Afay1 From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 1293 posts, RR: 3 Posted (10 years 2 months 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 3343 times:
I needed to attend a conference in Amsterdam two weeks ago and while having several options, our travel agency decided that Skynet/Aeroflot was the best (and cheapest) choice. While I had heard mixed things about Skynet, I felt it would be an interesting experience. It turned out to be quite nice, actually, and I left impressed.
Flight SI-229/SU-229 SVO-AMS-SNN (I got off at AMS)- Economy Class
Boeing 737-400 "Classic"
3.5 Hours, routing over the Baltic Sea,
19:00 take-off, forget landing, but in evening
My colleagues and I got to Sheremetyevo II about 2 hours before check-in after our great driver negotiated typically heavy traffic. The airport was in its usual state, dark, and mysterious. We proceeded to the check-in zone, which one has to go through customs first to get to. Had a perfunctory check of our bags, and went to the gate which was servicing two flights ahead of ours. I think all the airlines simply contract with airport employees to do check-in as they all just change badges/placards for the flights. Anyway, we kinda jumped the line, as the check-in wasn't really open for our flight until we asked if it was. It was a normal check-in procedure and I gave my Aeroflot Bonus number, which was printed on the Aeroflot-issued ticket.
I went through immigration first, always a bit nerve-wracking experience for various reasons, but everything was in order, so no problems there. Anyway, we perused Sheremetyevo's very nice duty-free, and got a snack at a smelly bar with indifferent/slightly rude service. They really need a TGI Fridays as promised for the future. We saw all the stranded Africans, I think from Gabon, whose connecting flight was cancelled and the charter company folded, so they are stuck in Sheremetyevo. Aeroflot has been flying them back one or two at a time. There was an interesting article on them in the Moscow Times, but I digress. Not a nice situation in any event.
Went through the gate security/x-ray right on time and went directly on to the plane. It was clearly a plane acquired from the US as all the markings were U.S. spec. Previously it was owned by BA (GB Airlines), but maybe by a US airline earlier. The interior was very clean, if a bit worn. I sat in the middle on the right side in seat 11 (we switched around during the flight). I was very surprised to hear the Irish brogues of the flight attendants welcoming us on board. Flight attendants were very friendly although they confiscated all the open liquor bottles/cans from passengers. It was an alcohol free (except for wine with meal) flight. I guess a combination of Russians, Irish, and a long flight, is not a good one. My friend took the Aeroflot flight from Seattle to Moscow and three fist-fights erupted on board at various times, which must have been interesting.
Pushback was about 5 minutes late and we were third in line for take-off, making us about 15 minutes late getting into the air. Take-off was powerful with a fast climb to cruising altitude. I am always impressed by how steep an angle the 737 takes off at; it feels like one is sitting in launch position for a trip into space. The seat pitch was typical of economy class, maybe on the generous side, and the seats were made by Recaro. All-in-all a comfortable experience. There were no overhead air vents, which really annoys me, as I get very hot on planes. The bathroom was also typical and was clean and well stocked, although I didn't measure the volume off the sanitary napkins, sorry.
Meal: The full hot meal was very nice actually. I had the Beef with Pasta with a side of smoked fish (ewww) and a hot roll and a cookie. Wine, nice juice, and soda were promptly offered. I had two cups of decent coffee afterwards. After the meal, the attendants disappeared, can't say I blame them. All were very friendly. My colleague had ordered a vegetarian meal, which I am sure the travel agency forgot to add, and the flight attendants cobbled together a special meal for her from business class and supplies they had on-board.
It was a smooth flight the whole way, and we landed on time in Amsterdam, taxiing past lots of cool aircraft and parking in the D section next to Aer Lingus and Easyjet aircraft. There were about 50 Japanese tourists on-board we hurried to get ahead of, but they beat us to immigration as we stopped at an ATM. This sounds really bad, as I really love living in Russia, but we were truly giddy at the prospect of a “western” country with such a nice airport. We were like kids in a candy store when we saw the shops. Anyway, the non-EU citizen line was loooooooong and they opened more booths to expedite the process as well as taking the tour group aside. Oh, and our bags arrived safe and sound although my colleagues was a bit scuffed. I was worried as the flight was continuing on to Shannon, but it turned out fine. I got ripped off by the train ticket lady as she wouldn’t take my student card even though it clearly is supposed to be taken, but the train was fast, comfortable, and so convenient.
Flight SI-230/SU-230 AMS-SVO
Boeing 737-400 "Classic" (same one)
3.5 Hours, routing over the Baltic Sea,
12:45pm take-off, around 18:30pm take-off
Seat 12A (exit row, left side, window), Economy Class
After a great four days in Amsterdam we took the train from the Central Station to Schiphol, which seemed to take a long time, but in reality was 15 minutes. We arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours early and went to the Skynet/Aeroflot desk in some god-forsaken part of the airport, near the US-Air counters. It naturally wasn’t open, so we waited in the unorganized line. Finally the check-in began after about 20-25 minutes of waiting (I know, could be worse). After jockeying for position in line, and each holding a spot we checked in at the same time (much to the ire of the people behind us, sorry guys), and were seated together, and received the exit row upon request. Check-in was cheerful and we were given tickets that said AviaPartner on them, must be a contracting company. We then spent 2 hours in duty-free, where I bought aviation magazines and had my last Burger King fries for awhile. We cruised through immigration right before the flight, and they didn’t stamp my passport on the way out, although I wanted them to; oh well. The waiting area was VERY comfortable (for the 10 minutes I was there) and boarding proceeded normally.
Pushback was on time, and we were second in line for take-off, which again, was at a powerfully steep angle. Flight announcements were in English, Russian, and Gaelic, which was interesting. The exit row was great, with lots of legroom.
Even though I slept for most of this flight, I did enjoy the full lunch meal again, this time having the chicken in sauce with rice. It had rolls, a side of fruit, and some sort of confection for dessert. Again, only wine was served for alcohol, and I had juice and some coffee. After sleeping for most of the flight, I woke up as we started the descent, and enjoyed the scenery. Landing was very smooth, and I liked the usual motley crew of aircraft on the various stands. Deplaning was organized (no clapping though!), and immigration/customs was smooth. Again, only perfunctory customs checks.
All-in-all, I enjoyed the flight, as I usually do, and from this experience, would have no hesitation in flying on Skynet again. Likewise, Aeroflot is kinda cool in its own way.
Coming soon if I get around to it…
1. Swiss BOS-ZRH-DME-ZRH-BOS-ZRH-DME-ZRH-BOS-DME in Business and Economy, A330/A320
2. Aerosvit Ukrainian- SVO-KBP-SVO, 737-300 and 737-500