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Aeroflot

By Wikipedia

Aeroflot (Аэрофло́т; literally "air fleet"), is the Russian national airline and is the biggest carrier in Russia. It is a member of the Sky Team Alliance. It was also the national airline of the Soviet Union and was once the largest airline in the world. It is based in Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia (with corporate headquarters located next to Aerostar Hotel, central Moscow). As of 2005, Aeroflot serves over 80 foreign destinations in almost 50 countries.

Aeroflot - Russian Airlines
IATA:
SU
ICAO:
AFL
Callsign
Aeroflot
Founded 1932
Hubs Sheremetyevo Int'l Airport
Frequent flyer program Aeroflot Bonus
Member lounge First Class Lounge (no member lounges)
Alliance SkyTeam
Fleet size 81
Destinations 103
Parent company Aeroflot - Russian Airlines
Headquarters Moscow, Russia
Key people Valery Okulov (Chairman)

In 1921, shortly after the end of the Russian civil war, the new government established the Chief Administration of the Civil Air Fleet to oversee budding air transport projects. One of its first acts was to help found Deutsch-Russische Luftverkehrs (Deruluft), a joint German-Russian venture to provide air transport from Russia to the West. Domestic air service began around the same time, when Dobrolet was established on 9 February 1923. It started operations on 15 July 1923 between Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod. In 1932 all civil aviation activities were consolidated under the name of Grazhdanskiy Wozdushnyy Flot (Civil Air Fleet), known simply as Aeroflot. International flights started in 1937; before that date they had been carried out by Deruluft. By the end of the 1930s Aeroflot had become the world's largest airline.

During the Soviet era Aeroflot was synonymous with Russian civil aviation. One of the rare examples of Soviet commercial advertisement was Aeroflot's slogan, "Fly on Aeroflot planes!" ("Летайте самолетами Аэрофлота!"). The irony was that Aeroflot had no competitors and it was virtually impossible for an average Soviet citizen to fly on a non-Aeroflot plane. The advertisement was intended to entice people into using Aeroflot instead of cheaper though much slower long-distance trains.

In January 1971 the Aeroflot Central Administration of International Air Traffic was established within the framework of IATA, and became the industry's sole enterprise authorised to operate international flights. Abroad, the airline was known as Aeroflot Soviet Airlines. In 1976 Aeroflot carried more than 100 million passengers for the first time. Its flights were mainly concentrated around the Soviet Union, but the airline also had an international network covering five continents: North and South Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. The network included countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Cuba, and People's Republic of China. Since the Super70s some transatlantic flights were flown using Shannon Airport in Ireland as a hub, as it was the westernmost non-NATO airport in Europe.

Aeroflot

RA-96010 - an Aeroflot Ilyushin Il-96-300 as seen at LAX on October 10, 1998.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at Airliners.net

 

Aeroflot also performed myriad other functions, it provided Aeromedical, crop-dusting, heavy lifting for the Soviet Space Agency (see Soviet Space Program), offshore oil platform support, exploration for natural resources, support for construction projects, transport of military troops and supplies (as an adjunct to the Soviet Air Force), atmospheric research, remote area patrol, but to name a few. It operated hundreds of helicopters and cargo aircraft in addition to civil airliners. It also operated the Soviet equivalent of Air Force One and other vip/vvip transports of government and communist party officials. Aeroflot joined IATA in 1989.

At the start of the 1990s Aeroflot reorganized again giving more autonomy to territorial divisions. In 1992 it was divided into more than 300 regional airlines. International routes were operated separately as Aeroflot - Russian International Airlines (ARIA). Some airline companies which were created from the old Aeroflot are now flag carriers of the newly independent countries of the CIS e.g., Uzbekistan Airways. Smaller regional airlines which emerged out of the old Aeroflot sometimes just one-plane operations were sometimes referred to as Babyflots.

In 1994 Aeroflot was registered as a joint stock company and the government sold off 49% of its stake to Aeroflot employees. During the 1990s Aeroflot was primarily focused on international flights from Moscow. However, by the end of the decade Aeroflot started an expansion in the domestic market. In 2000 the company name was changed to Aeroflot Russian Airlines to reflect the change in the company's strategy.

The company used to be severely criticized for its bad service, especially in the first half of 1990s. Although service has improved since then, the hardest part was to train attendants to deliver it with a smile (smiling to strangers has been traditionally considered in Russian culture a sign of idiocy). In the mid-1990s the company even had an advertisement slogan: "We don't smile because we're serious about making you happy".

For a while now Aeroflot has been struggling to redefine itself as a safe and reliable airline. It hired British consultants for rebranding at the beginning of the 2000s. A new livery and uniforms for flight attendants were designed and a promotional campaign launched in 2003. The service has also improved noticeably.

Plans were afoot to get rid of the old Soviet-era logo complete with hammer and sickle, which some people in the West treat as an uncomfortable reminder of the old Soviet era. A customer survey showed that this was the most recognizable symbol of the company and it was decided to keep it.

Aeroflot also recently upgraded its fleet of western-built aircraft. Now it has a total of 18 A320/A319 jet planes for short-haul flights in Europe and nine Boeing 767 planes for long-haul routes. The total number of planes is 93. It carried 5.9 million passengers in 2003.

In the spring of 2004 the airline started an aggressive expansion on the domestic market aiming to gain 30% share by 2010 (currently it holds approximately 9%). The first task was to outperform one of its major rivals Siberia Airlines, the current leader in the Russian domestic market. On July 29, 2004 the company adopted a new corporate slogan: "Sincerely Yours. Aeroflot".

On April, 14, 2006 Aeroflot became the first air carrier in the former Soviet Union to join a global alliance (SkyTeam; another option was entry into Star Alliance).

