Aeroflot is the largest and most well known airline in Russia and today flies passenger services to 97 cities in 48 countries around the world.
The bulk of Aeroflot’s business comes from its international arm – officially called Aeroflot – Russian International Airlines (ARIA). It flies from Moscow to all major world cities, including (Aeroflot USA) New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC and (Aeroflot Europe) London, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and Berlin and (Aeroflot Asia) Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Beiking.
Many people will have a preconceived view of Aeroflot as a not particularly friendly airline, an image not helped by their flight attendant’s refusal to smile at passengers. This was largely because of cultural differences between Russia and the USA – in Russia it isn’t considered necessary to return smiles. Criticism of this lack of smiling led to the famous, if poorly thought out, Aeroflot slogan that told passengers that “We don’t smile because we’re serious about making you happy”. Fortunately, Aeroflot launched a campaign to rebrand itself in the early 2000s and – most importantly – it taught it’s flight attendants to smile. Today, customer service, and friendliness, at Aeroflot is as good as at any other major global airline.
There have also been many historic jokes about the safety of Aeroflot Russian airlines. However, there have been very few crashes involving Aeroflot planes in recent years – most of the crashes you hear about in Russia involve domestic carriers other than Aeroflot.
Aeroflot also has a domestic arm called Aeroflot Russian International Airlines. In the mad rush to privatisation after the Soviet Union collapsed, Aeroflot’s domestic monopoly was broken up and many new smaller airlines were formed – often known affectionately and mockingly as Babyflots. Many of the new carriers were very small, and had poor safety records. In recent years, as many of the smaller airlines find it difficult to continue operating profitably and safely, Aeroflot has begun to move back into the domestic market.
Aeroflot has a long and distinguished history. It is one of the world’s oldest airlines – it’s predecessor organisation – the Soviet Civil Air Fleet – was formed in 1921, just at the end of the Russian Civil War, and this organisation became Aeroflot in February 1932. By the beginning of the second world war, Aeroflot was the world’s largest airline, operating approximately 3,000 aircraft. Aeroflot also became the first world airline to operate regular jet services – the Tupolev Tu-154 was introduced into regular service from 15 September 1956. In 1976, Aeroflot announced that it had carried its 100 millionth passenger.