would have meant leaving the terminal and it sounds as if the visa expired at midnight. A hotel reservation would have been useless if he could legally spend the night in Russia

  • C Schwartz

    I saw a similar situation in Frankfurt with passengers and visa issues in Frankfurt. There was a snowstorm and flights were canceled. Lufthansa gave hotel vouchers to all passengers. Some people had only transit visas and were not allowed by German border patrol to leave the airport and enter Germany. They had to sleep at the airport. I was behind them in line in the non eu passport line.

  • Bill___A

    Was the in terminal hotel full? If not, he could have gone there. Sometimes, things just happen. If his visa wasn’t expiring then the airline could have sent him into town. Leaving on the same day his visa expired causes problems, and the airline is not in control of that. Should an airline have to accommodate everyone “in terminal”? I think not. Tough bananas.

  • PsyGuy

    I voted yes, but I didn’t want to, i was appalled until i got to the part about the LW’s age, respected, position, etc. He deserves to be treated better (but I’m not sure what can be done in this scenario), but the guy isn’t special. Why should he get the cash equivalent for a nice hotel, he didn’t pay for a nice hotel?

    I do believe the airline could have done more, but should they have. What did he expect, i get the predicament he was in, but what the LW got was what he was entitled too. They got him on the next available flight (the next day) , yes the plane departed late, these things happen, and airlines do what they did in this case get them on the next flight. It’s not the airlines fault the airport is crowded, and they aren’t immigration, they can’t get him a visa extension, it’s not their responsibility. The LW want’s a reward from a business that isn’t to blame for the inconvenience and discomfort. Contact his sponsor, and get some money from them, they are the ones who only gave him a 4 day visa.

  • Michael__K

    There is an airside hotel.

  • joycexyz

    What do his age, professional position and expertise have to do with anything? Are some of us more equal than others? While this was a bad experience, he bears some responsibility for accepting the travel plans that cut everything so close–visa and plane connections. BTW, I assume the “spontaneous transport systems” referred to are not the biochemical type. Otherwise attending a NIIAT conference would make no sense.

  • DepartureLevel

    This is what happens when you “live on the edge”. Do people not ever think that things can go wrong or at the very least get delayed due to weather, mechanicals, etc. when they travel ? Then they have the nerve to complain that when things go downhill SOMEONE ELSE should be responsible and fix all the wrongs after time ran out. We might be in the 21st century but in most of the world we are dealing with a third-world “NO, NO, NO, can’t help” mentality. Plan accordingly.

  • Altosk

    Seriously. He’s upset he had to bunk on the floor of the terminal like us plebs do on occasion? Grow up, sir.

  • Altosk

    Seriously. He’s upset he had to bunk on the floor of the terminal like us plebs do on occasion? Grow up, kind sir.

  • C Schwartz

    I have read that for non visa holders there is only one floor available in the hotel and that it gets booked up, so it is necessary to book in advance– one is not allowed off the floor except before departure, has to order room service for dinner, really under guard at all times by someone on the floor, passengers have to be escorted to and from the hotel if their terminal is not directly connected. It sounded pretty complicated.

    There is no indication if Aeroflot even tried. I wonder if there were any 24 hour lounges in the terminal he was in.

  • C Schwartz

    I wonder if something was lost in the translation. I think the issue may have been that he was invited as a guest of NIIAT — which is the Ministry of Public Transportation for the Russian Federation. The entire trip was planned and sponsored by them.

    There was the case earlier about the 6 month pregnant woman who was delayed in Dublin by a day…..

  • C Schwartz

    NIIAT is the Ministry for Public Transportation so yes a government agency.

  • Michael__K

    If the airside rooms were all booked, why wouldn’t Aeroflot say so, and at least let him use their lounge?

    If Aeroflot had offered the requisite telephone calls, compensation, etc., and offered use of their lounge, then I would be more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Michael__K

    The US has no Air Passenger Rights regulations that cover this scenario, but a growing list of places in the world, including the EU, Turkey, Israel, India, and yes, even Russia do.

