An Aeroflot Superjet - Photo: SuperJet International

An Aeroflot Superjet – Photo: SuperJet International

Many people seem to think that Aeroflot is the same beastly monolith that it was before, and immediately after, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Aeroflot is still the butt of jokes the world over. Regardless of the ill-informed jabs, what’s so bad about the Aeroflot?

The more I read online, the more I realize many people think all Russian planes look like this Bartini Beriev VVA-14, and are full of goats - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The more I read online, the more I realize many people think all Russian planes look like this Bartini Beriev VVA-14, and are full of goats – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I get it; Aeroflot had a very bad reputation within the past few decades (let’s say about 1983-1995), but that was over 20 years ago. Aeroflot is by far playing in the big leagues now, in terms of safety, comfort, service, and median fleet age.

See, I never understood all of that either nationalist chauvinism or cultural cringe. I’ve wanted to fly Aeroflot since I was a child.

The Superjet corporation's demonstration Superjet - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The Superjet corporation’s demonstration Superjet – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Having flown several of Aeroflot’s old departments now operating as their own airlines, I realized that I had never, actually, flown Aeroflot. There was a reason for this. Aeroflot got rid of its last short-to-medium-haul Russian plane in 2010. Why was I going to go all that way to fly Aeroflot if they didn’t have anything beyond 737s and A320s in their short-haul fleet?

That changed in May of 2013 when their first Sukhoi Superjet SSJ-100-95LR arrived at Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO).

Once again, Bernie, this is not a helicopter- go back to your seat! Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The flight deck of a Superjet 100 – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Since then, I’ve wanted to fly on a Superjet. It’s a truly twenty-first-century Russian aircraft. It sticks to the heritage of their design philosophy, but also represents a Russian aerospace industry that is willing to take on international partners to reach truly amazing heights.

My original plan was to fly on an SSJ with Mexico’s Interjet. Despite having been to scores of countries, I still have not been to Mexico and this could have gotten me two firsts at the same time. Maybe one day.

I was, however, in Russia to cover the Moscow Air and Space Salon. I even left some time after the show ended to get some proper flying done. Taking advantage of the low Ruble, I booked a round-trip to Voronezh (about a fifty-minute flight) in business class.

Getting to SVO is easy if you are smart enough to take the train. Apparently it only costs about seven U.S. dollars round-trip. I didn’t take the train, and therefore got up way too early to take a taxi. The taxi itself was cheap, but not seven dollars cheap. Thing is, they encourage you to leave for the airport at Zero Dark Stupid to beat the traffic. The train is 35 minutes: guaranteed. My advice: take the train, especially if you have no bags!

The Sukhoi SSJ demonstrator landing at Zhukovsky Air Field - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The Sukhoi SSJ demonstrator landing at Zhukovsky Air Field – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I finally arrived at Sheremetyevo’s newest terminal: D. It is a stunning and modern display of steel and glass. Point of interest: all airports in Russia require you to clear security before you get to the check in desks.

Check-in was seamless; I just used the self-check and printed my boarding pass and lounge invitation. Did I need the lounge invite? No. Even on domestic tickets, Aeroflot passengers in business class gain lounge access. I believe the machine printed me one because of my Delta Air Lines status.

Security felt like precheck. Russia, which has a much larger domestic threat issue that has been going on since the early 1990s, seems to understand how the world actually works. No suspicions over my camera gear, no shoe removal; I had to take out my laptop, but even then not everyone was. Also, every x-ray was open and there was no discernible evidence a line had ever existed. This puts it head and shoulders above every airport in Europe (except Vnukovo and Domodedovo). Way to go, SVO!

SSJ100 in Aeroflot Livery - Photo: SuperJet International

SSJ100 in Aeroflot Livery – Photo: SuperJet International

The lounge was a solid meh. I wasn’t expecting greatness, and meh is what I was given. The chairs were comfortable, the food was still better than anything you can find in an American lounge (again not saying much), and it felt relatively private. Thing is, the “Klassika” lounge is a-mazing, but in the sense that it is labyrinthine. Yes, there are signs, but still — you can get disoriented easily if you are not a regular patron.

It feels more like a “sort of quiet place to sit with a few potato chips and croissants” as opposed to something opulent. To peeve me further our SSJ, RA-89045, was parked at one of the few gates at SVO’s shiny terminal D with no window.

