Aeroflot to China (and more than that)!
So I was going to China. Been to China numerous times before, and was supposed to go in November, but trip got postponed. Double-entry visa is luckily valid for six months.
Then I was supposed to go last Monday, but again it was postponed. Then Wednesday, but I needed a product sample before I could leave, and due to a number of reasons, I didn't receive it until Thursday morning. I wanted to pay back the gratitude that EK kindly gave me in December, by giving me a status match from my OZ*G and AF*G, but the CPH-DXB leg was zeroed out in all classes but the most expensive business. With a strike in France, I was left with few (reasonably priced) options, and I was open to purchase either one-way or return, depending on fare and flexibility. I didn't really knew for sure whether it would be most likely that I would return from CAN, PVG or HKG, so SU's very reasonably one-way fare of DKK2959 including taxes and surcharges (EUR398/USD528) was a decent purchase, I reckoned. That would also give me the possibility of using some OZ miles for a F-class trip on the return.
I am expecting to stay in Asia for a month, or so. Mainly in China, but with side trips to HKG, Thailand and possibly MFM.
When everything was confirmed 8am on Thursday, I called the Aeroflot office at CPH when they opened at 8.30am, and the friendly agent confirmed my requested ticket in Q-class (50% miles to AFKL-FB), but kindly informed me that I would need to pay a surcharge of DKK190 (USD34) for not purchasing the ticket online. Fair enough. Aeroflot.ru doesn't allow you to purchase tickets less than 6 hours prior to departure.
I got a colleague to pick me up (and give me the needed sample), and he dropped me off at CPH Terminal 2 at 10.45am. I went straight to the ticket counter, where the same lady (speaking Danish with a heavy Russian accent) that I spoke with on the phone, issued my ticket. I was a bit surprised that her typing on the computer activated the matrix printer, but a minute later I found out that it was just to print a receipt for the DKK190 offline ticketing surcharge, and not an oldfashioned ticket.
I wanted to confirm that SU uses the Novia lounge at CPH, which she did, just seconds later to give me a handwritten lounge invite the Servisair lounge. However, she first took a copy of both my AF gold card and the lounge invite itself.
Check-in was smooth, despite the agent-in-training manning the business class check-in (that was not marked as Skyteam elite check-in, but I took the chance, and wasn't refused). I requested aisle seats, and emergency exit. I got an emergency exit seat on the A319 to SVO, but a window seat on the SVO-PVG leg, and they apologized that they couldn't touch the second leg of my journey.
The Servisair lounge at CPH is in my opinion the worst of the current five CPH lounges. It is used by just a few airlines (Aeroflot, Finnair...), but is also frequented by holders of Priority Pass and Diners Club. The food selection consisted of various sorts of bread, butter, cold cuts, cheese and cookies. The thirsty could enjoy coffee, tea, draft beer, juice and Coke-branded products, cheap wine and a fair variety of hard liquor.
Since I was so unlucky to see a former colleague, that I didn't want to chat with, enter the lounge, I decided to leave and go find some decent lunch. I hadn't had breakfast.
Went to the "København" (Copenhagen in Danish) restaurant, and had a bite and an overpriced beer. Food was ok.
Made a few phone calls, and at 12.20pm I walked towards the passport control, and saw about 5-6 people in front of me in the EU-citizen line. All waved through, but I was for some reason stopped.
Conversation in Danish:
Officer: "Where are you going, "first name OY-JFS".
Officer (while scanning my passport): That is a long trip
Me: Is it?
Officer (handing me my passport): Have a nice journey!
What was that about? Did I look suspicious? I have travelled thru CPH more than 400 times, and very rarely picked out in immigration nor customs control.
Well, I aimed for the non-schengen area 7-Eleven to pick up a magazine and a cup of coffee, and realized when leaving, and looking at the monitors that the C28 gate for Moscow said "Closing".
I hurried up, just to hear the gate agent speaking on the loudspeakers, saying something like "Would all the many remaining passengers on SU216 please go to the gate immediately".
Time for my first flight with Aэрофлот...
I've often considered taking Aeroflot to Asia as they have very reasonable prices. I never dared taking the plunge though, but I am looking forward to hear what you think about it.
Re: your passport experience, it has happened to me a couple of times also that they ask where to and sometimes why. I think they just do it randomly.
Customs I have never ever had an encounter with though, and I've also been through CPH, maybe not 400, but around 2-300 times in the last few years.
Let's hear how it goes 🙂
Going to Copenhagen (CPH)? Don't miss the tips for the Alternative Copenhagen
CPH-SVO (956 miles)
scheduled dep 13:00 arr 18:30 (2h30m)
Seat: 8F (economy class, emergency exit)
Approx. load factor: 70% in Y, very low in C.
Boarded with a cup of coffee in one hand, and two bags in the other hand. A bit of a problem, when you have a window seat, and you first need to stow you carry-on, but the friendly lady in 8E offered to hold my coffee. I was seated next to a British couple, who later offered me yesterdays edition of the Daily Mail. I didn't really chat with them, but I was a bit confused to see brits on that route, since CPH isn't a Skyteam hub and really isn't a logical route for UK to MOW.
