In this review we will check out Irkutsk Airport and the domestic business class lounge.
Getting to the airport
After my excellent stay at the ibis Irkutsk Center hotel I asked one of the lovely reception girls to order a taxi for me. They used a local taxi app on the hotel phone for this and within minutes a modern car arrived in front of the building to take me for the short drive to the airport.
As Irkutsk Airport (IKT) is located on the outskirts of the city it was only a short 20-minute drive to reach it. The airport consists of an old-fashioned Soviet-era international terminal and a bigger and more modern looking terminal with a shiny glass facade for domestic flights. As there are only a few departures within Asia from Irkutsk, the bulk of the flight traffic is domestic.
Even though I had arrived exactly two hours before departure at the terminal but there was no sign of any check-in desk open for my flight. As I did not manage to check-in online for my domestic Aeroflot flight to Moscow I had no choice but to wait.
At about one-and-a-half hours before departure did I finally saw that at a faraway corner a big queue had formed even though no check-in desk had been assigned yet on the departure screens and there was no sign that these were indeed the right check-in desks for my Aeroflot flight.
Only because I asked to some people in the queue – and finally spotted a small Aeroflot sign on one of the three check-in desks – did I get the confirmation that this was indeed the place to check-in for the flight to Moscow.
Apparently the locals knew in advance from prior experiences that these desks are used by Aeroflot for its Irkutsk operations as there were still no announcements or other signs at one of the monitors. Annoyingly, there was no separate priority or business class check-in desk of any sort, so I had to queue among the masses.
After what seemed like an eternal wait queuing behind Russian locals who looked like they were checking in their entire household it was finally my turn. The check-in agent spoke decent English and within minutes I had my boarding pass in my hand.
Finding the domestic business lounge
It wasn’t immediately clear to me how to actually reach the airport’s business class lounge. There were some signs in the check-in hall on which something like “lounge” or “VIP” was written – so I just decided to follow these.
At first I thought I was heading the wrong way as the signs led up on a staircase to what looked like a small corridor with some airport offices. Only when I came across an airport worker I was finally shown the right way.
It turned out that there was a separate security check for domestic business class/VIP passengers in a small corridor. After clearing security at this point, you are directly fed into the sole business class lounge of the airport. As there were no other people queuing I was through in seconds.
Irkutsk airport domestic lounge
The domestic business lounge at Irkutsk airport, which is used by all domestic airlines such as Aeroflot, was nothing to write home about and I would not recommend getting early to the airport for it. On the plus side, there were comfortable enough seats, relatively fast internet, some plug sockets to charge your electronic devices and clean toilets.
There was a small staffed bar where you could get food and refreshments – although I have no idea if all everything which was showcased was actually complimentary. It is fairly common across airports in the former Soviet Union that the sheer basics are free (think tea, coffee, water, local beer and perhaps some cookies or so) and that everything else has to be paid for.
As I wasn’t hungry and did not feel like drinking any alcohol yet, I just ordered a coffee and a bottle of mineral water. Both of them indeed turned out to be free. The coffee was of surprisingly good quality.
I was only the second person in the lounge when I arrived, although it filled up relatively quickly after me. In the end there were around 15 passengers – all for the Aeroflot flight to Moscow which was the only departure at this hour of the day.
As the lounge was rather boring I decided to get some work done on my laptop. Time went by relatively fast this way and before I knew it, a woman suddenly opened two big doors towards the tarmac and shouted something in Russian inside the lounge. I could only understand the words “Aeroflot” and “Moskva” – so I figured that it must be the boarding announcement of our flight.
Just like on arrival in Irkutsk, a special VIP bus for business class passengers and frequent flyer elites was used to transfer us between the terminal and the plane. It again presented an excellent opportunity to do some aircraft spotting as there were many exotic planes parked on the tarmac – including some ancient Soviet planes.
After a ten minute ride over the airport grounds we arrived at the Boeing 737 which would fly us to Moscow. To my surprise, there was quite a big queue of passengers on the tarmac waiting to board. It turned out that about half to three quarters of all other passengers had already arrived before us in normal airport buses.
For me this wasn’t a big deal as I was flying in business class and there would be plenty of overhead space there for my carry-on bag. I can however imagine that when you fly back in economy class and visited the lounge on account of your frequent flyer status it might be different.
In such a case, I would personally like my priority boarding to be taken seriously and not having all the overhead luggage space being taken away by others.
The domestic business lounge in Irkutsk is nothing to get excited about or to arrive early for. As you have your separate security checkpoint (which is admittedly a bit tricky to find) you can breeze through in minutes at this airport, so technically the only thing which you should take into account is the cut-off time of the check-in desk.
The lounge itself was quiet, clean and had decent seating. It’s a decent enough place to do some work and drink a coffee so it wasn’t that bad really. As a business class passenger, I appreciated the direct boarding by separate bus from the lounge.
That said, if you are an economy class passenger with lounge access courtesy of your frequent flyer status, you might be less pleased at the prospect of arriving among the very last persons on your plane if its a full flight with all the overhead bins in economy packed to the brim.
Trip report index
This article 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 Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
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 (current chapter)
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)