Thankfully, that is where the “average” ended and the exceptional began.

The Business Class cabin aboard a Sukhoi SSJ-100-95LR - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The business class cabin aboard a Sukhoi SSJ-100-95LR – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Do I know how normal boarding would have worked? No. I arranged early boarding to take that picture, but it seemed pretty fast for everyone else. To my understanding, they board exactly within the standards of the Skyteam alliance.

The Business Class Seat on the SSJ seems to have about 37 inches of pitch - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The Business Class seat on the SSJ seemed to have about 37 inches of pitch – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

What excited me the most: this wasn’t your EuroBusiness Class (ie economy with an empty middle seat). There was even is no movable cabin divider. This is a real airline that offers proper business class service, even on flights under one hour. Thank you!

It's definitely a great place to sit even if it is "between 36 and 37 inches" depending on who you ask - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

It’s definitely a great place to sit even if it is “between 36 and 37 inches” depending on who you ask – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

It was quite comfortable, and even featured seat-belt buckles unique to the SSJ in the Aeroflot fleet. Oddly, the pillows and blankets were also completely different than the remainder of Aeroflot. No one has been able to provide a good answer as to why. Either way, it was time for a pre-departure beverage; something sorely missing from my usual airlines of late.

One thing you immediately notice about Aeroflot is that their branding is extremely consistent. - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

One thing you immediately notice about Aeroflot is that their branding is extremely consistent – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Seriously — the Aeroflot logo, the flag, and the name are on everything. The pens, the blankets, the glassware, even the cutlery — it’s classy and consistent. Also, my glass of orange juice that I was served was most certainly not plastic.

Soon, menus were distributed, but wait a second, isn’t this just a fifty-minute flight? Yes — awesome!

I've seen smaller menus on international long-hauls - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I’ve seen smaller menus on international long-hauls – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

While the beverage selection vastly outpaced the actual food in scope, the pen was to be used to select our choice of options and beverages for faster service later. It also avoids some unpleasant language barriers for passengers that lack true Russian fluency.

Oh, I forgot to show you the impressive economy cabin. I got a bit distracted with everything up front. The seats were not slimline — what is this sorcery?

The economy cabin- look how thick those seats are! Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The economy cabin. Look how thick those seats are. Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Pushback was pushback. The APU was not as loud as a Tu-154 or other Russian planes I have flown. No one sounded like they were torturing a slide whistle and a telephone whilst simultaneously vacuuming. Honestly, a little disappointing. Ever heard a 737NG start up? Imagine that with a bit more of an electric-razor grinding to it. After that, it is painfully quiet. Embraers, CRJs, and even older CFM-powered aircraft have nothing on this thing.

On taxi, we passed a pair of Air Koryo Il-62Ms (P-885 and P-881). They were in town bringing a group of performers for some event in Moscow, I wish I had been able to get a photo.

Takeoff was clearly de-rated and very quiet. During our 31.8-second roll, we were so centered on the runway and I could hear us hitting the cat’s eyes in the pavement — great airmanship. We held a shallow climb for a few thousand feet, then the engines really spooled up. As I saw at MAKS a few days prior, the SSJ can be a rocket sled when it needs to. It almost feels as if it has a surplus of power. We were at our cruising altitude of ~26,000 feet quite quickly.

None of this looks like salami or eggs! That's fine- it was still great - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

None of this looks like salami or eggs! That’s fine, it was still great – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Now, it was time for “breakfast” – I say breakfast in quotation marks because it seems like the flight was mis-catered. Maybe it was actually intentional? We were delayed into the “lunch corridor,” and this was clearly not an omelette nor salami. A lot of people, especially in Russia, love cold seafood plates, with seemingly every meal. I do not. The remainder of the meal was a beef “thing” with some sort of flat pasta, and a pretty fine tiramisu. I’d say best airline Tiramisu I’ve ever had (and no, it is not the only one).

Seriously, though. While the seafood enraged me; the rest was spectacular. Aeromar, Aeroflot’s caterer at SVO, did a fantastic job. With how fast I ate, there was even time for another cup of tea.

