The Airbus A-321s of Aeroflot: Moscow to Sochi and back
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amarchukov

The Airbus A-321s of Aeroflot: Moscow to Sochi and back

23.01.2014 г. amarchukov
In the last few years I've travelled Moscow to Sochi with Aeroflot several times. During the summer months Russia's leading airline has flights for Sochi several times a day. Practically all of them take place aboard Airbus A-321s. Only the very last flight of the day is conducted on a different plane, an Il-96. In my travels along this route, I only got to fly on the A-321s. In total, I've been on board 5 of these planes.

The following review covers several trips made between 2011 and 2013, and reflects my overall impressions of Aeroflot's services on regional flights within Russia and the comfort level of Airbus A-321 planes.

The review ended up being pretty lengthy. Here are links to the main parts:

1. Aeroexpress to Sheremetyevo
2. Aeroflot's Airbus A-321 planes
3. In-flight service
4. Sochi Airport
5. Arrival in Sheremetyevo

Airbus A321 of Aeroflot


1. Departure from Moscow - Aeroexpress at Sheremetyevo Airport

All Aeroflot flights from Moscow depart from Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal D. The easiest way to get to the airport is on the Aeroexpress trains leaving from Belorussky station. The interior of the Aeroexpress looks pretty modern and comfortable.
Aeroexpress train to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
Aeroexpress train to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

The Aeroexpress station at Sheremetyevo Airport, is located next to terminals D, E and F.
Aeroexpress train to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
Aeroexpress train to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

It's about a 5-10 minute walk from the train station to the Aeroflot check-in stands in Terminal D.
Terminal D in Moscow Sheremetyevo airport

This is followed by the security check, the trek to the gate and boarding.
Airbus A321 of Aeroflot


2. Aeroflot's Airbus A-321s

Every single one of Aeroflot's Airbus A-321s that I've flown on has a 2-class configuration - business and economy. The business class seats are the same on all the planes.
Business class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

On the other hand, the seats in economy class differ from plane to plane. During my trips, I saw 3 types of seats, all of them featuring the blue and orange color scheme of Aeroflot.

1. Thin Recaro seats with fabric upholstery (this particular photo was taken on the plane with tail number VQ-BEF, "N. Zhukovsky"):
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

2. Thin Recaro seats with leather upholstery (photo taken on plane VQ-BHK "M. Keldysh"):
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

3. Thicker leather seats (most likely older and heavier, though in my opinion the most comfortable):
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

A few years ago, Aeroflot's Airbuses appeared brand-new and in perfect condition to me. More recently, the signs of wear and tear have been getting more obvious (worn-out areas, stains, ingrained dirt, scrapes, tears, etc.). I wouldn't yet call the seats old and worn-out, but it's clear that in another year or two Aeroflot will have to do some renovations if it's serious about its image as Russia's premium airline.
Economy class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

A unique feature of the Airbus A-321 is that two of the restrooms are situated right in the middle of the economy class cabin, essentially separating it into two halves. Aeroflot's restrooms were in good working order, clean and well-kept.

Lavatory in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

The paneling in the cabins were standard for Airbuses. The cabin featured roomy baggage shelves, halogen lamps with a soft, warm light, and modern A/C vents.
Passenger class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321
Passenger class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321

In the summer, Sochi is always hot and humid. During preparations for departure, it's amusing to watch steam pour from the ceiling as the A/C struggles to cope.
Passenger class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321Passenger class cabin in an Aeroflot Airbus A321


3. In-Flight Service

As a full service airline, Aeroflot tries to provide a certain level of service even on a 2-hour flight.

The seat pocket contained a flight magazine and a catalog of goods you could buy during the flight (not really Duty-Free as this was a local flight). There was always a choice of several newspapers, usually including at least Kommersant, RBK-Daily and Rossiyskaya Gazeta.


The cups and blankets featured the company colors.


There was a wide assortment of drink available (water, juices, wine, beer), as well as snacks (no hot meals on this flight).


The flight attendants were great on all the flights. I haven't a single thing to criticize. On one of the flights, they even let me take a photo of them.
Cabin attendants of Aeroflot Russian Airlines


4. Sochi Airport

The new terminal in Sochi Airport, which was under construction since the 1980s, is finally complete. Compared to modern air terminals I've seen elsewhere, this building strikes me as both morally and structurally obsolete. But without a doubt, it's incomparably better than the cramped little pavilions which were Sochi Airport only 3 years ago.
Sochi Airport

Check-in area in Sochi Airport. The first thing that jumps out is probably the abundance of advertising. In some places, you can already see decorations for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (remember, these pictures were taken in 2011-2012).
Sochi Airport
Sochi Airport
Sochi Airport

In the terminal's departure area there was a chapel with an unusual design:
At the Sochi Airport

The most pleasant and prettiest place in Sochi Airport is the open-air courtyard, with its fountain, gardens and coffee shops.
At the Sochi Airport
At the Sochi Airport
At the Sochi Airport

Past the security checkpoint, there isn't much to do. It's basically a long hallway with a couple of kiosks and cafés.
At the Sochi Airport

You can see Olympic decorations here as well:
At the Sochi Airport

It's also great for plane-spotting. Some of the parking areas are right next to the terminal.
Airbus A321 of Aeroflot

Boarding and disembarkation in my flights was done by ramp, the old-fashioned way. The jet bridges hadn't been installed yet.
Airbus A321 of Aeroflot
Airbus A321 of Aeroflot

When departing from Sochi, you should try to get a window seat on the right. That way during takeoff you can see pretty much the entire Russian coast of the Black Sea.

View of Adler and Sochi Airport:
View of Adler
View of Adler

The heart of Sochi, at bottom is the marina and commercial harbor:
View of Sochi

If the weather is cooperating, the view of Moscow during the approach to Sheremetyevo is also great. Below are Moscow State University and Luzhniki Stadium:
View of Moscow


5. Arrival in Sheremetyevo Airport

Sheremetyevo is the main hub of Aeroflot. The company's planes dominate this airport.
At the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport

Disembarkation at terminal D of Sheremetyevo Airport is accomplished via jet bridge. Next stop: the cavernous baggage claim area…
Terminal D in Moscow Sheremetyevo airport

… and finally the exit to the city.
Terminal D in Moscow Sheremetyevo airport

After that, you have the choice of Aeroexpress or taxi. Here's a view of terminal D from Aeroexpress station:
Terminal D in Moscow Sheremetyevo airport

I won't write a "conclusion". The photos speak for themselves, I think.
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