Deceased in 1924, Vladimir Lenin hardly saw the formation of Aeroflot, created just the previous year and which, during the Soviet Union, monopolized various civil air activities. The legendary Russian communist leader would certainly be shocked to learn that almost a century later the country’s most important airline would join Western commercial planes. Since Friday the 28th, Aeroflot has had another symbolic jet of the former rivals, the A350-900.
Airbus delivered the first of 22 A350-900s to the Russian flag carrier, which was named after the famous composer Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovski. Aeroflot also debuted a new livery commemorating the company’s centenary.
With 316 seats, the Russian Airbus offers 28 private suites in business class, 24 seats with more legroom and 264 seats in economy class. Aeroflot has also invested in a new individual entertainment system with HD screens and Wi-Fi.
Aeroflot’s A350-900 will debut from Moscow on routes to London, Dubai, New York, Miami, Osaka, Beijing and also Havana, the capital of Cuba and which has been a traditional airline destination since the Cold War.
Russian planes back?
After the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aeroflot underwent a profound change in its structure, taking on private capital and investing in Western aircraft instead of the outdated and somewhat dangerous commercial planes of the Tupolev, Ilyushin and Antonov.
The first jet ordered by the Russian airline in the West was the A310, the smallest widebody launched by Airbus. Five units were acquired in the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union was already falling apart.
Since then, more and more Boeing and Airbus planes have been used by the company, which still has some local representatives in its fleet, such as the four-engine Il-96-300. But the lack of reliability and certification to operate in certain countries decreed the end of planes such as the Tu-154 or Il-62, which were quite popular during the communist period.
Currently, Aeroflot has a fleet of almost 250 aircraft, 126 of which are supplied by Airbus, mainly the A320 family (107 aircraft in all). The company also uses 48 Boeing 737-800 and 19 Boeing 777-300.
The only representative of the Russian aerospace industry is the Sukhoi SSJ100, a regional jet with about 100 seats. Aeroflot uses 54 such aircraft and can receive more units through an agreement tailored by the Russian government.
The Superjet, however, has been the target of suspicion after repeated problems and a serious accident with an Aeroflot jet. Despite this, Vladimir Putin, the all-powerful president of Russia, has encouraged UAC, the holding company that controls the country’s former manufacturers, to develop new commercial aircraft in order not to depend so much on the US and Europe.
The most promising project is the MC-21-300, an aisle-sized commercial jet equivalent to the A320. The first six planes will be in service in 2021, UAC promised. And guess who will receive them? Of course, Aeroflot…