About 170 passengers bound for the Winter Olympics, including athletes from Spain and Japan, found themselves stranded in Germany when an Aeroflot flight to Sochi failed to get off the ground before Frankfurt airport closed for the night on Tuesday.
Passengers boarded the plane, listened to the security briefing and sat back for takeoff as the cabin lights were dimmed. But after taxiing along the runway for about half an hour and returning to the gate, they were told they had to disembark because the airport had closed.
Spanish ice dancers Sara Hurtado and Adrian Diaz, whose journey had started in Montreal, were philosophical about the delay because they do not compete until Feb. 16, but they were keen to begin training in Sochi as soon as possible and put the marathon journey behind them.
"Your muscles get really stiff and the blood gets thick so you have to start flushing that out of your system to perform well," said Hurtado, sporting a red and yellow tracksuit.
A Spanish skater and five Japanese snowboarders heading to Sochi were also on board, together with officials and support staff from many other countries including China, France, the Netherlands and the United States.
"Why would they let the plane leave the gate if the airport was already closed?" asked Gordon Maclean, an American from Michigan who works on a team compiling statistics for the curling competition.
Flight SU2305 was meant to take off at 10:35 p.m., just 25 minutes before the airport closes due to rules limiting noise at night. An Aeroflot official said boarding had been delayed because of problems identifying about 100 pieces of luggage from passengers' connecting flights.
Passengers were taken to a nearby hotel and told to return to the airport at 4:30 a.m.