Flying in Russia is Pleasantly Old School

Meal services, passengers calm and dressed slightly formal, sounds a bit like nostalgia of flying yesteryear.

Russia is not known for good service, however I found my recent flights on Rossiya and S7 to be quite pleasant.

Passengers have few carry-ons and board quickly. They take things in stride without much drama, so much so that I did not realize when one of my flights was diverted to another city.

Flight attendants are gruffly professional.

Meals or snacks are served on flights, even those under an hour. Compared to United that has cut whole cashews for it its business passengers in favor of scraps, the two lemon slices in Rossiya’s tea is lavish.

Rossiya Tea

The downsides are seats can be really tight and constant use of bus gates.

Tickets are often relatively cheap. Some airlines, like Rossiya, are very difficult to book outside Russia and do not show up on many search engines. I used OneTravel to book.

For mile collectors S7 is a good option to use British Airways Avios with minimal fees, though many point to point trips require a connection in Moscow that add to the cost in their distance per segment model. In contrast Delta partner AeroFlot has huge surcharges on tickets so that the award often only covers a small part of the comparable ticket price. Star Alliance has nothing in Russia, and with the hassles of Russian immigration, even with multiple-entry visas, connecting outside Russia on an airline like Lufthansa makes little sense.

So don’t worry about miserable flights if you go to Russia, and hope that the capitalists don’t teach them how to squeeze an airline.

The quaintest part of the flights? Applause on safe landing (preceded by the old ladies fervently crossing themselves on the descent).

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  • Joey

    Eeeek perhaps the capitalists have taught them how to squeeze an airline. Have you read about Transaero’s plans for their new A380 coming up in 2015? Over 600 passengers (12 first, 24 business, and 616 economy!)

  • Shannon

    Could you tell more about how to plan your trip to Russia? Are people friendly there?Are the willing to communicate in English? Is it safe for backpackers or better to go with tour? How difficult to get Visa in NY?

  • Mr. Cool

    if you dont want to connect in DME on S7 flights you can always use their other hub, OVB (:

  • @Shannon – Russia is challenging. Very few people speak English. They say that they know someone is a foreigner if they smile on the street. The distances are huge which costs time and money. So it is important to be very focused. I think safety is ok. Women are in charge in Russia, and my guidebook noted that many young Russian women dress to get attention so female travelers dressed normally are typically not hassled. That said, I always speak up for independent travel, I learn so much more by doing it myself.

    The visa process is pretty smooth now. In NYC they outsource to a company that is very professional. However, and this applies only to US citizens, if you want the 3-year visa you need to go to the consulate for an interview, so it is easier to bypass the agency and go direct to the consulate to apply and do the interview together. Otherwise you go to agency, then later to interview. The process takes 12-15 business days. Either way pickup is at the agency. You still need an invitation letter but those are easy to get online.

  • Shannon

    If I get three year visa,how long will I be able to stay each time? Does it depend on the immigration officer?

  • @Shannon – it may be up to the officer, I did not see anything firmly in writing, however since they gave me 182 days per stay without asking it does not seem they are too tight on that.