Sunday, June 12, 2011

Not your mother's Aeroflot

I recently flew on Aeroflot Russian airlines ( from Moscow to Irkutsk and back, and was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and newness of the plane, as well as the service. Best of all, all announcements were bilingual in Russian and English.
I did suffer a little nostalgia for the good/bad old days of Aeroflot when a surly unilingual air hostess pushed my travel companion down in her seat when she tried to go to the washroom while the seat belt sign was illuminated. In Soviet times Aeroflot was an accurate introduction to the difficulties foreign visitors were likely to experience on the ground. Today, though, the airline is thoroughly modern. My only complaint was that I could not figure out how to order an alcoholic beverage in economy class. I think the drill is you have to order and pay for it in advance of the meal, but I'm not sure. Another change is that Aeroflot no longer serves Canada, so there is no non-stop flight from Montreal to Moscow as there used to be.
I flew in a comfortable Airbus, and on its Website the airline boasts that its fleet which consists of both Airbus and Boeing aircraft, is among the newest in Europe. No more lurching Turpolevs, and at least on the Irkutsk route, no more scrambling for seats because seats were often unassigned and overbooked.
The flight to Irkutsk is long, six hours, but proved to be smooth and I felt a sense of security knowing that if any problem did arise, we were over land and for most of the trip there was little on the ground to hit except for trees.
Aeroflot is advertising special fares on some routes within Russia, including a return fare as low as 2,000 rubles (about $75) to Mineralnye Vody in southern Russia, a spa town and gateway to the fractious Caucuses region.

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