The Terminal? Russian Student Stranded In Frankfurt Airport

Reminiscent of the 2004 Spielberg film ‘The Terminal’ starring Tom Hanks, a young Russian man has been living in Frankfurt Airport’s transit area since April 17th. Since then, he has become a regular fixture in the airport, recognized and embraced by airport employees as he waits for an opportunity to get out.

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Germany shut its borders to non-essential travel on March 17th. Photo: Getty Images

A semester abroad

Sociology student Mikhail Novosyelov flew into Frankfurt, Germany on April 17th from Moscow, Russia. According to DW, the flight taking him there was a special charter for Russians who had permanent residency status in Germany and were thus allowed to enter, despite travel restrictions.

Novosyelov’s situation was slightly different. His plan was to start a semester abroad at Berlin’s Humboldt University. He tells DW that he was in touch with the German Embassy before buying a ticket for the special flight. Embassy employees had assured him that his student visa would be all he needed to enter the country.

However, upon arrival in Germany, immigration agents said he was “unable to show urgent and necessary grounds for entering the country.” Despite what he Novosyelov was told by embassy workers in Moscow, border agents have the last word on who can and cannot enter the country. The EU has been under a travel ban since March 17th, restricting non-essential travel.

Frankfurt airport
Mikhail Novosyelov (not pictured here) has been in Frankfurt Airport’s international transit area for just over a month now. Photo: Fraport

A written refusal of entry issued by the German Federal Police, obtained by DW, says that granting entry to Novosyelov would be “a present, grave threat to a fundamental interest” of society and to public health.

Terminal life

With no flights heading back to Russia, Novosyelov continues to live in Frankfurt’s International terminal and has done so since his mid-April arrival.

Reports indicate that Novosyelov has settled into life within the airport’s transit area. A random encounter with a Lufthansa employee has given him at least one connection point and source of assistance. He tells DW that this employee provided him a folding bed so that he could sleep more comfortably in the transit zone.

In addition to this, other airport employees have started to bring him food and have given him shower tokens to get cleaned up. Commenting on the kindness of airport staff, Novosyelov says:

“They even asked me what kind of food I like, or if I had any allergies,”

In terms of day-to-day life, Novosyelov spends a good portion of his time wandering back and forth through the large, nearly deserted airport. From time to time he talks with fellow travelers, which include three Bulgarians who were also denied entry and find themselves in a similar situation.

Frankfurt Airport
Frankfurt is Germany’s largest airport. Photo: Marek Ślusarczyk Wikimedia Commons

Waiting to leave?

Novosyelov says he is waiting for a return flight to Moscow but apparently few flights are departing these days. Simple Flying did a quick search and discovered that there are certainly many days of the week where no flights are available. However, some days do display flights to Moscow, through one or more transfer points. The majority of these flights are $1,000-$2,000 and could be unattainable for the young student. Our search does indicate a few upcoming 2, 3, and 4-stop flights between $400-$500.

The decision to allow entry remains with the border police. Photo: Fraport

However, it sounds like Novosyelov is hoping to stay and eventually enter Germany. During his time at the airport he has been trying to register a place of residence online with authorities in Berlin. He tells DW that he is convinced border guards would change their minds if he were able to overcome this one hurdle. Additionally, his friends have recommended an attorney, who is examining his case.


Novosyelov acknowledges that his decision to board the flight to Germany was a risk, to begin with. For anyone that has traveled extensively, or may simply have a ‘weak’ passport, they may possibly understand Novosyelov’s desperation with him saying,

“I didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance again. My visa could expire by then. And right now they aren’t issuing new ones.”

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Frankfurt Airport is quite empty these days due to travel restrictions. Photo: Fraport

The man’s dream is to study in Germany and seems quite determined to follow through with his goal. It still remains to be seen what will happen to our Russian traveler – but for now, you can find him in the transit area of Frankfurt am Main airport.

After reading that Novosyelov knew his trip was risky, are you still sympathetic to his story? Or is his situation appropriate for his actions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Simple Flying has contacted Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa, and the German Embassy for comment. However, at the time of publication, no responses have come in.