The company has announced its plan to increase cargo operations. It registered the "Aeroflot Cargo" trademark in 2004. There is also a plan to replace the current cargo fleet of four DC-10s with six MD-11s by 2006.

The airline is owned (as of January 2005) by the Russian Government (51.17%), National Reserve Corporation (27%) and employees and others (19%). It has 14,714 employees.

There have been no fatal accidents since 23 March 1994 (when 75 people were killed after an Aeroflot Airbus crashed in Siberia after the pilot allowed his 15-year-old son to take the controls (see Aeroflot Flight 593)). It would seem that since the early 1990s Aeroflot has considerably improved its safety recorded (see "A Face Lift for Down-at-Heel Aeroflot", New York Times, 7 April 2003).

Fleet

The Aeroflot fleet consists of the following aircraft* (at 25 October 2005):

5 Airbus A310
10 Airbus A319-100
8 Airbus A320-200
6 Airbus A321-200 (7 more on order [1])
9 Boeing 767-300ER
7 Ilyushin Il-86
6 Ilyushin Il-96-300
4 McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40
11 Tupolev Tu-134A
1 Tupolev Tu-134B
25 Tupolev Tu-154M
2 Yakovlev Yak-40
30 Sukhoi Russian Regional Jet (on order)

* Only active aircraft are listed

Aeroflot's Western-made fleet is relatively young, whereas most of the Russian jets (except for Il-96s) are due to retire between 2005 and 2008. Aeroflot recently returned their 737s and 777s.

Fleet History

During the Soviet era, almost all of Aeroflot's airliners were built by Soviet aircraft manufacturers.

During the 1940s and the early 1950s, the base aircraft for the Aeroflot fleet was a licensed version of the Douglas DC-3. Soviet-made, modified versions of this airliner were named the PS-84 and the Lisunov Li-2. The first such aircraft to be produced in the Soviet Union was completed in 1939.

Later, the Li-2 aircraft were replaced by the Ilyushin Il-12 (which entered service in 1947) and the Ilyushin Il-14 (which entered service in 1954).
On September 15, 1956 Aeroflot started to operate Tupolev Tu-104s, the USSR's first jet airliner in regular service. The first passenger-carrying flight of this aircraft was from Moscow to Irkutsk, Russia. The first international route served by the Tu-104 was Moscow - Prague, Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia).

The Tupolev Tu-114, originally used to transport Soviet leaders, came into service in 1961 on the Moscow (Vnukovo International Airport) - Khabarovsk, Russia route. It also served international routes such as Moscow - Tokyo, Japan and Moscow - Havana, Cuba, the airline's longest non-stop route at that time.

In 1962 Aeroflot began operating the Tupolev Tu-124, the smaller version of the Tu-104, on regional routes. These aircraft were later replaced by the Tupolev Tu-134, which entered service in 1967. Today, most Russian regional planes currently in service are modern modifications of the Tu-134.

In 1972 the first Tupolev Tu-154 began regular flights. This jet aircraft is probably the most popular Russian airliner, with over 1000 of these aircraft having been manufactured. The latest modification, Tu-154M, is still in service. These aircraft serve most of the Russian domestic flights.

On November 1, 1977 Aeroflot started to use the Tupolev Tu-144, the world's first civil supersonic aircraft (by 3 months; it was a commercial disaster), on its regular route from Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport) to Alma-Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan). With poor performance and safety issues, the  Tu-144 was suspended from passenger service in 1978, having officially made a total of 55 regular flights.

In 1980 the Ilyushin Il-86, the first Russian-made wide-body aeroplane, joined the fleet. Eleven aircraft of this type are still in use for charter flights.

In 1993 Aeroflot started to operate the Ilyushin Il-96-300 aircraft on the Moscow - New York route.

The first Western-made aircraft to be used by Aeroflot, the Airbus A310, was acquired in 1992. The company also became a Boeing customer, acquiring new Boeing 767 jet aircraft in 1994. Since then Aeroflot has also operated Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s, and the cargo version of the Douglas DC-10s.

In 1998 Aeroflot leased 2 Boeings 777. Both of them have already been returned.

Other Aeroflot Facts

  • Aeroflot started commercial flights to the United States in 1968. However, in 1979 these flights were suspended by the U.S. Government in response to the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan. Aeroflot flights were further suspended on December 29, 1981, in response to Soviet actions in Poland [2], and again on September 15, 1983, in response to the Soviet Union's shoot-down of Korean Air Flight 007 over its territory [3]. Aeroflot service to the United States was not restored until April 29, 1986.
  • President Vladimir Putin's wife is a former Aeroflot flight attendant. She worked at the Leningrad-based subsidiary of Soviet Aeroflot (Leningrad Avia-Squadron), now Pulkovo Aviation Enterprise.
  • Aeroflot was portrayed in The Bourne Supremacy.
  • It is also portrayed in a number of Soviet movies. Most notably:
    • "Ekipazh" (Russian: "Экипаж") /1979/ - the first Soviet catastrophe movie
    • "Mimino" (Russian:"Мимино") /1977/

 

 

References:
Allen, Oliver E. The Airline Builders. Alexandria, Va: Time-Life Books, 1981.
Allen, Roy. The Pan Am Clipper: The History of Pan American's Flying Boats 1931 to 1946. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books, 2000.
Davies, R.E.G. Airlines of the United States Since 1914. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982
Davies, R.E.G. Pan Am: An Airline and Its Aircraft. New York: Orion Books, 1987.
Bilstein, Roger. Flight in America: From the Wrights to the Astronauts, Rev. ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
Heppenheimer, T.A. Turbulent Skies: The History of Commercial Aviation. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995.

 

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FLYING FACTS

Image courtesy Aeroflot

Airline: Aeroflot

AKA

Location: Soviet Union (Russia)

Flew

Status: Still flying


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It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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