October 15, 2012 Aeroflot’s shift.
Aeroflot, the former state Russian carrier from the soviet days, is on the verge of reinventing itself again. With a major MRO JV deal inked with Rostechnology, and large numbers on new Boeing jets on order including the 787 the carrier seems poised to re-invent itself. Russia is not an easy place to do business, from massive government bureaucracies, to the Russian mafia, to the numerous bribes that have to be paid to get anything done. Specific to aviation, you can read the numerous horror stories of people trying to transit SVO or DME on Milepoint.com and Flyertalk.com.
Aeroflot currently has a mostly Airbus fleet with the addition of some legacy soviet wide bodies (IL-96). In the late 1990’s the Russian government had a deal with Aeroflot that they could only buy western planes if they bought one soviet plane as well. That led to a thoroughly disastrous fleet mix. Apparently with continued privatization of the Russian Aviation market more and airlines are buying western aircraft and it is time for Aeroflot to get rid of their old soviet planes with their turbolet engines (there is no “J” in the Russian language). Currently Aeroflot has some 50 Boeing 737s and 16 777-300ERs, and 22 787s. Aeroflot is trying to leverage its strong market presence in Moscow and its location as a possible transit point between Europe and Asia and create a modern carrier.
While few people take Russian aviation seriously now, Aeroflot hopes to change that view. While a modern fleet and good maintenance will improve operations, the Russian mentality will have to change. Russia has always been a “let’s make a deal” kind of country, and that mentality infects Aeroflot as well, rules are broken as often as not. Rules are created on the spot. The customer is always last has been a permanent fixture of Aeroflot since 1991. That mentality has to change, the airline has to be more than just physically reliable, polices and human interactions have to be reliable. When Aeroflot does that and creates a truly professional airline, it will be something to see.