More than two dozen reporters and photographers reportedly tried to board that Aeroflot SU-150 from Moscow to Havana on Monday morning. It's not clear how many of them made it on, but they made clear in a flurry of tweets as the plane pulled away from the gate that the man they were after wasn't on the plane.
Edward Snowden, who has admitted leaking information about government surveillance programs, does not appear to have been on the flight to Cuba, despite reports that he flew into the Russian capital on Sunday and bought a ticket for a trans-Atlantic flight. Several unhappy journalists did, however, make the plane, where they could do little more than tweet forlorn photos of Snowden’s empty seat.
The switch-up could cost the reporters more than jet lag and an expensive ticket. According to Sky News’ Tim Marshall, the reporters are using tourist visas and are thus required to stay in Cuba for three days. As a number of the journalists on the flight are typically based in Moscow, their knowledge of Spanish or navigating Havana may be understandably limited. Cuba does offer a special visa for journalists, though that may require application in advance.
Aeroflot flights to Cuba also don’t serve alcohol. Per Aeroflot’s Web site, economy-class passengers do get two hot meals "in keeping with the best traditions of the Russian and international cuisines."
The plane won’t land in Havana until 6:45 p.m. EST, which gives journalists plenty of time to read up on the National Security Agency and debate where Snowden actually went. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would only say Snowden was in a “safe” place.
In any case, it doesn’t sound like the Cuba-bound journalists are missing much. Back at Sheremetyevo, reporters who missed the flight or were kicked off, presumably due to visa issues, tweeted that not a single person had so much as glimpsed Snowden in an airport lounge. The Guardian’s Miriam Elder, New York Times’ Ellen Barry and Reuters’ Lidia Kelly are among the journalists on the ground.