In this review, we will take an domestic Aeroflot flight from Moscow Sheremetyevo to Irkutsk in business class on a Boeing 737-800.
After a dismal experience in Aeroflot’s domestic business lounge I was happy to finally fly onward to Irkutsk after what has already been a long day of travelling. As I had a great experience on board of my previous Aeroflot flight from Paris to Moscow, I was curious if the Russian state airline could keep up its good work on this overnight segment as well.
The experience did not start well as we had a bus gate and were all crammed into two freezing cold buses, with no priority boarding being enforced, let alone there being a separate bus for business class.
The drive to our plane seemed to take eternally. The driver was not doing faster than 10mph due to the snow and ice on the tarmac. It seemed that our plane itself was parked all the way in Omsk instead of a far-flung corner of Sheremetyevo Airport.
After a half hour (!) drive in the sardine can we finally arrived at the aeroplane. There was a huge scrum between the passengers to get out of the bus and to board first, which meant more time waiting in the freezing cold outside the aeroplane. Not a real business class-like experience here, that’s for sure!
Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) to Irkutsk (IKT) on Aeroflot
Flight SU1562 (booked as AF4616) – Boeing 737-800 – Business class, seat 3F
Departure: 1.05am – Arrival: 11.45am
Flight time: 5h40m – Distance: 2,625 miles
Costs: 800 EUR, as part of a ticket including 12 flights in business class
Comfy recliner seats
Fortunately, all these first world problems were over by the time I stepped foot inside the plane which would operate today’s flight to Irkutsk. It was a new-looking Boeing 737-800 with comfortable leather recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration fitted with in-flight entertainment screens. Even though there were both plug sockets and USB ports, there was no WiFi on this plane.
While I settled down in my seat 3F, a lovely flight-attendant introduced herself and offered to hang up my coat in a closet in front of the plane. She asked if I would like a pre-departure drink and handed out today’s menu. Naturally, I opted for a glass of champagne which seemed to be the right choice to relax after the boarding madness.
Decent headphones were distributed as well on this flight, and I also received a nice amenity kit (the same as on my Paris-Moscow flight). Each seat also contained a blanket and a pillow. Business class was about 75 percent full on this flight but I was lucky again and did not have a seatmate next to me.
I was a bit puzzled about the food menu handed out for this flight. With a red-eye departure this late (1am), it seems like most passengers should have already had dinner hours ago and just want to try to go to sleep straight away, catching as much of a rest as possible on this flight of almost six hours in length.
I would therefore expect there to be breakfast served shortly before arrival as the sole meal on the flight, with perhaps a quick snack for those who want just after takeoff.
The menu however was one titled “lunch” and featured such dishes as pastrami beef and cabbage stew, fried salmon and a vegetarian dish of baked veggies. That doesn’t really sound like typical food for breakfast shortly before landing? Nor as something for a 1am snack?
When the FA came by to write down our preferred food choices, I asked her when the meal would be served. To my surprise, she replied they would immediately start the full meal service after take-off. As I wasn’t hungry at all at this late hour, I asked if I could reserve my preferred choice and have it served instead about one-and-a-half hours before landing in Irkutsk. The lovely FA gladly obliged.
It seemed however that almost every other passenger in business class decided to eat their meal straight away. Not many people chose to go to sleep, which was a bit of a surprise, which was a bit of a surprise to me.
I did not take a picture of the drinks list as it was exactly the same as on my Paris to Moscow flight – with the sole difference that on this flight Aeroflot served Lanson Black Label as champagne instead of Ayala. The rest of the wine list was the exact same.
The two pictures below are examples from the Paris-Moscow flight. If you are interested in the full wine list, click on the link above to the review of my previous Aeroflot flight.
Take-off was smooth and I immediately went to sleep once we reached cruising altitude. I was so tired at this point that I was not disturbed at all by the meal service in the cabin.
I woke up again when we were some two hours out of Irkutsk flying somewhere in between Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. And boy, did the scenery look different already! There were some absolutely amazing sunrise views over the frozen Siberian wastelands. Even from the air Siberia looked spectacular with its rivers, mountains and endless taiga forests.
As I was still a bit tired I could have perhaps slept more but I was so fixated by the amazing views that I quickly forgot about any tiredness as my excitement levels started to rise.
One of the flight attendants spotted that I was awake and immediately came over to inquire if I still wanted to have my meal served and whether I wanted something to drink. Before the meal was served I quickly went to the toilet to freshen up a bit.
Business class on the Boeing 737 has one toilet in the front of the cabin which is exclusively reserved for business class passengers only. It was kept immaculately clean throughout the flight, with FAs regularly checking it after passengers used it.
My meal was served soon afterwards. Weirdly enough, the appetiser which was listed on the menu was not offered at all. Instead, I was served the cold starter straight away. My choice of starter was the baked beef with white bean hummus, which was served with cream cheese with honey and mint.
The flight attendant also passed by with a bread basket. The baked beef was quite good. I found it a bit rich and heavy – but I liked the taste of it.
As my main course I had selected another heavy-hitting dish: the pastrami beef with cabbage stew in a port wine jus sauce. It was again a hearty meal and a big portion of food – but it turned out to be a great choice. The beef was not cooked to death and absolutely tender, while the port wine sauce was wonderfully rich in taste.
Sure, it is not your typical breakfast meal and it might not be the most beautifully presented meal ever served in the sky, but damn tasty it was. Again thumbs up to Aeroflot so far for consistently serving good food.
