I was in Moscow visiting a friend and my In-laws and had two extra days left on my trip (I was departing back home from Prague). So I was determined to finally be able to use some Delta miles. Without getting too sidetracked. Delta’s FF Program is certainly not as generous as other Airline’s FF Programs and I have been unable to redeem miles from the USA to Europe or Asia. However, I have used miles in the past with Delta (is relatively easy) to book Business Class seats within Europe on Sky Team Members. Aeroflot had availability on a non-stop flight to Budapest that left at the perfect time. In addition, I was able to redeem an award ticket to Prague as well. So it was off to Budapest. I have flown Aeroflot’s Business Class (now called Premier Class) within Europe several times in the last six or seven years and with a few exceptions their service between Moscow SVO and Budapest BUD is fairly typical of what I experienced. As a side note, Aeroflot’s long-haul Business Class on their A330’s and 767’s is called “President Class” and is more in line with International Business Class.
Even though I was flying on a Sunday you can never be sure with traffic driving to Sheremetyevo. As this was the first time I was going to depart from SVO’s new Terminal D (last time I flew Aeroflot, they still had some of their flights out of the old terminal), I allowed for plenty of time to get to the airport and explore the new terminal. There was no traffic to the airport and I arrived more than two hours before my departure time (you also need to leave time for passport control and customs which can take some time). Aeroflot’s check-in desks are to the right as you enter the terminal. I tried to check-in at a self-serve kiosk but it would not let me complete the check in. So I went to the Priority Line. I was a little frustrated with the kiosk, but the line was very short and I was assisted by a very friendly, smiling agent (yes, I said smiling and friendly). She changed my seat to a bulkhead aisle and gave me a pass to the Business Class lounge. I then got into a long line for passport. I remembered that Domodedovo Airport has expedited lanes for business class passengers and looked around to see if there was such a lane at SVO. Much to my surprise, SVO does have such lanes. The sign was sort of hidden and just placed in the middle of the floor, and I am sure many of the people in line were not eligible for Sky Priority, but it did save several minutes in line at passport. Security was very quick and the Blues Business Lounge was immediately after security on the fourth floor (take elevator up one floor). There is also a Jazz Business Lounge in Terminal D for Aeroflot Business Class and Sky Team Elite Plus members.
The lounge was very crowded when I arrived (actually no place to sit), but thinned out considerably within a few minutes. I left for the gate early to explore some of the new terminal and noticed the Duty Free prices aren’t as overpriced as they used to be (still high, though). Despite having a new terminal, Aerfoflot still has some bus gates and I saw that the Budapest flight departed from such a gate. Therefore, I took my time to the gate and was one of the last to board the bus. Our plane was at the very end of the airport near the beginning of the runway. For a while I thought we were driving to Budapest.
Aeroflot’s A320’s have five rows in Premier Class in a 2×2 configuration. I was seated in 1C, a bulkhead aisle. As I was getting situated another passenger took 1A. The bulkhead seats have decent leg room, but probabley not more than the other seats, plus these seats do not have a little foot rest where the seats in rows 2 thru 5 do. After every one boarded the plane I noticed that row five was empty and asked the flight attendant if I could move. He nodded his head, so I moved to 5C. A pre-flight drink of either water or orange juice was offered. You could also order any other drink you wanted and I saw one passenger with a glass of champagne (Billecart-Salmon Brut). A menu was also distributed while we were on the ground (in English & Russian). We pushed ten minutes late, but since we were parked near the end of the runway we had a very short taxi and were in the air in no time. One funny anecdote, as we were barreling down the runway for take-off an automated announcement came on to turn off all electronic equipment and make sure your seat belts were fastened (better late than never).
The flight time to Budapest was only 2hrs. and 25min. Because of the short flight time there were a few things missing from this flight that I have experienced on longer SU flights within Europe in the past. Blankets and pillows were not on the seats nor were they distributed during the flight (I would imagine if you asked they probably had them on board), neither were the small amenity kits (socks, eye-shades, and ear plugs) that are usually handed out after take-off. But what I missed most was the digEplayers. On longer flights to and from SVO (CDG, LHR, MAD, etc.), Aeroflot provides digEplayers for Premier Class passengers that have hours of movies and TV shows in both English and Russian. Because I have taken this length flight (to Prague) with Aeroflot in the past I was not surprised that these amenities were not on board.
