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One of our contributors recently had the chance to fly Aeroflot Business Class on a journey from Asia to the United States. And while the Internet is awash in champagne sipping trip reports, the experience was unique enough to highlight in a time of strained Western / Russia relations.
While the ground experience remains brusque, and still features Soviet era lowlights, the onboard experience ranks among the top in terms of business class soft products you can experience, in many ways eclipsing the first class presentation on some airlines.
Gone are the $100 handshakes and the curt, hurried onboard service. In its place is a ballet-like dance of restaurant style food service and well scripted, but still anticipatory personal touches.
The weak ruble means light loads in premium cabins and great fares for those willing to take the plunge.
Here’s a glimpse into the modern Aeroflot’s flagship business class service from Moscow to New York.
The seat: Nothing remarkable here, Aeroflot still flies an angled flat seat with a 2x2x2 configuration on its Airbus aircraft, which comprise the bulk of its fleet. If you happen to catch a flight on one of its new 777-300ER aircraft, you’ll be treated to a fully lie flat seat, but still 2x2x2 layout. All of this is more than made up for by the service onboard…
Pre-flight: Before the extensive meal begins, you’re treated to a warm lamb cake canape and drink, in this case champagne. While Aeroflot stocks uninspired wines that retail for under $15 a bottle in the U.S., probably in part because importing them is so expensive, it makes up for it with a nice choice of Bollinger Special Cuvee.
Now, the dance begins…
As part of the place setting, a rose is presented to you, while your napkin is placed delicately on your lap in a perfect triangle. No unrolling a pile of silverware, as each piece of silverware is set neatly as if in a proper restaurant. A nice touch that is often not properly executed in first class cabins.
The appetizer of roast beef, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, taggiasche olive, and honey mustard dressing is hardly caviar. But it is elegantly served on a glass plate, along with your choice of several breads. And absent is the concurrent side of salad that’s the hurried hallmark of most business class service.
Next up something world class…
A pumpkin, beet, Feta cheese, and honey dressing salad by Andrei Shmakov of Hotel Metropov in Moscow. It’s a far cry from the Applebees quality bed of lettuce you’ll find on most airlines, and a legitimately modern and flavorful dish worth of a quality restaurant.
And now, not to the main, but an Aeroflot staple.
In this case simply called ‘Soup’ with lentil and parsley. It wasn’t knockout good, but it may be the only standalone soup course you’ll find in an international business class cabin. That’s something typically reserved for first class.
And now to the choice of the day.
Main course options include black cod with wild rice, chicken breast and mashed potatoes with mustard grain, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, and red pesto. But the featured dish is Stew lamb with blueberry sauce, tian with vegetables and rosemary served with Demi-glass sauce, by Joel Garualt of Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo.
What’s remarkable is 1) the petite portion size, a signal of modern restaurant, and not steakhouse standards you find on most flights,and 2) the delicate texture of the lamb. Not ending this course bloated like a 10 abreast 777 is a treat.
Finally, on to the dessert. Either a Cake Pincher with strawberry sauce or vanilla ice cream with berry sauce. Pictured below, the cake with tea and a generous pour of cognac.
After taking advantage of a deep selection of movies and resting, the pre-arrival meal came just about an hour before landing.
Once again, the napkin was neatly folded and presented, and the dish arrived.
Eclair with foie gras and fig mastarda, Chef Saveur cheese, plum, and chocolate mousse, plus Thai sytle chicken with coconut, wild rice, and carrot.
Unlike many pre-arrival meals that rival the frozen food aisle in presentation, this was beautiful and delicious, with the chicken served properly warm.
And finally, a warm thank you from the purser before landing and presentation of a gift – Kioko tea from Japan, with a neatly folded napkin underneath.
Aeroflot isn’t for everyone.
You have to be willing to risk Russia’s unforgiving visa policies, which could leave you sequestered in an airport hotel with a guard outside your door if you miss a connection.
But for those who can risk, the service is impeccable, with friendly crews, light loads (which mean empty seats), and an artfully presented meal service. The crews smiled, stuck to the script of service, but accommodated all requests with grace.
Not to mention fares are incredibly low, with many options under $2,000 roundtrip, especially if you are willing to originate outside the U.S.
But if you want to use miles, Aeroflot flights are widely available for 125,000 Delta SkyMiles roundtrip, plus some modest fuel surcharges, or consider Flying Blue points for the same price.
And what other airline has the CEO publish his ‘Direct Line’ on the inflight entertainment system?
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