Perfecting My Rossiya Vladivostok Adventure

Yes, I’m probably a bit too easily amused. Or maybe not too easily, but rather too oddly. I guess going to Tokyo via Moscow and Vladivostok doesn’t exactly qualify as “easy.”

A few days ago I wrote about my desire to fly Rossiya’s 777-300 between Moscow and Vladivostok. There are so many things that interest me about this:

  • An eight hour domestic flight within Russia sounds like fun
  • Rossiya is mostly owned by Aeroflot, so I’m curious how the onboard experience compares, given that I find Aeroflot to be excellent
  • Rossiya has “Super Space Business Class,” which consists of former Transaero first class seats
  • From Vladivostok I could connect to Tokyo Narita on S7 Siberian Airlines, which is another airline that has been on my radar

Recapping the flights from Moscow to Tokyo Narita

To recap, I was looking at booking a paid business class ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok on Rossiya for ~750USD in business class.

Apparently you can’t actually reserve Super Space Business Class seats in advance, but rather can only select them at check-in. At that point an upgrade would cost 12,000 rubles, or about 175USD. Some of you mentioned not to expect to be able to pay for one of those seats if there are any government officials onboard, so I guess that’s not a sure thing.

On that note, does anyone know what Rossiya’s 777-300 business class actually looks like? There are two rows in a 2-3-2 configuration, but are they recliner seats, angled seats, or fully flat seats? I can’t seem to find anything online.

There’s another interesting change happening here. Moscow has three airports — DME, SVO, and VKO. Rossiya largely operates flights out of VKO, which is mostly used by low cost carriers. However, as of October 28, 2018, Rossiya will be taking over some Aeroflot routes, including operating this flight out of SVO rather than VKO.

I’d sort of like to experience the flight out of VKO, since I’ve been to DME and SVO. Apparently the airport even has a separate VIP terminal that Rossiya business class passengers can use. Does anyone have experience with that?

Moscow’s airports are quite far from the city (and from one another), and after my last harrowing experience in an Uber to Moscow’s DME airport, I’m pretty scarred. So ideally I’d like to fly in and out of the same airport, and have a fairly quick connection.

Before I talk about how I plan to accomplish that, the S7 connection from Vladivostok to Tokyo is easy enough, as the flight leaves a few hours after the Rossiya flight arrives from Moscow.

A fun way to get to Moscow VKO Airport

It looks like it might actually be possible to connect at VKO while trying yet another new product.

I’ve been intrigued by FlyDubai’s new 737 MAX business class, which consists of fully flat seats.

As it turns out, they fly the 737 MAX from Moscow to Dubai, and the connection works out perfectly.

Does that look like a fun day of flying, or a fun day of flying?!?

All of the connections would be nice and long, so as long as everything goes as scheduled, this should work out smoothly. Though perhaps the “goes as scheduled” thing is a tall order here.

Then I could get to Dubai one of two ways:

  • I could try Etihad’s 787 first class, which I still haven’t flown
  • I could fly KLM’s 787 business class to Europe, and then MEA’s A330 business class from Paris to Beirut to Dubai
  • I could fly one of Norwegian’s odd leased planes to London, and then RwandAir from London to Kigali to Dubai

This all started as a long shot, but I think I can actually make this happen.

What do you guys think? Is this crazy, useless, interesting, or all three?

(Featured image courtesy of Fedor Leukhin)

Comments

  1. Yay! Sounds awesome! Would you get to spend any time in Vladivostok? Also, are there any places to redeem points there?

  2. Instead of KLM/Etihad, why not try Kenya Airways? They’re starting a nonstop from JFK to Nairobi from the end of next month, and you can connect to either FlyDubai or continue on KQ’s short haul service to DXB. Given that you have tried Ethiopian, EgyptAir, and RAM, I would like to see how you feel about Kenya, since they are in my opinion the best airline in Africa in terms of in-air and on-ground experiences combined.

  3. Hopefully you can use Avios (or other airlines miles) rather than spending 1000 USD on a ~650 mile flight on an S7 A320.

  4. Hey Lucky! As you will be in Russia’s wild wild east I would suggest you take the day (yes 24 hours min.) to check out Vladivostok. Depending on the time of year, a trip to the peninsula and its wild nature would be amazing! Flights to Petropavlovsk-kamchatsky from Vladivostok are available and you can do a helicopter tour of this amazing place to save time. So, yes lucky, you add 2 days to a trip which goes from an adventure to a voyage of discovery!

