Our review of Aeroflot’s economy class service between Moscow Sheremetyevo and Hong Kong is popular, so I decided to write one about my recent trip on the same route in premium economy class or as it calls it, “Comfort Class” (rather implying that economy class might be lacking in the comfort department).
At the Airport
I had my boarding pass from a previous sector of the journey where the checkin agent had assigned me different seats to what she said and failed to add a frequent flyer number, so it was good that I checked before leaving the counter. I credited this to another Skyteam carrier’s frequent flyer programme, but Aeroflot’s own Bonus programme enables upgrades from certain premium economy tickets to business for not that many points. As the premium economy tickets are often cheap to start with, this is a good deal.
At Sheremetyevo, queues at transfer passport control and immigration meant that despite a near two hour transfer window, I arrived at the departure gate only around fifteen minutes before boarding started.
This is definitely something to consider when choosing to book Aeroflot. They have one daily service to Hong Kong, so if for example my inbound flight had been even forty five minutes late arriving (or perhaps just if the booking used the minimum connection time the airline suggests), I would have missed my flight and had to wait for a day for the next one. Those travelling on a Hong Kong passport would be fine, but for the many passports which without a Russian visa would mean waiting in the airport or one airport hotel which is used as a transit hotel but where access and exit are controlled. It is a fine airport but spending twenty four hours inside it does not appeal.
Premium economy is only offered on the airline’s fleet of seventeen Boeing 777-300s and it was one such which took me to Hong Kong (registration VP-BHA).
The premium economy cabin was laid out in six rows of 2-4-2. I moved to an empty window seat. The chair had considerable space, but the recline worked in the same sort of shell Cathay had in economy class a few years ago. So, when opened out it does not recline as such but moves forward, still allowing quite a bit of legroom but less than when it is upright. The advantage of this is that the seatback does not move with the chair, so there is less interference to the passenger behind.
The seat was equipped with a USB port, a power point (which is absent in economy class) and a decently large screen. The same low end earbuds used in economy were offered. The inflight programming was extensive and had a good mix of material, although some of the music labelling was a bit hard to follow – it seemed as if specific album covers were being used for compilations in some cases. There was plenty of entertainment in the inflight magazine with over three hundred pages, but only a few in English – but there was an English language inflight magazine which itself had a hundred pages.
The table folded out double, to a huge size for premium economy, as you can see in the photograph further down of breakfast. At the seat was a large cushion and blanket as well as a pair of slippers which contained an eye mask. The cabin was spotlessly clean. The premium economy cabin had one dedicated lavatory, with Caudalie toiletries.
The forty eight seat cabin was a smidgen over one quarter full, which lent it a quiet, relaxed atmosphere.
The captain welcomed us onboard “the legendary Aeroflot” and was then quiet until shortly before landing. We pushed back on time and spent a while waiting for traffic to clear before we took off from the snowy Sheremetyevo and had a flawlessly smooth flight before descending with fantastic views over all of Macau, circling and coming into land in a sunny Hong Kong just a few minutes after schedule, at a gate immediately beside passport control.
The route mirrored the Trans-Siberian but slightly south, until it veered more southwards before Novosibirsk.
Immediately after boarding a steward came up and offered me a welcome drink of juice or water, served in a paper cup. Later he handed out menus.
Shortly after takeoff, a stewardess came around with a bag of mixed nuts and a choice of drinks. Beer and wine are free in premium economy (which they no longer are in economy class, to my surprise) but as I understand it, spirits are not.
The crew then came around with dinner, on a tray, and offered bread separately, along with more drinks.
A couple of hours before landing, breakfast was offered in a similar manner.
The crew was immaculately attired. Aeroflot advertisements make much of the stunning look of their cabin crew, but this one wasn’t a set of beauties. They were mostly serious faced, although one did crack a large smile when handing out kits to the children onboard. However, they were very helpful – for example, when one saw me looking at the wine chiller while waiting to use the lavatory, he proactively offered me a chilled beer.
The crew made announcements in Russian, English and heavily accented Mandarin but not Cantonese.
Food and Drink
The menu was as follows.
I had the quail for dinner and pancakes for breakfast – all were prepared to perfection and would have held their own versus business class catering on many airlines.
The drinks selection was more mediocre both in range and quality.
The presentation was for the most part good – proper porcelain (though the main course’s dish shape made it slightly awkward to cut), metal cutlery and a large, thick, hemmed napkin with buttonhole, far better than many business class offerings. Oddly, drinks were all proferred in paper cups, save for a beer poured in a clear plastic cup.
Aeroflot’s premium economy was a lovely experience – spacious, comfortable seats, a quiet cabin on the flight, attentive service and top notch food. It is also often excellent value compared to other carriers. I would actively consider flying it in future.