OK, time to check in. As an American journalist stationed in at that time Leningrad, USSR
, (1976-78) my beat was the western slice of the Soviet Union, ranging from Murmansk in the north to Lithuania in the south. Some memorable experiences:
-- Il18 from Moscow to Riga, Latvia (Spilve) no longer in use. The departing airport was an out of the way VIP field and the terminal looked more like a railroad station than an airport. About 75 people were crowded at the iron gate outside when I arrived and when my formalities were checked and re-checked, the Aeroflot rep guided me through the jostling crowd and led me through a side gate to the tarmac and quickly locked it behind me. At that moment a yellow "Ikarus" bus pulled up and I boarded. The doors were closed and I was driven to the plane. An air hostess ushered me inside and sat me down in the back and pulled the curtains closed. I looked out the window just in time to see now about 100 people charging across the tarmac to get on the plane. Most made it, but some did not. Seems Aeroflot had oversold a bit and they did not have any seat numbers. Service on this flight was a decent ham and chese open sandwich and wine in a glass. I don't know what those poor sods up front received. This trip to Riga was in 1971 before my assignment to Leningrad.
-- Hey, I bet I'm one of the few that's flown on a TU104 which stopped on landing using parachute drag. This is 1976-78 when I commuted from Leningrad to Moscow quite a lot. Upon landing the parachute was deployed and which at the end of the runway was unhooked and packed by a team from a special hut. Scary thing the first time around was that dry ice was used to air condition the plane through rectangular openings in the roof. Quite a few people gasped when visible "smoke" erupted from these openings driven by fans behind. Service: Hard candy upon landing to help your ears pop and don't you dare take more than one.
-- TU134 Leningrad, Pulkovo, to Murmansk. This was one of the first model 134s with the glass nose for the bombardier in case war broke out. Reasonably friendly flight crew and good seats up front, probably because my KGB nursmaid was with me, since at that time I was the first reporter to be allowed to visit Murmansk and all those nuke subs.
-- Il62 in 1972 Montreal (Dorval) to Moscow. First class (freebie ticket) as a reporter. The only other person seated in this 12 seat compartment was the wife of the Air Canada manager in Moscow. Teak wood all around. Imported seats wide enough for the mile-high club, and a perky personal F/A who I could have talked into taking home to that time Montreal if I was not married already with two 2.4 children (Brits will see the humor). Really excellent wine and food.
--AN24 in 1977 Leningrad to Riga, now RIX
. The KGB booking agency booked me on the wrong freaking plane. This was for Soviets only. No foreigners allowed, because the AN24 didn't fly as high, or as fast, as the TU134. This meant we skirted the whole coast from Leningrad, passing through Estonia and then down the Baltic Sea coast again to Riga. The luggage was upfront and I could pick out my bag. On landing, the whole flight crew got a good chewing out from men in black coats, but they never accosted me. I was quickly led off to a "Chaika" for the short ride into town.
Conclusion: Aeroflot does its job, but during my time in the Soviet Union, all of their pilots came from the military and the job was to get the aircraft up there fast, fly, and then get it down fast again. The pilots didn't care about passenger comfort and sadly, nor did the F/As.