    Give it a thought!

    S7 is a European standard airline. I know it’s a cross off your list of unflown airlines. You won’t be disappointed, you won’t be delighted, you’ll just think you’re on a typical 3 star airline.

  5. Hah, from Tokyo you could fly Singapore Airlines’ new regional business class to Singapore, then Philippine Airlines’ A350 to London…just a possibility 🙂

  6. It’s no doubt crazy, probably useless to most of us, but most definitely interesting!
    I can’t wait to read the trip report!

  7. @Alvin – Then Lucky could fly on one of Norwegians odd leased planes on the return and have something different on the outbound.

  8. ANA business class to SFO (for united polaris lounge) or YVR (AC renovated int’l MLL) on the way back please

  9. Such a waste to be in Kamchatka and not spend any time there.

    I was pretty happy with the op-up I got on S7 from DME to EVN. It was quite possibly the hardest landing I’ve ever experienced though!

  10. I realise that this is blog all about air travel but it would be a shame to get to Vladivostok and not take the ferry to japan. Departs Wednesdays traveling via Donghae South Korea to Sakaiminato. A first class suite is only $545

  11. I know that normally when you ask what readers think, your decision has already been made, but I think that @Ed’s idea is superb. Something totally different.

  12. Do it! Sounds awesome & will make for a fun trip report.

    As others have mentioned, at least consider staying a day in Vladivostok. It’s a strangely charming city perched at the end of the world, and IMO is worth a look around as long as you’re there!

  13. To recap all the interesting comments/suggestions/requests from other commenters above: JFK-NBO-DXB on Kenya Airways, connect to flyDubai to VKO, connect to Rossiya to VVO; stop to review the Russian wild, wild east in and around Vladivostok before crossing off S7 from your never-fly-airline list on a short hop to NRT. Fly SQ’s new regional J class from NRT to MNL (via SIN) where you’d catch PR’s new A350 flight to LHR. Crossover to LGW to get on board one of those Norwegian’s limited time leased plane to get back to JFK. That would be a heck of a trip report, Ben. Let’s do this!!!

  14. Why wouldn’t you just take a normal taxi in Moscow obviously Uber is sketchy in Moscow taxis and more regulated and proffesinal in general?

  15. Looks great Lucky, go for it!

    Question: U mentioned in the end, one of your options to get there would be KL J on the 787.

    Can you advise where and how you book KL in J? I have been searching DL, nothing less than 300k, similar story on Air France. What am I missing?

  16. The seats on 773 are the same as on Emirates – those planes are from them. I’ll catch you later today on Twitter to send you pics, I’ve flew on them from Crimea to Moscow.

  17. Hey Ben does any airline scare you to fly? It seems whenever crashes happen it’s a Russian airline or low cost carrier in Asia etc.

  18. What’s your back-up plan if you arrive late into VVO and miss the connecting flight to Tokyo?

    You’re not seriously thinking about spending USD 1000 to fly VVO-NRT, are you? As noted above, you can redeem a cheap Avios ticket (subject to availability!)

  19. @Tav
    There is absolutely nothing special about MEA’s A330s–just a large business class cabin without flat beds.

  20. I would say it’s about time you do a KLM 787 review (either on US-AMS or AMS-DXB route).

    Maybe idea worth considering for the future – northernmost commercial airport (Svalbard) all the way to southernmost commercial airport (Ushuaia) in one go.

  21. You should fly etihad first a review on their 787 first would be amazing and imagine what you could do with all those Etihad miles and points.

  22. +1 for spending a night or two in Vladivostok! This is a place you will not come through often, and it would be cool to look around, visit some restaurants, drink some local booze…

  23. ANA BUSINESS CLASS!!! Too long their long haul business has been left unreviewed on this blog and they are a global carrier. Try their 777 or 787 to Europe, and then maybe Rwandair considering you have been wanting to try them for a while as well.

  24. If you want a good experience with a taxi in Moscow I suggest Wheely. It’s a fantastic app just like Blacklane and Sixt mydriver with very high standards of service.

  25. I like this, it seems like a good idea,and I’m excited, but how will you get home from Tokyo, maybe you could tie this in to your done of the airlines in the pacific, maybe Tokyo-port moresby-sydney-los angeles-you could try Qantas’s new 787 in business class, it’s amazing

  26. Lucky, you could fly KLM 787 business class. Then Aeroflot A330 from AMS to SVO, not bad for intra- Europe business class!