Despite being an emergency exit, the seat pitch wasn't much better than the regular rows, but I could easily enter and exit my seat without my seatmates had to get out of theirs.
Aircraft was one of the newest A319's in the Aeroflot fleet. It was handed over to the russians in 2009. Cabin was wellkept. No IFE.
The crew consisted of two males and two females, all of them in their 20's, I would say. One of the ladies (the purser) was serving the business cabin, while the other female was helping in both cabins. The english language skills were quite limited, and you really have to concentrate to figure out what trying to say. The captain (Aleksandr) came on the PA once to talk about flight altitude and so on, and he actually spoke quite good english.
First, they offered a round of cold drinks, then after 20 minutes or so, they came with lunch. After lunch was served to everybody, they walked thru the cabin offering another round of drinks - this time also coffee and tea.
The cake was ok. Didn't try any of the other stuff. I think catering was brought from SVO.
While I was waiting for the toilets to be vacant, I asked the two male cabin attendants, whether this was their last flight of the day, but they didn't understand my question until the third time I asked. And yes, their working day was over, once we landed in SVO.
Baltic coast line - not sure if it is Latvia or Lithuania?:
neighbor gate with SK B737 bound for ARN:
My CPH flight arrived at Terminal D, and my PVG flight departed from F. The only way to get from D to F is walking. And what a hike! Outside it was snowing, and probably also quite cold. This was compensated by an indoor temperature in the terminal of approximately 40C/100F. Terminal E and F seems to be quite new, and some areas were still under construction. On top of the high temperatures, there was an odor of paint everywhere!
After the 15 minutes walk carrying all my stuff, the sweat was dripping down my athletic body, and I was thirsty like a camel that had just crossed the Sahara desert. Luckily I found the lounge, and they had a whole fridge full of beer. I was going to attept emptying that fridge! Hard liquor was guarded by a lady behind the food counter, but beer was self-service! Food wasn’t to my taste, but I had some salted peanuts to increase my thirst!
After four beers in an hour, it was time for boarding. I arrived at the gate as one of the last, but for whatever reason (no information given), we departed almost an hour late.
Got my seat changed at the SVO transfer desk to a bulkhead aisle seat, with the seat next to me blocked (or at least un-occupied). I have read horror stories about the SVO transfer desk, but Mikhail behind the counter was extremely friendly, and also the only smiling russian at work, I saw that day! I did ask for an emergency seat, and when he handed me the boarding pass I was very happy. Only one of the real emergency seats to my right (H+K) were taken, as a German-speaking hipster occupied the window seat. I did consider taking the seat next to him, but I stayed in my assigned seat.
SVO-PVG (4255 miles)
scheduled dep 21:10 arr 9:45 (8h35m)
Seat: 29G (economy class, bulkhead)
Approx. load factor: 75% in Y, ? in C.
Onboard service is really a joke. Not once during the 9 hour flight did I see a smile on any of the cabin crew. If you asked them anything, they replied with the absolutely minimum number of words, and while the shorthaul Aeroflot leg was actually an ok experience, the longhaul was one of the worst longhaul flights I have ever had.
The food was edible (just), but looked like puke. You had a choice of two different main courses (chicken or salmon – of which I opted for the bird). The good part is that they first serve drinks, then food, and then another round of drinks – the second time also with tea and coffee. I really hate those airlines that serves you food, but then have you waiting 20 minutes or more for drinks!
For breakfast we had the choice of omelet or pancakes. I had the pancakes:
The hard product should in theory (brand new A330 with IFE) be at least decent, but it isn’t. The A330 has AVOD with a selection of movies and TV shows, games etc. I found nothing I bothered watching, except a 30 minutes documentary about North Ossetia, but if I hadn’t brought my iPad I would probably also have watched some of the eight episodes of Simpsons they had loaded in their system (I think they had just six or seven different TV-series, but with quite a lot of episodes of each).
The seat itself is very narrow, and I am not going to make the mistake of taking bulkhead seats in economy again in the future (at any airline). Also, the seat was hard, and when I am writing this, six days after my flight, I still have severe lower back pain, which I didn’t have prior to my Aeroflot A330 flight! The only reason that I haven’t seen a doctor is that I am still in China.
It was impossible for me to sleep onboard. Drinking a few glass of wine usually makes it possible to get a few hours of sleep on intercontinental flights, but since alcohol is banned on SU-flights to seven selected destinations (PVG, HAV and BKK included, but not PEK and HKG!), I might as well have flown with Saudi-Arabian Airlines! Reason to this from 2010 imposed ban of alcohol in economy class is apparently too many incidents with vodka-intoxicated pax. A shame that we reasonably well-behaved alcoholics should suffer from that! :p
And I am not going to suffer from that again, since this experience with Aeroflot longhaul will most likely be my last. I am not returning on SU.
Sexy or not?
I am sorry about the low-resolution photos, but this is as good as it gets with an iPad as camera!
