Swoon: Russia’s Azur Air Launches First Class With Former Cathay Pacific 777s

Swoon: Russia’s Azur Air Launches First Class With Former Cathay Pacific 777s

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It looks like a Russian charter airline will be introducing a first class product, thanks to some aircraft acquisitions.

Azur Air acquiring former Cathay Pacific 777s

Azur Air is a Russian charter airline with a fleet of just over 30 aircraft, including 737s, 757s, 767s, and 777s. The airline operates to all kinds of popular Russian vacation destinations, ranging from Cuba, to Thailand, to Turkey. The airline was even supposed to launch flights between Moscow and Miami, but the route has been delayed due to the pandemic.

Azur Air is a Russian charter airline

Azur Air is currently in the process of expanding its long haul fleet, and that’s being done by acquiring at least three Boeing 777-300ERs that used to fly for Cathay Pacific. These planes will have the registration codes VQ-BXJ, VQ-BTK, and VQ-BXK.

Azur Air is acquiring former Cathay Pacific 777-300ERs

All of these planes are in a four cabin configuration and feature just 275 seats, including six first class seats, 53 business class seats, 34 premium economy seats, and 182 economy class seats.

What’s fascinating is that Azur Air allegedly doesn’t intend to reconfigure these planes — the airline will maintain the same layout, which is in stark contrast to the carrier’s current high-density configurations. Azur Air’s existing 777-300ERs feature a staggering 531 seats, including only seven business class seats and 524 economy seats.

Cathay Pacific’s 777 first class (now on Azur Air)

That’s right, Azur Air’s current 777-300ERs feature nearly twice as many seats as the Cathay Pacific ones that are being acquired.

Azur Air intends to introduce first class service

Not only will Azur Air physically have a first class cabin on its 777s, but it’s being reported that the airline intends to introduce a first class soft product to go along with it.

Azur Air allegedly intends to sell and separately market first and business class cabins. In the case of premium economy, the airline will simply sell that as part of the economy cabin, with an extra charge to be seated there. The airline is working on developing a premium cabin service protocol, and training flight attendants specifically for serving these cabins.

It’s even suggested that this new 777 could start flying between Moscow and Bodrum as soon as tomorrow (July 25), though we’ll have to see if that becomes a reality.

If this does in fact happen, Azur Air would be the only airline in Russia to offer first class. Russian flag carrier Aeroflot offers business class, but not first class.

Transaero used to offer first class, but the airline went bankrupt in 2015.

Transaero’s first class cabin

I’m so sad I never had the chance to fly the airline. Ugh, and to think that Transaero was just months away from launching A380 flights to New York when it went out of business…

Transaero was supposed to fly the A380

Some Transaero planes have been acquired by Aeroflot subsidiary Rossiya, and even feature the original first class seats. However, these are being sold as a “super space” business class, and don’t offer a dedicated soft product. Rather you just pay a premium for the extra space.

Rossiya is flying some former Transaero 777s

Bottom line

Russian charter airline Azur Air has acquired some former Cathay Pacific Boeing 777s, which feature first and business class cabins. The airline doesn’t plan on reconfiguring these planes, and therefore plans to introduce a better premium cabin experience.

This is quite a contrast to the carrier’s previous approach, as Azur Air’s other 777s don’t feature first class, and have just seven business class seats.

I’m curious to learn more about this, and hopefully one day experience Azur Air’s first class. Here’s to hoping Azur Air follows through on launching Miami flights, and maybe even uses these 777s.

Anyone else find this as intriguing as I do?

(Tip of the hat to Anthony)

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  1. Andy

    I think their decision to give a try with F is understandable and relatively low risk. As you say, there are just 6 F seats which are occupying a relatively small area. If they can't sell them at a premium with a F style product, it's probably still more economical to keep the seats and use them for BusinessPlus, as Rossyia does.

    But I'm really surprised they are keeping the very large J and W...

    I think their decision to give a try with F is understandable and relatively low risk. As you say, there are just 6 F seats which are occupying a relatively small area. If they can't sell them at a premium with a F style product, it's probably still more economical to keep the seats and use them for BusinessPlus, as Rossyia does.

    But I'm really surprised they are keeping the very large J and W compartments and do not increase the size of Y. Given their business model is to fly large tourist groups to popular destinations.

  2. Eddie

    Three incidents so far this year (https://www.aeroinside.com/airline/azur-air) is something to think about.

  3. Joe

    Only 2 coming from Cathay Pacific

  4. shoeguy

    Flew CX 77W's a number of times, and while the cabin interiors always felt a little bit dated, color-scheme wise, they were nice rides and service was always very good.

    Always good to see great airplanes go one to new operators, though I'd never want to fly on a Russian airline. Poor safety records going back decades.

    1. Super

      That was my only complaint about CX F, too. Swap out some materials for modern textures and get a proper HD screen and you’re golden.

  5. Simon

    Miami service Will actually be announced very shortly. Will start in December.

  6. Chris

    I think you may also find that one of the three 777’s that are being delivered to Azur Air is a former Virgin Australia 777 VH-VOZ. The frame has spent some time in Singapore undergoing maintenance in recent months, and in late June was ferried to Istanbul.

  7. Bill n DC

    Let me join love fest for CX. Have rebooked JFK-HKG-FRA(-IAD/LH) for next May. FBoFW booked using Alaska miles so much value, but still have 125,000 Asiamiles expiring in Oct. so redo Birthday RTW JFK-HKG-HND :-)
    Then add HND-HKG-LHR. For 90K

    On subject of flying Russian, I’ll pass and likewise above will probably be final on Cathay :-(

    1. Super

      Sounds like an amazing trip. Going westward should help with the time zone transitions, too. Fingers crossed everything will be back to normal by then.

  8. Ahmed

    Emirates first / business class area the best. Seats, function, service on board, plus first class fully closed and private.

    1. Aaron

      Their first, maybe, but their business class? Not so much, quite a few business class products out their that surpass it. Especially their non-A380 business class.

  9. Super

    I've never flown a Russian airline, but I have to imagine their service standards are... not quite on par with Cathay Pacific. Would be an odd experience to be in CX First without their service.

    As an aside - while I recognize that there are a lot of other First Classes that are factually better than CX (ANA's massive TV screens, Singapore's First Suites, etc.), I still miss flying with Cathay the most? There's an...

    I've never flown a Russian airline, but I have to imagine their service standards are... not quite on par with Cathay Pacific. Would be an odd experience to be in CX First without their service.

    As an aside - while I recognize that there are a lot of other First Classes that are factually better than CX (ANA's massive TV screens, Singapore's First Suites, etc.), I still miss flying with Cathay the most? There's an X factor that you can't exactly quantify that Cathay has, and a lot of others don't.

    1. Kair

      Agree that CX first seat is special. Perhaps it is due to the extra width of the seat? I wonder if Qantas first class feels similar but have not flown them yet.

    2. Kevin

      Qantas F seat feel like a bigger space in terms of square footage but if memory serves me correctly, seat itself isn’t as wide. Food doesn’t compare of course. CX is better by a large margin.

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Kevin

Qantas F seat feel like a bigger space in terms of square footage but if memory serves me correctly, seat itself isn’t as wide. Food doesn’t compare of course. CX is better by a large margin.

Kair

Agree that CX first seat is special. Perhaps it is due to the extra width of the seat? I wonder if Qantas first class feels similar but have not flown them yet.

Super

That was my only complaint about CX F, too. Swap out some materials for modern textures and get a proper HD screen and you’re golden.

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