Business Class was only half full with 11 passengers. The seat next to me was free, so the cabin had a very open and relaxed feel. Unlike most European Carriers that use the same seats in Economy Class as Business Class (they usually just block the middle seat – but can adjust rows based on loads), Aeroflot’s Business Class actually have wider seats (19″ – felt wider) with more leg room (seat pitch of 38″) than Economy. Aeroflot’s Premier Class seats and configuration is about the same as what you would find on a US Carrier’s First Class Domestic cabin. The seats are leather and have adjustable headrests, and a footrest is attached to the seat in front of you (except bulkhead seats). There are three buttons to adjust your seat. One to recline the seat, the other moves the bottom of the seat forward a little and I could not figure out what the third did (maybe adjusts lumbar). But with such wide leather seats and the leg rest, other than the British Airways 747-400 service to and from DME and Aeroflots A330 service to and from LHR, these are maybe the most comfortable Business Class seats within Europe (BMI used to have great Business Class seats to Moscow). Their A319’s and A321’s also use the exact same seats. I saw something on board about Wi-Fi. I know Aeroflot has Wi-Fi on some of their A330’s and 777’s but am not sure if it was available on our flight. I also did not see any signs of a power port
About 20 minutes after take off the flight attendant distributed hot towels on a small dish (nice touch). There were two flight attendants in Business Class. One stayed behind the scenes prepping the meals while the other took orders and delivered food and drinks. They both spoke English, but the English announcements were automated (the pilots English was excellent) and I do not remember any announcements in Hungarian.The girl who interacted with the passengers was very friendly (even made a point to thank me for flying Aeroflot again, she seemed a little uncomfortable doing this 🙂 but it was nice anyway), while the gentleman who was preparing the orders was not quite as chipper. So their method worked out fine. Before the meal she took the drink orders and returned with a small bowl of warm cashews and almonds (unfortunately, unsalted). I think Aeroflot caters all Inter-Europe flights with the same menu (at least the shorter flights), because the menu was generic for flight times before 10am (breakfast) and flights after 10am (lunch). They might have a separate menu for dinner flights and on longer Premier Class flights or flights within Russia. There were three options for the main dish. Braised Lamb Shank, Baked Murmansk Halibut, or Duck Comfit (celebrity chef dish). I am not a huge fan of any of these dishes but opted for Braise Lamb Shank.
After the nuts, an appetizer of marinated tuna with vegetables and balsamic dressing was served. This was accompanied with the bread basket (came by twice). A choice of Russian Rye bread, French roll, Multigrain roll, or Oat Bran roll was available. I tried the French and Oat Bran rolls and they were very good and fresh. As I do not like seafood I did not eat much of the tuna, but I did see that other passengers seemed to be enjoying this dish.
The Lamb Shank was surprisingly good. The sauce (not sure what kind it was) that came in the aluminum tin made it even better. It was served with carrots & snow peas that were also good and fresh along with a honey-apple sauce. Four different wines was offered during lunch (two Italian, and one Spanish and French).
The service was very efficient. A few minutes after I finished my dinner the flight attendant removed my setting and asked if I wanted dessert and tea (eight varieties) or coffee. The dessert was Vanilla ice cream with pineapple confiture and the tea was accompanied with a piece of dark chocolate. The ice cream was a great way to end the meal. Cacao (hot chocolate) was also available and I wish I chose that over the tea.
After finishing my dessert there was only a little more than 30 minutes left in the flight. I tried to sleep, but we were starting our descent a few minutes after I closed my eyes. The seat was comfortable and I would have had no problem sleeping. Just prior to landing the flight attendant passed around a basket of hard candy. We arrived on time and as you will hear on many flights with Russians aboard a loud applause erupted as we hit the ground. Personally, I wait for my applause until I am actually off the plane and past passport control. Despite parking at a bus gate from the time we touched down to when I cleared passport was less than 15 minutes. Now that is worth applause!!
Aeroflot has come a long way in the past ten years. While their service can still be inconsistent, my experiences with them are mostly positive, and this flight was very positive. Additionally, I recently read that Aeroflot is sending their flight attendants through special training classes to help improve their service. Aeroflot’s seats in Premier Class are much more comfortable than other European Carriers intra-european Business Class and their meal service is more in line with a long-haul flight as opposed to the one tray with all courses served on it, which would be typical for a 2.5hr. flight within Europe. I still think they have a way’s to go on long-haul flights compared with the big European Airlines, but on flights within Europe, Aeroflot’s Business Class is as good, if not better than those airlines.