    Who is responsible for accommodating and compensating passengers as required by Russian Federation Aviation Rules?

  • cscasi

    So, what would he have been allowed under the Air Code of the Russian Federation, including the Air Passenger Rights provision? Would it have allowed Aeroflot to send him to a hotel for the night with an expired visa or would it have been fined for doing so? What could he have expected to get?

  • cscasi

    An interesting point.

  • C Schwartz

    Those are good questions, from the information given we do not know if there was an attempt. It was the last flight of the day from the write up. Some lounges are not 24 hours but why not even give a pass for an hour if possible. I have some friends that have flown aeroflot, the visa less ones had no problem as they had a long connection time. It does not seem the the OP ran up phone bills, maybe just texted or used wifi to alert family of the delay. An hour to connect at a busy airport makes me cringe especially for the last flight of the day.

  • Michael__K

    If they respected and honored the law they would have offered what he was entitled to, without any written appeal. That includes compensation and phone calls or emails, and hotel accommodation (which exists airside for passengers without visas). If the airside hotel rooms were fully booked, then why wouldn’t they say so and why would they deny use of a 24 hour lounge?

  • cscasi

    Looks like he would have been entitled to a lot more than he got and he should file a claim. I am still not sure if Aeroflot could have gotten to a hotel with an expired visa, but “Flyonpa” indicated that there is an airside hotel at the Moscow airport and that a secure bus goes back and forth and one has to stay on a secured floor. If that was a viable possibility for him, he should add that in his claim and find out why Aeroflot did not offer him that; or why it could not.

  • Michael__K

    From the information given we absolutely do know:
    “it wasn’t the agent’s problem”

    That’s not how an agent who makes sincere attempts responds. Why wouldn’t it be possible to give access to a 24-hour lounge? And which lounge isn’t open at least midnight to 3pm, and why not offer even that?

  • Lindabator

    NOT having a proper visa is NOT covered – you assume the responsibility for proper documentation – if he had it, they could have provided him with a hotel stay

  • Lindabator

    Unless you do NOT have a valid visa – which was his problem. Then they CANNOT offer him a hotel room, which is what they could have done if he had one

  • Lindabator

    they CANNOT let him leave the international terminal area under these conditions (expiring visa), so no hotel option — this is not Aeroflot’s problem – NIATT chose the flights, and length of visa – he should approach them

  • Lindabator

    STILL have to have a valid visa, or you are stuck in the terminal

  • Lindabator

    NOT an option with an expired visa – those folks MUST be held in a secure area, which in this case, is the terminal

  • Lindabator

    expired visas trump a lot of “they should haves” – they simply CANNOT

  • Michael__K

    There is an airside hotel and they owed him more than just a hotel room.

  • Michael__K

    They can’t pay him the compensation they owe him under the law? They can’t give him access to their 24-hour lounge? Why was he allowed to remain in the airport then?

  • Michael__K

    There are hotel rooms and 24-hour lounges in the secure area.

  • Michael__K

    Who said he needs to leave the international terminal area? It’s not Aeroflot’s problem to pay compensation dictated by Russian law, and provide accommodation available inside the international terminal?

  • Lindabator

    NOT for those with VISA ISSUES – they MUST remain in the secure terminal – this isn’t just a matter of sleep, but of security

  • Michael__K

    Do you bother to read the comments you respond to before replying? Why would he need to leave the secure area to access a hotel room or lounge that is in the secure area?

    And what ‘security’ issue prevents Aeroflot from paying the cash compensation stipulated by Russian law?

  • Lindabator

    Have you BEEN THERE?

