An Aeroflot plane en route from Moscow to Havana deviated from its course on Thursday, FlightAware live flight tracking indicated. The news sparked online speculation that NSA leaker Edward Snowden may have been aboard the aircraft.
A crew member told reporters upon arrival, however, that Snowden was not on board the flight.
Aeroflot 150 to Havana took off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport at 14:10 pm local time (10:10 GMT) on Thursday and landed around 22:30 GMT. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has been holed up in the Russian airport for the past two weeks.
The flight route usually passes over Scandinavia and across Greenland before turning south over Canada and the United States. However, this time the flight headed west across Europe before continuing its path over the Atlantic Ocean.
The detour spawned speculation in the media and on Twitter that Snowden may have been aboard the plane, and that the aircraft may have been trying to avoid entering US airspace. Snowden is wanted in the US on charges of espionage for revealing secret NSA surveillance programs.
Under Russian law, air carriers are banned from sharing flight passenger data to third parties, Aeroflot spokesman Andrey Sogrin told RT.
Referring to the flight detour, Sogrin said that “it is difficult to explain now” what exactly was behind the decision, but added that weather conditions or an issue with the flight schedule could be behind the move.