Inside the first Airbus A350 with business-class suites for Aeroflot
What do you do when you are Russia’s largest airline and taking delivery of your new flagship airplane, one that carries the name of composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky? You stage a ballet performance by a ballerina from Moscow’s renowned Bolshoi Theater, who flew to Toulouse for the occasion — the delivery of Aeroflot’s first Airbus A350-900. The Russian flag carrier has 22 on order, featuring a new, cutting-edge business class with enclosed suites and a true premium economy. It will debut this spring on routes to the US.
Aeroflot’s A350-900 will seat 316 passengers in a three-class configuration: 28 in business class, 24 in Comfort Class (the airline’s name for premium economy) and 264 in economy. TPG had a first look inside during the delivery ceremony Friday in Toulouse, where Airbus assembles all A350s.
The first thing that stands out is the new white livery, a departure from Aeroflot’s current shades of grey. The tail and engines have preserved the traditional Aeroflot pattern.
Aeroflot’s new business class is a huge improvement over the one in its Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s. It’s laid out in 1-2-1 seat configuration, offering all passengers direct access to the aisle, as opposed to the 2-2-2 layout currently in use. The Collins Aerospace Horizon lie-flat seats are enclosed in a suite with a closing door, like the Delta One suite on the A350.
The two center seats feature a sliding full-length divider between them as well as doors on the aisle side.
The two sliding panels making up the door can be opened separately or can slide together.
Also interesting is a personal wardrobe, located next to the seatback screen. This allows you to store a jacket, shoes or other clothing at your convenience. Storage areas include a cubby with a mirrored door perfect for small objects.
The seats turn of course into fully flat beds.
At the back of the business-class cabin there is a rest area, where part of the galley can be transformed into a small bar. Drinks, fruit and snacks will be available to premium passengers.
Further down is the Comfort Class cabin, which offers 38” seat pitch, typical of long-haul premium economy.
The Collins Aerospace MIQ seats are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration, also typical of premium economy on the A350. The seats are also new for Aeroflot, which features shell seats in premium economy on the 777. (The Airbus A330s that Aeroflot also uses on long hauls do not have premium economy.)
The back of the plane features two cabins of economy-class seats in a nine-abreast layout (3-3-3) with Collins Aerospace Aspire seats. The seat pitch is a more modest 31″, but made quite bearable by the slim seat backs.
The plane is equipped with the Panasonic eX3 in-flight entertainment system, accessible through seatback HD screens at every seat. Business class has 21″ screens, premium economy has 13″ and coach class 12″. All of Aeroflot’s A350s will have Wi-Fi.
When it comes to the passenger experience, all three classes benefit from some of the innovations available on the A350 thanks to the shape and design of its fuselage, such as the more vertical cabin sidewalls, high ceiling and large overhead bins. The Airspace by Airbus cabin also features soothing LED lighting that is capable of producing up to 16.7 million color combinations.
For a number of weeks, Aeroflot’s A350 is going to fly familiarization flights between Moscow – Sheremetyevo (SVO) and Saint Petersburg (LED) before it begins serving the London – Heathrow (LHR) route.
Longer haul destinations that have been allocated to the A350 include the New York JFK, Miami, Osaka and, coronavirus permitting, Beijing — where Aeroflot is planning to move operations to the new Daxing International Airport (PKX).
Aeroflot’s newest destination, Singapore, scheduled to launch on October 25, will also be operated by the A350. Aeroflot has built a relevant business out of connections between Europe and North America to Asia through its Sheremetyevo hub, with transits that do not require a Russian visa and fares generally lower than other major full-service airlines.
For Delta Air Lines frequent flyers, Aeroflot is an excellent way of racking up elite-qualification miles and dollars, since it is a partner in the SkyTeam alliance.
All photos by the author.