    Vozdushny V-Express Capsule Hotel – Located in the transit area of Terminal E (accessible from terminals D and F) and the 5th level of Aeroexpress Terminal. Rooms resemble the cabins of a cruise liner, and have private bathroom, tv, telephone, and internet. Minimum 4 hour stay. CANNOT STAY IN TRANSIT AREA AS IT IS NOT IN SECURE AREA

    Radisson Blu Hotel Sheremetyevo Airport – Connected to the airport via walkway located on the third floor (Departures area) between terminals D, E and F. NOT IN SECURE AREA

    Park Inn by Radisson Sheremetyevo Airport Hotel – (3 min walk from the airport terminals) Located within short walking distance of Terminals D, E, and F. Free shuttle runs every 30 minutes between hotel and Terminals D, E, and F. Day rooms are available. OUTSIDE AIRPORT

    Sheraton Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport Hotel – (5 min from the airport) Free 24-hr airport shuttle goes to Terminals D, E, and F. OUTSIDE AIRPORT

    Novotel Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport – (5 min walk from Terminal 2). There is a wing of the hotel that is accessible to transit passengers. Free shuttle bus to/from Terminals D,E, and F every 20 minutes (6:00AM to 10:00PM) and every 30 minutes (10:00PM to 6:00AM); and Terminals B and C hourly, upon request. Day use rooms are offered for 8 hours between 8:00AM to 8:00PM. OUTSIDE AIRPORT

    Kora-VIP Hotel – (4 min from the airport) Located between Terminals 1 and 2. Free airport shuttle available on request (must be pre-booked). OUTSIDE AIRPORT

  • Michael__K

    There are TWO Vozdushny hotels. One in the secure transit area and one outside (in the “free” area):
    http://v-exp.ru/docs/Guide%20to%20online%20booking.pdf

    ATTENTION!
    CAPSULE HOTEL «VOZDUSHNY EXPRESS» Terminal E IS LOCATED IN THE SECURE TRANSIT AREA OF AIRPORT (DUTY FREE ZONE). YOU DO NOT NEED A RUSSIAN VISA OR A TRANSIT VISA.
    http://v-exp.ru/en/price/booking/?hotel=55&lang=en

    And, AGAIN… if the transit area rooms were fully booked, there are lounges in the secure area… And there was cash compensation owed among other accommodations (telephone calls) that were owed. What security issue prevented Aeroflot from meeting all those obligations under the law?

  • C Schwartz

    I agree with you, a pass to the lounge would have at least given the appearance that aeroflot cared — I said appearance because it does not sound that they cared. I think that the passenger should follow the information that you provided to make a claim.

    There is a reason that I take EU airlines to Europe from the US and that is being covered by the EU 261 regulation. Wish we had something similar here.

  • C Schwartz

    It does not sounds like the OP knew of the specific bill of rights — however the cash compensation right has a loophole — about issues beyond the airlines control, such as air traffic control, which may have accounted for the delay in getting to the gate. There is no information as to why the original flight was delayed, was it a force within the airline’s control? ” unless the carrier proves that the delay was a consequence of
    insuperable force, elimination of malfunction of the aircraft
    threatening passengers’ lives or health, or other circumstances not
    depending on the carrier” —

  • Michael__K

    The airline has to affirmatively prove that the loophole applies. Since they didn’t voluntarily offer a hotel room or lounge access or telephone calls either (which apply in all cases with no loopholes), I don’t believe they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

  • C Schwartz

    Capsule Hotel would not be possible as the Moscow- Paris depart from Terminal D — so that leaves the possibility of one floor of the Novotel for visaless ones — to go from D to E involves passport check and document check and flight clearance – it sounds as if passengers are only allowed in the terminal if their flight leaves from the terminal; from the airport website:

    “International flight arrival at Terminal D, international
    flight departure from Terminal E, F. Minimal connecting time between the
    flights is 1h. 10 min.
    From the jet bridge
    you should proceed to the upper arrival gallery and go to the counters
    for transfer passenger check-in, check in for the connecting flight, and
    go through passport control and pre-flight examination.
    Upon completion of pre-flight inspection, transfer passengers
    of International Airlines (IALs) proceed via the connecting gallery
    to the area of additional security restrictions in departure Terminals
    E,F”