The views from the window were again drop-dead gorgeous during the meal service. Between every bite I was glued to the window, snapping dozens of pictures with my smartphone.
Slowly did the realisation set in that soon I would be standing in faraway Irkutsk, where the outside temperatures would be a balmy -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).
After the meal, the FA asked me if I wanted to have coffee or tea. She did forget to offer the ice cream dessert which was listed on the menu, but frankly I wasn’t feeling like eating ice cream after ‘breakfast’ while on my way to Siberia, so I didn’t actually mind!
I did take up her offer for a coffee and asked if I could have a bottle of still water as well, which was promptly delivered to my seat.
Shortly before arrival, one flight attendant made a round through the cabin with a tray full of glasses containing some red drink. It turned out to be a sort of red berries juice – which tasted quite good and was refreshing.
The captain announced some moments later that we would soon start our descent into Irkutsk airport, after which the flight attendants cleared all our glasses, headphones and rubbish from the cabin.
Great arrival views
As we started to descend I could spot the first houses in the snow – basically small villages in the middle of nowhere. I could also see a straight railway line, most likely the famous Trans-Siberian Railway, which is still on my bucket list to ride from Moscow all the way east to Vladivostok.
Landing in Irkutsk
Like my previous Paris to Moscow flight, this team of flight attendants also came buy shortly before landing to distribute packages of Japanese green tea again as a ‘thank you’ gift for flying Aeroflot, which is of course a nice touch.
Views on approach to Irkutsk were getting better by the minute. Everything was covered in snow, and apart from the odd small town, road or railway line, the land was completely empty. It was just snow-covered fields and endless taiga forests.
At one point, the forests and winter fog looked so spooky that I could even imagine some white walkers about to walk out of the forest. The landscape did really look that cold and Game of Thrones-like! It reminded me again why I so much prefer a window seat above an aisle seat when I fly. Moments like these are just magical.
We landed on time at a snowy Irkutsk Airport. After a short taxi ride, we arrived at our parking spot on the tarmac. After the fasten seat belt sign went off again, one of the flight attendants returned our jackets from the closet.
Another flight attendant quickly closed the curtain between business and economy class again to prevent economy passengers walking forward. This allowed all business class passengers to disembark at ease and to get on board a special VIP bus which would drive us straight away to the terminal.
I had again a great flight on Aeroflot which I enjoyed tremendously. There are not many better flying moments than eating a great meal while watching some truly amazing scenery down below.
The seats on the Boeing 737-800 were comfortable and I managed to doze off for quite a while on them. As there are no planes with lie-flat seats flying the Moscow to Irkutsk route, this is as good as you can get for most Russian domestic flights. The late departure hour of this red-eye flight is however quite brutal – and the next time I might hop on a morning departure instead, even though that basically means writing off an entire day.
My only real negative point is the strange meal service. In my opinion, such a late red-eye departure is all about maximising sleep. It would be much better to only serve a quick snack (or even nothing) after departure and to serve a full breakfast shortly before arrival. That said, the quality of the food was great!
Another minor negative was the fact that I was not offered the appetiser and the dessert, even though they were listed on the menu. Apart from these minor inconsistencies, the friendly crew did an overall great job. They came by proactively to inquire about refills and kept the cabin and toilet clean.
All together, it kinda confirmed my thoughts I already had on my previous Aeroflot flight: great hard product, friendly and eager to please crews, great food, but some minor points and inconsistencies on which the airline can still work.
Would I fly Aeroflot again? Absolutely! It’s an airline well-worth seeking out.
Trip report index
This review is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A Day in the Norwegian Capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways Night Train Oslo-Stavanger in a Private Sleeper
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. Stavanger – A Great Norwegian City Trip Surprise
6. Review: North Sea Lounge Stavanger Airport
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper Business Class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Guide to the Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France Business Class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ Business Class Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo
14. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class (Boeing 737-800) Moscow to Irkutsk (current chapter)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Irkutsk Trip Report: Exploring the ‘Paris of Siberia’ in Winter
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka (Lake Baikal)
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel, Irkutsk
20. Review: Domestic Business Class Lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24 Hour Stopover in the Russian Capital of Moscow
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ Business Lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal D
25. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM Business Class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
28. Review: Air France Business Class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
29. A Short Overnight Stopover in Paris
30. Review: Sheltair Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
31. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
32. Review: Old City Hotel and Apartments, Baku, Azerbaijan
33. Destination Baku: An Intriguing Mix Between Old and New
34. Guide: Train Travel in Azerbaijan
35. Sheki: Azerbaijan’s Most Lovely Town and Springboard to the Caucasus
36. Must Be the Ganja! A Visit to the City of Ganja in Azerbaijan
37. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku, Azerbaijan
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Lounge Baku Airport
39. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
40. Review: Air France Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
41. Review: KLM Business Class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737)
42. Review: KLM Business Class Amsterdam to Bergen (Boeing 737)
43. Blissful Bergen – Is It Really Norway’s Most Beautiful City?
44. Review: Bergen to Oslo on a Norwegian Intercity Train (Bergensbanen Railway)
45. The Flamsbana Railway – From the Myrdal Mountains to the Fjord at Flam
46. Review: SAS Economy Class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
47. Review: Diamond Lounge Brussels Airport Pier B Non-Schengen
48. Review: TAROM Economy Class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)