Aeroflot has spectacular china - Photo: Bernie Leighton|AirlineReporter

Aeroflot has spectacular china – Photo: Bernie Leighton|AirlineReporter

Shortly after, descent commenced. Through some pretty big convective activity, too. Unlike some of the sportier Russian aircraft, this thing is a tank — I barely felt a thing. Approach into Voronezh also took us past VASO, home of the Il-96 and other interesting aircraft projects. Oh, if only we could have landed there.

Welcome to Voronezh- Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Welcome to Voronezh- Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Overall, Aeroflot really impressed me. I’d say they about tie with my other favorite European airline, Air Serbia. In some ways, they are a tiny bit ahead (printed menus, Russian planes, orange uniforms) but in others they lag ever so slightly. I’d call it dead even.

If you need to go to around Russia, Aeroflot is definitely the one to beat — and, if you can, try to get on the Superjet

CONTRIBUTOR - SEATTLE, WA. Bernie has traveled around the world to learn about, experience, and photograph different types of planes. He will go anywhere to fly on anything. He spent four years in Australia learning about how to run an airline, while putting his learning into practice by mileage running around the world. You can usually find Bernie in his natural habitat: an airport. Email: [email protected].

http://www.airlinereporter.com
The Plane Awakens: ANA Star Wars 787-9
7 Comments
James Burke

Great report. I was tempted to leave the resort when I was in Mexico a few months ago to log the Superjet on Interjet, but my wife quickly squashed that brilliant idea. The seats look comfortable, and I could tell the tiramisu was delicious just by looking at it.

Grin mathilda

The Russians don’t like the Sukhois. It’s just government mandated plane purchases.
They call them the tub.
The 737 and Airbus are better.

https://www.google.com/amp/mobile.nytimes.com/2015/11/13/business/international/aeroflot-heeds-the-call-to-buy-russian.amp.html?client=safari

jon pranza

omg, trollish bullshit here too.

On the topic of favorite European airlines, my wife and I got to try out Aegean on our honeymoon from Milan to Heraklion and Heraklion to De Gaulle. Absolutely loved it. Economy got a meal on each flight and the seats were quite roomy. Service was excellent, especially after I attempted to speak a few words of Greek. Their customer service department even forwarded our bags on an earlier flight after United lost them!

Another note about that trip, Heraklion Nikos Kazantzakis airport was just a bundle of fun. The approach was over a little bay and a rocky shoreline and we deplaned on the tarmac to a brisk sea breeze. The terminal has…character.

Have you flown A3?

Nice report. The SSJ-100 sort of makes me think that a baby AB has been rubbing noses with with one of the larger RJs. It is cute. Yup, an impressive (excessive?) quantity of cabin service for a flight blocked at 55 minutes, but Aeroflot is still making up for decades of lost time. Too bad that their catering does not match the clock, but perhaps it is intentional. Who knows? You’ve spent enough time in Eastern Europe to know that a bit of cold seafood is common with nearly any meal. Hard to knock them for an attractive plate that simply violates a personal taste; I’d eat it in a jiffy. Lastly is the Soup Slop or, in this case perhaps tea slop. Among all of the in-flight meal pix that I’ve seen, I know of ONE that includes fluid in a bowl (soup or otherwise) without some degree of edge slop. It cannot be avoided.
The New & Improved website is pretty good. To monitor with accuracy, I’d suggest that the operators sign-in as outside strangers to examine the finer details and to test functions/displays etc. In this case, the beginning of the Comments Section seems to appear after the Into/Headline for the next (older) post in the list. I was not sure which post would include my response.
Other thoughts: Overall, it looks pretty darn good!! Basic page displays might benefit from a bit more color contrast, but is a very subjective opinion. And finally, I’m delighted to note that the Sky Hag IPA image is retained. Like everyone over a certain age, I’ve known and loved that ‘Stewardess’ for decades. She and many of her sisters are still flying! Best of luck with the other revisions.
-Cook

Last week i was in the Sheremetevo airport in Moscow,

It seems, that a lot of foreign travelers this airport as a HUB to travel asia-europe
On my flight to Vienna with the Aeroflot there were also more europeans than russians.

A good company, which is prferred by international travelers for the price and the quality of service.

Good review, as few people in the West realize the degree to which Aeroflot has gone from being the Hovel of the Skies to one of my favorite airlines.

