Once the world’ largest airline, Aeroflot took to the sky’s as Soviet Russia’s flag carrier in 1923. Aeroflot was the first airline to operate passenger jets in 1956 and during communist times the airline had a close cooperation with the military. The airline operated the widest fleet in aviation including helicopters, crop dusters, heavy freight lifters and arctic patrol aircraft. Communist-era Aeroflot was a by-word for dodgy aviation and the airline clocked up 127 fatal accidents with the loss of around 7000 passengers and crew.Between 1983-1990 Aeroflot was banned from serving the US, due to the USSR’s attack of a Korean Air flight originating in New York. At its peak in 1992 Aeroflot was operating a staggering 10,000 aircraft, staffed by 600,000 personnel. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the airline dissolved into 600 subsidiaries with the rump Aeroflot essentially an international carrier operating from Moscow. As part of an image transformation the airline underwent a logo change, fleet modernisation and route expansion before joining SkyTeam in 2006.
Aeroflot provides average service in all classes compared to competitors, which is a huge improvement on Soviet times. Aeroflot was the butt of jokes with its legendary poor onboard service and burly flight attendants. The airline now has attractive smartly attired younger crews who regularly smile and interact with passengers. Interiors are standard and an Areoflot experience is a pretty ho-hum experience all round.
Essentially Areoflot is Moscow city’s main carrier. International and domestic services to and from Moscow are best on Areoflot, but if you want to reach other Russian cities, other carriers provide more convenient services. Areoflot’s international network is very extensive especially to Germany and central Europe however the airline seldom provides convenient connections. For example passengers from Hanover to Bangkok will have long waits in Moscow for connections. The focus of the airline remains providing Moscow with connections to Russia and the world.
Areoflot is a mid priced airline. Domestic pricing is competitive while on many international routes better airlines can be booked for similar prices or slightly more, and are worth extra. For example Moscow to Dubai or Moscow to Seoul, Emirates and Korean Air provide better value by delivering a far superior service. However for convenience, between central Europe and Moscow, Aeroflot usually offer the best value by providing the most convenience.
Russian culinary influences will typically be found onboard Areoflot and the airline sometimes comes up with something memorably tasty, however it is only sometimes. Typically passengers will dine on rather stereotypical airline food which in economy class resemble TV dinners while premium passengers will enjoy their relatively ordinary fare served on linen and fine china. Meal presentation in all classes is not exactly outstanding. Meal sizes are reasonably generous, however the drinks trolley does not make as many appearances as one might imagine given the Russian reputation for a having a good time. Areoflot's coffee is lousey.
Aeroflot is undergoing a fleet renewable and general makeover and its entertainment service is being progressively modernised. Newer aircraft will have the latest seat back in-flight video screens while some services will have the older larger single screen. Smaller aircraft have nothing except the in-flight magazine which is predominantly in Russian.
Aeroflot provides satisfactory ground services with baggage services that match. Russian airports are nothing to get excited about and are quite comparable to US terminals who are accostomed to poor service. Aeroflot has tried hard to improve its image but a lot of it has been superficial. While staff may have modern uniforms they remain unsympathetic to passengers concerns and missing bags seem unimportant. Unlucky passengers may also be in for a lecture from staff. Travel Insurance is good idea when flying through Russia.
Aeroflot’s premium classes are developing. Seats are spacious, meals are better but interiors are reasonably drab and their beds don’t quite fold out to being flat. On longer trips sleeping is disturbed by constantly slipping out of your chair. First class is called President Class and business is called Premier Class. Being served genuine Caspian Sea caviar is a wonderful luxury for seafood lovers but the overall experience on international flights generally doesn’t match more sophisticated competitors. On domestic legs Aeroflot’s premium classes are good and equal to the best.
Aeroflot provides a standard Economy Class product. The airline is quite reliable, reasonably punctual, service is satisfactory, meals are adequate, seats are regular and connections can be convenient. The airline is not fanatical over excess baggage and this average package comes at an average price.
Aeroflot has a basic frequent flyer scheme that also extends to earning points on the global flights of SkyTeam’s member airlines. Aeroflot has some way to go for their scheme to match airlines who have exploited customer’s obsession for these relatively worthless loyalty programmes. A considerable amount of flying needs to be taken to justify membership of the airlines scheme called Aeroflot Bonus and it is hard to see how anyone outside Russia and particularly Moscow would benefit.
Aeroflot has done an admirable job navigating itself through the turbulence of the Soviet brake-up to its re-emergence as an important global carrier comparible to Western and Asian competitors. Why the airline’s management bothered to retain the name Aeroflot at all remains a mystery given its continuing links to its unflattering communist-era past. The airline’s corporate leaders are generally unimaginative and corruption is not unknown amongst managers. Staff relations are frosty but overall the airline is improving at the same time most Western carriers are deteriorating.
Although Aeroflot’s historic safety record is truly appalling, things have improved. Communist era aircraft have been replaced by modern Airbus and Boeings which have a superior reputation with Russia’s travelling public. The airline has ordered a massive fleet of Sukhoi 100 Superjets which are comparable with Airbus A320’s. Russia’s pilots are extremely skilled, generally ex-military who bravely take risks they perhaps shouldn’t. Their last accident in 2008 was pilot error.
Aeroflot provides a very average service over a large network at an average price.
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