    There are several 24 hour lounges available in that terminal — one thing I have never seen in a lounge is the following restriction on time spent in the lounge:

    “International flights only – Maximum 3 hour stay – Access may be restricted due to space constraints”

    It also seems that passengers themselves can buy a pass for the business lounge even if not traveling in business class

    “Single entry for one person costs 3500 rubles, children from 2 to 12 –
    1750 rubles. If a flight is delayed over 3 hours, additional payment in
    the amount of 1100 rubles is charged for each following hour. Children
    under 2 years – free of charge when accompanied by parents, having the
    access to the business lounge”

  • C Schwartz

    Yes they have to prove it. As I said someplace else, it does not look like the passenger knew about these rights, and the passenger should try to go through the process of filing for compensation. The EU regulation forces the airlines to have signs about passenger rights in the airports, I wonder if there is the same in Russiam

  • Michael__K

    Where do you get the idea that one needs a visa to go from E to D?

    You may select the hotel in a terminal E (transit area), if you:
     Arrival on international flights at «Sheremetyevo-D, E, F» Terminal, departures on international flights from «Sheremetyevo-D, E, F» Terminal

    http://v-exp.ru/docs/Guide%20to%20online%20booking.pdf

  • cscasi

    Will the hotel accept the passport he would be checking in with; the one with the expired visa? And what you provided was: “Reservation and payment for a room through the Internet can be no later than 12 hours
    prior to arrival time. All terminals of “Sheremetyevo” airport interconnected pedestrian
    gallery.” Would they accept a walkup; again with an expired visa in his passport?

  • Michael__K

    I already quoted the hotel’s own website above:

    CAPSULE HOTEL «VOZDUSHNY EXPRESS» Terminal E IS LOCATED IN THE SECURE TRANSIT AREA OF AIRPORT (DUTY FREE ZONE). YOU DO NOT NEED A RUSSIAN VISA OR A TRANSIT VISA.

    Inside 12 hours, the hotel needs to be booked in-person or by phone. So?

  • cscasi

    It also states:
    Checking in at the Hotel is arranged upon presentation of passport or any other identification document. If a Guest agrees with the Hotel «Vozdushny Express» rules and checks in — Hotel accommodation contract is considered to be concluded.
    Will the hotel allow him to check in with an expired visa? I have not been able to find anything that states yes or no.

  • Michael__K

    He obviously had a passport. His visa was not even expired as of when he would have checked in — but even that is utterly irrelevant given that YOU DO NOT NEED A RUSSIAN VISA OR A TRANSIT VISA to stay there.

  • C Schwartz

    I did not say one needs a visa- I quoted what one needs to pass through to get from D to E — transfer desk first then one needs to pass through passport and pre flight verification — and this is from the Moscow airport website:

    http://www.svo.aero/en/transit/int-int/

    Good to know that a passenger can access the hotel from D and F. Terminal C is problematic.

    One lesson from this person’s trip is to try and find the Passenger rights information before leaving

  • Michael__K

    Additional pre-flight verification checkpoints do not affect access between the terminals but are for accessing specific flight departure gates.

  • C Schwartz

    I was foolishly thinking about a time when I was not allowed access to a certain lounge at FRA airport because my flight was not leaving from those B gates — They had verification, it was not an open walkway. Every trip is now an adventure. Thanks for the info.

  • jsn55

    What an awful story. Did he check Aeroflot out before agreeing to fly with them? Or were they the only airline available? If their agent didn’t want to assist, he could at least have called someone into help this passenger who could not leave the airport. So, yes, I think he is due some compensation for being dissed by Aeroflot.

  • C Schwartz

    This lounge was near some B gates, ( Pier B they call it), and security would let me into B as I was not departing from B. I had a long layover and I heard that the lounge had different amenities so I wanted to check it out. This is all on LH.

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