  27. Hello from Moscow 🙂

    1) do not use Uber in Moscow. Really, no need. There is Aeroexpress to all 3 airports, 35-45 minutes in transit. It even has WiFi. Better try this, avoid traffic and extra costs, feel how 90% Russians get to the airport. Or use Yandex.Taxi if you really need taxi.

    2) spend BA or AA miles for S7 flight – availability in advance perfect. Its business class is good – you will probably be surprised. It’s recliner only, but “real” – no blocked middle seats like in europe. Service is well-intentioned and you will get full meal service even on 1-hour flight (though you will have to drink your tea fast after descend begins!).

    By the way, if you decide to take this flight on a date that is ok for me, and want to fly together, you can tell me – I will also test this seat and tell you a lot about Russia and Russian airlines.

  28. Given that you want to fly S7, which is a tiny Oneworld airline, it makes sense to feature a tiny SkyTeam airline in your itinerary. Namely, Middle East Airlines. All long-haulers are A330-200s with an old business class, but it might be worth a try from LHR-BEY-DXB (or maybe the BEY-DXB leg can be done on FZ instead).

    My vote for KL/ME. I’d prefer them to Kenya Airways.

    For returning to the US, either the PR A350 to JFK or OK’s A330 (ICN-PRG), then onwards from Prague. A third SkyTeam airline on the list.

  29. Is there any limitations on transiting Beirut airport if you have Israeli stamps in your passport?

    Seem to recall it being a problem entering Lebanon at least?

  30. @Lucky

    Definitely go for RwandAir! They’re a cool little airline which I’ve flown a number of times. Idk if you got my E-Mail regarding the RwandAir stopover program I sent you a couple of months ago but that might work great. When I was in Kigali everything was safe and it’s a really cool city to explore! You should also visit the genicide museum and if you’re even more adventurous, go fo the mountain gorillas.

    If you’d like more information regarding Kigali (airport or city) feel free to contact me! (In German if you want to)

  31. @No Name – Was never an issue for me. I travel frequently to both countries although now Israeli immigration has stopped stamping my passport and instead providing a slip on entry.

  32. Seems like an easily managed trip – not sure it qualifies as crazy. I have flown between Moscow and Vladivostok. The latter is a beautiful and a historic city to visit so enjoy your trip.

  33. You definitely won’t have any trouble with your connection at VVO- the airport is tiny, only a few gates, and since you won’t have to clear customs again since you are arriving on a domestic flight, you don’t need much time at all. Vladivostok is a super interesting city as a “westerner,” so if you are able to swing it, try to stay a night or two. Try the best guacamole in eastern Russia at Cafe Lima, see the famous Vladivostok bridges, take a ride to Russky island, etc. – a taxi from the airport to downtown Vladivostok will cost about $40 USD, but once inside the city, transportation is cheap. Or there’s a train option as well.

    Also, it’s absurd that you are paying so much for your flight from VVO-NRT. The flight is short and the seats on S7 are pretty comfortable, but business class is not worth it unless you booked the flight as a connection (prices are cheap on the S7 website- I fly LAX-VVO often, usually around $1500 for business class the entire journey).

  34. @Marek the business class seat on ex-Transaero B777-300 fleet is the same you can find on Air India B777-300ER/200LR. The same aviointeriors business seat. Not fully flat!

  35. Would like to see your review of KLM biz. I have a soft spot for it; the seats aren’t amazing but I have always found the service good, the food decent, and like the delft houses 🙂

  36. I’ve flown Rossiya once. I was not super impressed, though a lot of that had to do with the passengers. The flight was packed, there were lots of children, all of whom were watching cartoons and playing games with those annoying sounds, without headphones, and when I asked them to use headphones they basically told me to deal with it. The flight attendants didn’t do anything about it either. Other than that, it’s a fine experience – probably won’t be stunning, but also not atrocious.

    Vladivostok is a lovely airport – new and very clean – but quite small. I’ve flown from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, nearby, and the flight was about as long as flying from the US to Europe. At a certain point you look out the window and go “how are we STILL flying over Russia?” I’d agree with the other commenters that if you’re bothering to fly that far and get a Russian visa, you might as well see some of the beauty of the Russian far east. Kamchatka is gorgeous, but if, as commenters above suggest, you fly there, be prepared that there’s very little infrastructure to welcome Western travelers, and I doubt very many people speak English. I’d have had a very hard time getting by there if I didn’t speak Russian. But it’s certainly an experience, and Kamchatka is absolutely breathtaking.

