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Drunk Rowdy Russians Ordered off United Flight 947

'Rowdy' Russians Ordered Off Plane

By Carol D. Leonnig

Washington Post

February 19, 2002

About 100 members of a Russian orchestra traveling from Amsterdam to Los Angeles were ordered off a plane at Dulles International Airport yesterday following crew complaints that they had been drunk and disorderly on the first leg of the journey.

United Airlines Flight 947 sat at its gate at Dulles last night for about 90 minutes after it was scheduled to take off for the second leg, while airline representatives tried to impress some "rules of conduct" upon the leaders of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, United officials said. Ultimately, airline officials said, the pilot and crew decided that the group was not taking United's rules seriously and decided to remove the entire group from the flight.

"Our crew said they continued to be disruptive," said Susana Leyva, a United spokeswoman in Chicago. "That's it for us."

Los Angeles-bound passengers taking the second leg of the trip had waited in confusion from about 5:30 to 6:30 p.m, until the pilot reported over the intercom that "the Russians have to be removed" from the plane. Baggage handlers took the group's luggage and instruments out of the cargo hold, and the plane took off about 7:10 p.m.

According to Leyva, the rowdiness of a large portion of the troupe made the eight-hour transatlantic trip from Amsterdam to Dulles difficult for the crew and uncomfortable for other passengers. The group refused to sit down when told to, talked loudly and tossed objects around, she said.

"The group was misbehaving, inebriated, opening their own bottles of alcohol, rowdy and nonresponsive to the crew," Leyva said. "I want to apologize to the passengers on the Amsterdam leg who had to put up with that and the passengers on the L.A. portion who were delayed."

The St. Petersburg Philharmonic was traveling to a performance scheduled for tomorrow evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Late last night, the group was trying to find hotel accommodations near Dulles, and its members could not be located for comment. United officials agreed to book the group on flights leaving for Los Angeles today but declined to pay for its overnight stay in the Dulles area.

The orchestra was formed in 1882 and is Russia's oldest symphony orchestra. It was known for many years as the Leningrad Philharmonic and was once revered for its close ties with composer Dmitri Shostakovich, until his death in 1975.

The orchestra changed its name in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is now led by Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov, who is also music director of the Baltimore Symphony.
 






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