I’ve flown Aeroflot regularly for 27 years (!), at first flying regularly between the US and Russia on the “old” Aeroflot during the Soviet Union, then during the newly-capitalized Aeroflot during Russia’s Wild East days after the Union and now recently on the new Aeroflot. Aeroflot today is totally different from Aeroflot 27 years ago. The old stereotypes are totally wrong.

I assure you, however bad you may think Aeroflot was during the USSR it was much worse than that. Likewise, however good you may think Aeroflot is now, it is much better. These days I’m based in Russia and I fly a few times a month. SVO is my “home” international airport, to which I connect from a regional airport in Central Russia where I live. I go to the US five times a year, to Asia three or four times a year and every month and a half my wife and I fly to Paris to visit our second home in France. I’m cheap and almost always fly Economy.

Based on all that I now *strongly* prefer to fly Aeroflot over any US airline going to the US, and I actually prefer Aeroflot flying to France. How can that be? Let me count the ways…

1. Newer aircraft. Aeroflot’s international fleet is, I think, the newest in the sky full of brand new Boeing and Airbus aircraft. They do operate a few dozen of the Sukhoi Superjet, which is a superb regional jet that I fly about once a month. The Sukhoi is far more comfortable for short-haul regional flights than the skinny tube turbo props one tends to encounter in the US. If you didn’t know it was a Sukhoi you’d think it was some new model Airbus.

2. Better in-flight amenities. I much prefer Aeroflot to, say, Delta for travel between Russia and the US. For years now Aeroflot in economy has offered personal entertainment systems with a monitor in the seat back in front of you for everyone and about 100 movie choices . Compare that to what Delta was doing with “everybody watches the same thing 80’s style” and if you are asleep for the start of the one movie, forget it.

3. Better food in economy. I know, I know, even the best food in economy is still a stretch but hey, believe it or not, the food on Aeroflot economy back and forth between Moscow and Paris or between Europe and the US is significantly better than on Air France. Air France often hands out these burrito-looking things in foil packs while Aeroflot serves a real meal. For that matter, Aeroflot actually runs a beverage service and a snack service (sandwiches) on even a 50 minute regional flight. The only places where Air France is better on meals is a) Air France has better bread and b) Air France hands out reasonably decent wine in small bottles while Aeroflot pours passable wine into cups. Air France wins that because if your wife doesn’t drink (mine doesn’t) we pocket a couple of bottles per flight to Paris to drink later on picnics or on the train to our house.

4. Better cabin crew. Aeroflot is not unionized, so you don’t have a bunch of battle-ax, aged cabin attendants flying on their union seniority. Instead, it’s all young, attractive young women and hunky young men in the cabin. Ask for a glass of water on Delta and you might get a “hey, I’m busy” bark from the cabin attendant. Ask for a glass of water on Aeroflot and they are eager to serve. Everybody has good and bad days of course, and I’ve had plenty of good service even on US airlines and occasionally I’ve run into a grump on Aeroflot. But on balance the customer service attitude in the air with Aeroflot is clearly superior to US airlines and usually better than even the generally good service on airlines like Air France.

The downsides of Aeroflot tend to be their ground service and back office. For example, their website is utterly terrible. The business class lounge at SVO is, indeed, weak. The boarding process can be annoying as if you don’t have Priority status you are in a scrum with other passengers, no quarter or priority offered (sometimes yes, but not on a regular basis) for preboarding for those with young kids. But the in-flight experience is really good.

Sheremetevo airport (SVO) in Moscow, by the way, is really best understood as two and a half terminals. The old Terminal F is much improved with amenities but is cramped. The new Terminal D is a fine terminal with exceptionally fast (usually) passport control – often no lines at all. Terminal E in between is sort of a half terminal that seems sometimes more like just a wider section of corridors connecting between Terminal D and F. It is a big hub for people taking Aeroflot and other airlines to places like Asia, India and so on.

If you are downtown in Moscow you are absolutely nuts for taking any means of transport to SVO other than the Airport Express train. 🙂 No way does it make sense to take a taxi given the horrific traffic jams around Moscow. With the Airport Express it’s 35 or 40 minutes with zero traffic, direct from Terminal D to an easy connection to the Moscow Metro.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *