Aeroflot Comfort Class (Premium Economy) New York JFK-Moscow – A good experience
In early 2013 Aeroflot got delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER, an upgrade of the long-haul fleet which currently consists primarily of Airbus A330 and Boeing 767 aircraft. The first aircraft was put into service on the route between Moscow and New York, while subsequent aircraft are used on routes to Asia, particularly to destinations such as Hong Kong, Bangkok and Shanghai. In total there are 16 aircraft on order from Boeing.
In addition to new business and economy class products, the plane additionally came with a brand new cabin class, premium economy, or Comfort Class, as it is called at Aeroflot. After a visit to New York, we were able to test the Comfort Class on the flight back to Europe.
At the Airport
I arrived at New York John F Kennedy airport just over three hours before departure. Aeroflot uses terminal 1 at the airport, just as a number of other European airlines do, and the terminal was packed with people who would check-in before evening departures to Europe.
Aeroflot was at the check-in area E. The entire check-in procedure was pretty messy. This was not unique to Aeroflot however and seemed to be as bad for other airlines. A lot of people, cramped terminal, poor signage and this off topped with the American security mindset. Aeroflot had two check-in counters for business class and Elite Plus passengers, I, however, was immediately told that I needed to go past another desk at the entrance to the check-in area to get my passport verified before I could check-in.
The check-in was quick but friendly. I got boarding passes all the way to Stockholm and my luggage tag was to Arlanda airport with a yellow priority tag. You then have to bring your own bag, around 50 meters, to the baggage collection area. Baggage collection was at the next check-in area and was unfortunately poorly marked. I had to ask the man who worked there if I was in the right place.
At the security check was a separate queue for premium passengers that went considerably faster than the usual one. The check was very strict and treatment was unnecessarily cold and unpleasant. It is possible to maintain a good level of security while treating those you meet in a friendly and respectful manner.
Aeroflot uses Korean Air’s lounge in terminal 1. A rather dark lounge with limited food and drink options but with big, comfortable armchairs to relax on. As a member of SkyTeam Elite Plus, I could also visit the other two Skyteam lounges at the airport, belonging to Air France and Alitalia. Of the three, the Air France lounge was arguably the best.
Boarding and First Impressions
Boarding started at 6.45pm at gate 8, 25 minutes before departure. Boarding was very orderly, already 40 minutes before departure passengers were sorted into different groups based on cabin class and line number which made the boarding process very organised. Sky Priority passengers, i.e premium passengers of various kinds, were allowed to board first via a separate queue, which was very easy to undertake as they simply opened up our queue first.
Two doors were used on the aircraft. Business class boarded through the front and passengers in economy and premium economy boarded through the rear.
The Comfort Class cabin gave a good first impression with the same new colour combination used in the new business class cabin of the Boeing 777, with the interior in navy blue, orange and white. Comfort Class consisted of six rows in a 2-4-2 formation with Aeroflot’s name and logo on the wall facing economy class, just like in business class.
After I had taken my seat 15K, I was offered a welcome drink, a choice between orange juice and water, but no champagne. The welcome drink was incidentally served in a real glass instead of plastic. Also, a small toiletry bag was offered consisting of socks and an eye shield and I also got the menu for the flight.
30 minutes later, we left the gate at terminal 1, mainly due to late incoming aircraft. A manual safety briefing was done in the cabin before we prepared ourselves in the queue for the runway, and there we stood. There was a massive queue of 25 aircraft and the captain announced that it would take up to 45 minutes before we could take off. Meanwhile, drinks were served in the front cabins, which was a nice gesture. I ordered a glass of white wine and to my surprise it came in a paper cup, which felt a little less inspiring.
At 8.35pm we finally took off from Moscow with a flight time of nine hours and ten minutes.
The legroom in Comfort Class was 38 inches (97 cm) compared with economy class that is 32 inches and business class at 57 inches. In the cabin, there were six rows in a 2-4-2 configuration, which meant 48 seats in total. This compared to regular economy class which had a 3-4-3 configuration. Occupancy was low with only ten passengers, probably because the class at the time was so new that it had not yet been marketed properly. For me personally, it was the only positive and meant more space on board and probably a little more attention from the staff than if the cabin was full.
