Flight Attendant to Be Fired for Calling Russian City by a German Name

A flight attendant in Russia will apparently be fired for calling a Russian city by its old German name in front of a plane full of passengers. Now, the man who reported the mistake, is sticking up for her.

The blunder happened on a recent flight from Moscow to the Russian Baltic city of Kaliningrad, when an announcement played, allegedly referring to the city as Königsberg. The strange name choice caught the attention of those onboard, including a journalist, who was first to report the incident on social media.

"I heard this with my own ears on the flight on April 25," Vitaly Tretyakov, deacon of the school for television broadcasting at Moscow State University, wrote on Twitter two days following his flight. According to him the Russian-language announcement of the destination was in order, but the mistake occurs when an employee of the Aeroflot airline made the same announcement in English. "Perhaps Aeroflot can name Russia's cities as it pleases," the man protested.

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The duality of names stem from the end of World War II. Kaliningrad today is Russia's westernmost city, split entirely from the country's mainland. At the turn of the 20th century it stood as one of the largest German cities in Eastern Europe.

Known since the Middle Ages as Königsberg, the city was a historic bastion for the German state of Prussia, whose militarism is often linked to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Almost totally destroyed by allied bombing, the city fell to Soviet troops in 1945 and was renamed shortly afterwards to honor veteran Bolshevik Mikhail Kalinin.

A general view of the city on August 27, 2017 in Kaliningrad, Russia. Lars Baron/Getty Images

Aeroflot were quick to distance themselves from the mistake, tweeting in response to the complaint that the airline had run a "check" and confirmed the man's account. "The female dispatcher will be dismissed," the Aeroflot account tweeted on Saturday.

The story became even stranger when Tretyakov tweeted back, questioning the decision to fire the woman, when he believed he had heard a man's voice, likely the pilot, making the announcement.

"Such announcements are carried out by the senior dispatcher," the airline assured. "We asked several passengers and they confirmed that the announcement was made by a female voice. What is more, the senior dispatcher confirmed the fact herself."

Refusing to take this at face value, however, Tretyakov then wrote on his VKontakte social media page that he is still convinced that he heard a man's voice make the mistake. "If someone innocent has been punished then I am ready to testify in his or her behalf, if they reach out to me."

The argument has sparked a media debate about whether using the outdated name for Kaliningrad should be a sackable offense for the Aeroflot employee. A poll by liberal radio station Echo of Moscow found that 93 percent of its audience think that it is not worth firing someone over.

Even Tretyakov does not believe anybody should have been fired for the mistake, telling Russian TV channel RBC : "I did not ask them to punish anyone… Despite the fact that I think this is an egregious case, in which the main air carrier of the country calls a city in one way when it has another official name, to fire somebody for this is too big of a punishment. A firing is not fair and not adequate to what has happened."

A representative for Aeroflot was not immediately available to comment on Tretyakov's claims or confirm whether the female flight attendant had been fired already.