Very interesting report, I did a trip from JFK to St. Petersburg years ago, looks like nothing has changed, never ever again.:eek:
UA MM Gold
Nice TR! Although the pics of the food make me shudder! :eek:! 🙂
AA EXP, Hyatt Diamond, Starwood Plat.
I titled this TR ... "and more than that". So now it is time for the bonus content:
I had spent some days in the world's wholesale capital of Yiwu. Not going to report on that part, since it wouldn't be that interesting.
But I couldn’t stay in Yiwu forever. And I had some business to do down south. Flights to Guangzhou and Shenzhen increased in price by the hour, and I couldn’t book until the day before, since I needed to finish some stuff in Yiwu.
I had considered doing a bit of sector-running to renew my Flying Blue Elite Plus card. Legs with CZ count toward status with Flying Blue, and can be relatively cheap.
Since YIW is a small airport with just ten destinations, it was easy to get an overview. Changsha was available for CNY570 (USD91/EUR69) including taxes.
Changsha is about halfway to my destination, and I could connect to CAN/SZX for less than the price of my first leg, but it also gave me an opportunity to try out the chinese bullet train. The first route for the german built chinese bullet trains were Wuhan to Guangzhou, and Changsha is the third stop after Wuhan. It travels more than 1000 km in around 3 hours, including ten stops. You can also take the old route, which costs less than a third, but also takes about three times as long.
Yiwu is a newly developed city, and both the airport and (new) train station is built recently. And quite oddly is the airport closer to city center than the train station!
I checked out of my hotel around 1220pm, and the hotel guard flagged me a taxi. The cab driver spoke to my great surprise actually some English. Taxi to the airport costs about CNY30 (USD5), and took 20 minutes. In China, I never ever tip anybody, but since he entertained me a bit with his chinglish, I ended up giving him RMB50.
The airport is the smallest I have ever flown from in China. Check-in was done very quickly, and I pointed out to the agent that he forgot to type in my FFP#, but he told me he already did that. That guy should be in the Guinness book of records! I probably took him less than 30 seconds to find my booking, asking me if I wanted aisle or window, printing out luggage tag, boarding pass and typing in my Flying Blue number. My luggage also had an attached ”Priority” tag. Since the airport was so small, I was quite convinced that it hadn’t have a lounge. But after handing over my boarding pass he pointed towards the security check and said ”VIP room” that way.
Security screening was a breeze. Not the usual circus with shoes-off, belt-off, liquids-in-a-bag, laptop in a seperate basket and all those silly things.
Airport has a ”tea bar”, a small gift shop and a shop with ladies bags. There is a dedicated waiting room for expecting mothers. And then there was supposed to be the VIP room. But VIP room was closed – just with a sign pointing you in the direction of a ”First class room”, which was next door. I had no idea what to expect in a VIP room, but from a First class lounge I had higher expectations.
I had some cup noodles, biscuits, and a Coke, and started to type the letters you are currently reading.
Only two other guests frequented the lounge during the 40 minutes I spent there.
Apparently, only CZ's own gold members can "carry" one guest:
Boarding was announced over the speakers exactly 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure time, and I packed my stuff and headed towards the gate, but just before that, Iwent to the bathroom. After my business I went to wash my hands (as I always do!), just to find out there was no water. Not so funny with liquid soap on your hands!
The terminal (view to the left from lounge entrance):
...and to the right:
I was one of the last to board, and behind the female gate agent, a boy age 10 or so, hung out. I supposed it was the son, but I later found out it was an UM travelling with us.
YIW-CSX (480 miles) (plane continuing to KMG)
Scheduled dep 1400 Arr 1515
Boeing 737-300 B-2941
Seat: 32C (economy)
Load factor: F: 50% Y: 95%
I was in 32C, which is actually the 4th row in CZ’s B737-300. First class is row 1-2, and economy starts with row 31. Despite a load factor of around 95%, I had the whole row to myself. UM was in 31K, but he later invaded my private space and took 32H, where he entertained himself with looking at my computer, and looking at the pictures in the ”China Daily” (the government propaganda newspaper in english),, I earlier had discarted to 32H.
Cabin crew consisted of three female and a male. The male was for whatever reason sitting in 31C, just in front of me, during takeoff and landing! I didn’t see him doing any work during the flight, but he did stand up and walking around a bit.
Service began after 20 minutes or so, and each passenger was handed a bottle of water, a wet tissue, and a bag of cookies. My mum would never had let me eat a whole bag of cookies for lunch, but she wasn’t travelling with me today!
The seat is very cramped for the average gringo, but I survived! For flights of an hour or so, I would do it again, but wouldn’t wanna do it for long flights! There were two other non-chinese passengers; I believe they were israeli.
CZ flies to CDG and AMS in Europe, and has recently announced that they starts flying to LHR. They codeshare to a number of destinations, including Hamburger:
and Fort Lauder-generation:
My bag was as mentioned tagged with a priority tag at YIW, but I was surprised to see my bag actually arrive as the very first at the belt. I can hardly remember that happening ever before! And airports in the civilized world: learn from this!
Thanks so much for posting this! These are places and airlines that even many of us frequent flyers rarely experience!