  37. Definetely the last option with Norwegian’s leased planes (I believe the Wamos Air plane is an ex Air Berlin A330-200) then Rwandair to Kigali & DXB.

    Since it seems that you’re intending to do the trip before the winter timetable when Rossiya will be operating said flight from SVO, that doesn’t let you try KQ JFK-NBO as the route starts operating on the 28th/29th October.

    You could plan review KQ later in the year combining it with Air Tanzania to Mumbai and return to the US in Eitihad’s 787 first class.

    This will be a fun read!!!!!!

  38. Ben, I’ve used the VipPort FBO at VKO which I assume is the same “VIP Terminal” they reference. Only used when flying private not Rossiya J but let me know if you want further details.

  39. Why not try a different approach to Dubai? I suggest Royal Jordanian, as they use their 787 from JFK to AMM and then perhaps a stay at Four Seasons? It then is an RJ A320 to DXB. If not, try Virgin Atlantic or Finnair, as Finnair is starting an A350 route 2 times a week to Dubai, the Kenya Airways idea sounds good if it doesn’t work out.

  40. S7’s A320 business class is nice. I flew Moscow to Novosibirsk and back in June. Decent seat and impressive little amenity kit for this type of flight.

  41. I agree with the commenters above! Staying in Vladivostok for a few nights is well worth it!! I’ve lived here 5 years, and the charm never gets old. Unfortunately, you won’t find any western hotel chains, as the planned Hyatts were never completed and just sit as empty shells 🙁 But, the terminus of the Trans-Siberian railroad, the Eagle’s nest scenic overlook, the birthplace of actor Yul Brynner (from the King and I), Russky Island, the embankment and the two gorgeous bridges are worth seeing. Also, the coast is rugged and beautiful. The nearby tiger reserves and the Land of the Leopard hold stunningly beautiful nature as well. It’s a unique corner of Russia that combines Russian lifestyles with the feeling of being apart from the rest of the world. The local cuisine is to die for and there are many excellent restaurants and bars. Don’t forget to try either Gus Kharas (traditional Russian cuisine), Supra, Zuma, or Ogonyok restaurants, and Moonshine Bar is a must if you love cocktails and a pleasant atmosphere.

    VVO airport is very small, but it is super easy to navigate and there usually is very little wait time as far as check-in and security. Taxis are generally inexpensive, and using the Maxim or Yandex app is the way to go, unless you want to get gouged at the official taxi booth.

    I’m not a fan of Rossiya, and fly Aeroflot. I am curious to see your take on the differences. I think that you will find it shockingly different, if my one Rossiya experience taught me anything.

  42. +1 Valentin’s info

    The moscow city trains are excellent! The only way we do it. Can buy tickets right at the entrance to the train, at DME at least, I bet the others as well.

    We’ve been impressed on our S7 flights. Nice catering, even on short flights, prompt and efficient service. On a recent early morning flight UKK to DME they handed out a little package to all the kids akin to Emirates. Nice touch to hopefully keep them quieter. We’ve been in economy (fine leg room on the 320s and 321s, a bit tight on 319s) with esp generous leg room at bulkhead and exit rows of course.

    Love your ideas, Lucky, and thank you as always!

  43. My friend chartered a jet out of VKO in 2010 in order to hop to some of my last oblasts in Russia. The VIP terminal was fine, like any other private flight services terminal. There was no commercial use at the time, so I don’t know if Rossiya is using the same facility.

    Wilder still is to drive from Moscow to Vladivostok (for those who’ve got a few weeks). At least the road is complete now; when I did it in 2007, it was a major construction site in many places, with smugglers, gangs, and literal highway robbery around every bend. The Wild East!

  44. Apologies for the late comment, but I’m bored while being stuck in Schipol waiting for a connection…

    @Theo

    “you could try Qantas’s new 787 in business class, it’s amazing”

    Why is it “amazing”?

    I did Qantas non-stop LHR-PER-LHR, plenty of time to spend with it. It was perfectly nice, a decent standard business class. But it could have been on any number of similar airlines.

    It’s why Qsuites is so extraordinary – and compared to all other J class that really is “amazing”.

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