Do Manchester United travel to all of their international games via Moscow?… because that can’t exactly be convenient.
Do the players get discounted travel to Russia whenever they like?… because I would imagine that is probably a more underused benefit than the free language classes offered to UKIP members… which I may or may not have just made up…
…or do Aeroflot lend them a plane?… In which case the team never actually have to use any of Aeroflot’s scheduled flights, so the purported link in quality between the two organisations is purely a marketing strategy and… no, surely it couldn’t be that, could it?
Unfortunately in the past week or so I have found myself taking four unplanned flights on Aeroflot and spent over ten hours trying to sleep in Moscow Sheremetyevo airport (where they are based) whilst waiting for my connections.
The first two occurred because my Lufthansa flight out of Heathrow only got halfway to the runway before we were told that a valve needed to start the engine wasn’t working and would have to be opened manually. We were assured that this was perfectly normal and would take about twenty minutes.
Two hours later we were still on the tarmac, mildly concerned that if the engine failed mid-flight (a rare occurrence admittedly), it would probably take even longer than two hours to get a man out to open the valve manually and restart it again, by which point the plane would (in my admittedly less than expertly informed opinion) have already plummeted to the ground.
Either way, I had already missed my connecting flight in Frankfurt and been informed by SMS that I was booked onto a flight the following afternoon… which was no good for me because I was DJing the next night and although I’d have just about gotten there in time it certainly wouldn’t have resembled the kind of well-oiled smooth-running machine I like my life to be. Sorry… I would like my life to be.
My alternative was to wait several hours for the last flight out of Frankfurt (Aeroflot to Moscow), then several more hours for the first flight out of Moscow (Aeroflot to Saint Pete), and Lufthansa seemed more than happy to stump up for that rather than put me up in a hotel in Frankfurt.
The second two unplanned flights are a cause of some frustration and embarrassment. I was due to fly to Sochi on Sunday for a snowboarding trip with some of my new Russian chums, but on Saturday night the Pulkovo (Saint Pete’s airport) website said that the departure time was three hours later than our tickets… I phoned a friend!
“Obviously they’ve changed the flight,” he said. Obviously? Should we not call someone?… Mmmmm, nah!
So with an extra three hours to play with I decided to play out, and only got home at 7am the following morning. Just before midday I got the call… The flight has changed back. Ummm… I should pack then?… I got to the airport in time, checked in baggage, and went through security with my friends. I’d missed breakfast so we stopped off for some food and a beer… It’s okay, I’m on holiday.
It was getting late so I suggested we should go to the gate. “It will be fine,” said my friend… It wasn’t. They had closed the gate… So our direct flight to Sochi with Transaero (another Russian airline) became another overnighter with Aeroflot via Moscow
Aeroflot doesn’t have a great reputation either internationally or in Russia, so if it weren’t for the ridiculous Manchester United tie-in I probably wouldn’t see fit to comment. It wasn’t awful… I’ll start with the good points:
1/ We didn’t crash. There were wobbly take-offs and bumpy landings, but not one of the four flights crashed… You may think this is to be expected, but each time we landed safely there was a round of applause so the Russian passengers obviously don’t.
2/ The food on the Frankfurt flight was almost warm, although I’m guessing this will have been prepared in Germany. The presentation left a little to be desired (foil takeaway cartoon full of beige slop), but it tasted okay… In fact on the Frankfurt flight they’d really pushed the boat out and had white wine (I guess to impress their international guests). The white wine was also almost warm.
There is no 3/
The catering on all three of the internal flights consisted only of a disappointing sandwich with tea, coffee or water (served out of branded bottles which it seemed like they were refilling from an unknown source).
Legroom is virtually non-existent. They have new airbus planes but for some reason still use the old fat style of aeroplane seats (cheaper I guess?) and squeeze far too many rows of them in… plus, something that I only noticed has been missing from modern air travel (for me at least) was the ear popping thing. It’s absence only became apparent when flying Aeroflot where it is a gentle reminder of air travel in the past.
In fact, the whole experience was like flying into the past… A bit like an eighties holiday charter flight. Like I say, nothing too terrible, but not the sort of thing a premier league football player would be content with.
I don’t know how much they spent on the Man Utd sponsorship deal (although I’d be willing to bet it was a heckuva lot), but I’d suggest the money would have been put to better use improving the service… and not just for the already over-privileged business class travellers.
Here’s an expensively produced advert to show how they want to be perceived… Don’t believe the hype!