The seat controls consisted of two buttons, one for the leg support and one for the backrest. The seat was comfortable and the legroom is completely acceptable for premium economy.
The entertainment system on board was a Thales TopSeries, a modern entertainment system with a good range of films and TV series, everything was AVOD (Audio Video On-Demand). It lacked a range of documentaries to watch.
The new menu was modern and was navigated using a remote control that was located under the armrest. The entire menu was shown on the screen, unlike in business class, where they used a larger remote control with the menu displayed as a touch screen on the remote. Headphones were already distributed while we were on the ground.
Wireless internet was available on board the aircraft. I tested this on the outward journey in business class but never on the return flight. The internet worked well with an acceptable speed considering we were flying but it was in the most expensive class.
It took a good while before the sign with the seatbelt was turned off but then began the dinner service virtually immediately. The menus were handed out before take off. In Comfort Class, dinner was served after departure followed by another meal before landing. Dinner consisted of a starter, salad, two choices of main course and dessert. Before landing a second meal was served, which strangely enough was lunch rather than breakfast. This consisted of a starter, salad, two choices of main course and dessert.
In Comfort Class, we were also offered red and white wine (a variety of each) as well as soft drinks, coffee and tea. No other alcoholic beverages were served on this flight, i assumed, as there was nothing mentioned on the menu and I did not see any other drinks served as the wagon passed.
The meal service began with a choice of drink and a cold towel. I ordered a glass of red wine, which unfortunately, was served in a paper cup, which i felt was inappropriate. That they do not use real glasses is one thing but they can at least use plastic cups for serving wine. I do not know if this is the standard or if it was just an exception on that flight. I also asked for a glass of water.
A few minutes later the serving wagon passed with the meals trays. The first course consisted of roast beef with cheddar cheese and salad. Along with this, a bowl of green salad was served. For the main course, there were two choices, either lamb with polenta and vegetables or chicken with ratatouille. Finally, the dessert offered was raspberry cheesecake. On the tray was also a piece of bread and some butter.
The whole meal was served on the same tray. The starter tasted great with good roast beef and a big piece of cheese. Not too much i can say about the salad. For my main course I chose lamb cutlets, which undoubtedly was the highlight of the meal. It was a decent and generous main course with a good sauce that was great in combination with the lamb.
The meal was too good for it to be premium economy class. The two main courses are exactly the same as offered in business class, where, however, there is also a third choice. Everything tasted very good and the dinner was substantial and satisfying. Unlike in business class, the meals were served together on one tray instead of being served separately. Also, the presentation of the tray was clearly simpler than in business class.
The staff were friendly but the service was less elegant and thorough than what I had experienced in Aeroflot’s business class. However, with so few passengers on the flight, there were no major problems with attention and the filling of beverages occurred frequently without me having to ask.
I was never spoken to by name. However, I was recognised as Skyteam Elite Plus during service.
The seat was OK to sleep in, with an acceptable recline. The seat was adjusted by pressing a button just below the armrest. In practice the seat did not recline, but rather the cushion and back rest sunk down into the seat. The person behind is therefore unable to notice if the seat is reclined or not.
I was pretty tired after a busy day in New York and therefore chose to maximise my sleeping time and skip the second meal and instead grab something to eat in the lounge in Moscow after landing.
After having flown straight over Stockholm and on past the Baltic Sea, we began the approach a few minutes after 12pm Moscow time and finally landed at Sheremetyevo at 12.45pm, 30 minutes behind schedule, which of course was due to the late departure from New York. Passengers in business class exited first, followed by passengers in Comfort Class and subsequently the passengers in economy.
Personally, I was in no rush. With four hours until the connecting flight, I went to the lounge for a shower and a late breakfast.
An acceptable experience in premium economy. The food was perhaps the biggest highlight with the same two main dishes as served in business class. It was a little less inspiring to drink wine out of a paper cup. Good legroom in the seat and the service was attentive.