Flying on the Sanctioned Aeroflot Airline – Can I Still Fly to Russia Now?

Flight details

  • Airline: Aeroflot
  • Class: Economy
  • Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
  • Route: Atyrau (GUW) to Moscow (SVO)
  • Flight time: 2H 40M

I have been debating for a long time whether it is right to visit Russia, but as an airline journalist, it is exactly what I’m supposed to do.

To showcase the current reality of the Russian Aviation sector so you can form your opinion based on my reporting. Nothing more, nothing less.

If I were to consider politics in my reviews, I would never get off the ground.

“Hey Josh, you took a trip on a certain airline from a country that does X Y and Z.”

There’s a list that can go on forever.

So regardless, let’s pack our bags and take a trip from Kazakhstan to Russia.

In this post, you will experience what it’s like to fly with a heavily sanctioned Russian Airline in 2024. Let me show you the obstacles I faced to enter the country.

Let me show you how I took the last Russian flight allowed to enter European airspace and let me show you what it’s like to fly the Russian manufacturer’s Sukhoi SuperJet.

Checking In at Atyrau International Airport

My journey started at Atyrau International Airport which is the lowest commercial airport in the world. It was freezing cold but I was really excited to document my journey to Moscow. So let’s do this and let’s check in for our Aeroflot flight to Russia 

Atyrau Airport is not only the lowest airport in the world, but it is also the only airport in the world where you can measure your blood pressure.

I checked in for my Aeroflot flight and it was very quick and easy. Surprisingly, they didn’t even ask me for my visa.

I travelled with the new Russian e-Visa. You can apply for this visa online and usually gets approved within 72 hours. It’s a very straightforward process.

Boarding Aeroflot’s Airbus A320

We headed towards the Airbus A320 of Aeroflot, an aircraft that is actually stolen property. It was delivered to an Irish leasing company 10 years ago and with the Russian invasion it was ceased by the Russian government and has been re-registered in Russia.

Back in the days they would register those planes in Bermuda and now it’s flying under registration in Russia.

And now we board Aeroflot’s Airbus A320-200 taking us to Moscow. Aeroflot is currently operating 49 of these, so let’s get on board and see what it’s like.

Aeroflot’s Airbus A320 Cabin and First Impressions

Welcome on board a heavily sanctioned Airbus A320. Russian Airlines have no access to spare parts anymore due to the sanctions and that reflects in the current Aviation situation in Russia. There’s emergency landings, there are planes that are grounded and they are cannibalised for spare parts and that’s the reality in Russia at the moment.

Aeroflot’s Airbus A320 features 8 dedicated business class seats and 150 in economy making it 158 in total.

Did I have faith in this plane? I did because I’ve traveled on Iranian Airlines before who are suffering from the same sanctions for over four decades.

They keep their planes air worthy, they’re still flying in great condition so I hope Russia is getting a few tips and advice from the Iranians, which I believe they do. There’s actually a lot of rumours that Russia sends their planes to Iran for maintenance and checks.

But let’s see what the service is like and what the onboard experience is going to be like now that the industry has changed in Russia.

My initial experience as I boarded was that the crew was very lovely at the door which was already a good start and I was looking forward to the next 2 and a half hours to Moscow.

The arrival experience I think is going to be a very eye opening for me but keep reading to find out how that was later!

As we reached cruising altitude my initial thoughts were given that this Russian Airline is heavily sanctioned, there was no real signs of it showing. It didn’t seem to perform any differently, the noise pollution is the same as any other plane, it doesn’t seem like a run-down Airbus A320 to me.

Aeroflot Airbus A320 Seat Tour and In-Flight Entertainment

As I explored the seat features, I picked up the inflight magazine which I was quite curious to see, because Aeroflot is a partially a state-owned Airlines I was expecting to see a few things.

But there was no appreciation or any content regarding their army. If the US or the UK would be at war I’m sure at the American Airlines or British Airways magazine would have at least one page showing appreciation or support for their army, but there was nothing on Aeroflot at all.

It was also quite interesting to see there was still a few Western companies advertising in the magazine, such as Karl Lagerfeld and a lot of Swiss watches. There’s one thing, though, that I found very interesting.

The Russian map on the in-flight magazine has been adjusted to show the new territories that currently have been occupied and were added to the Russian Federation through a referendum.

As for the in-flight entertainment, you can stream all sorts of movies, series and other media to your personal device on Aeroflot flights that don’t have built-in screens.

What Are In-Flight Meals Like on Aeroflot in 2024

Well, what do you get served on an Aeroflot flight during these difficult times? You get an apple, a chocolate bar and a sandwich.

Given that they are heavily sanctioned, this is still more than you get on a 2 and half hour Lufthansa flight… there you go, I said it!

How Was a Flight on a Russian Airline in 2024?

We then started our descent into Moscow and to be fair, the flight was absolutely decent. Lovely crew, great food and overall, I received a lot more than I would on any other Western Airline on a 2-hour flight.

Despite the heavy sanctions on Russian Airlines, everything seems to be functioning, the flight seemed to be safe and it was overall, a good experience on Aeroflot.

We landed and I made my way to immigration. Now, the only problem is that I’m considered a citizen from an unfriendly country, so I could have run into troubles ahead.

Going Through Immigration at Moscow – Do You Get Interrogated?

And indeed, 3 hours and a short interrogation session later I finally entered the Russian Federation. At one point I thought this isn’t going going to happen, I’m not going to be able to enter Russia and I’m going to be sent back or even worse.

I touched down at 7 and it basically took me 5 hours to get to the hotel. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be a piece of cake. I knew it’s going to be difficult.

The country is at war and they have to protect their citizens, they have to protect their country, and they really have to make sure that whoever enters the country is not a threat to the Russian Federation. 

Any other country would do exactly the same. If you have been following the news, there are people entering the country, there are spies, there are people sabotaging things and causing issues, so they have to be extra careful. 

The full story is, I lined up for immigration at Moscow Airport where there were a few different queues. Above the queues they have those large illuminated crosses and green arrows. Green to indicate you can go in and see the immigration officer.

I could tell that at some of the stations, the X was flashing and that’s when an immigration officer came and took the person to a separate area which was away from the queue. I could see it happen to every fifth or sixth person, so I was like thinking, me being a citizen of a country that they consider unfriendly could also be taken for questioning. 

When I walked in there and I saw the immigration officer, she looked like an old, grumpy lady and I was thinking, yeah, I’m definitely not getting through here and that’s exactly what happened.

They check your passports very carefully, because there’s a lot of fake passports out there, which is how people who want to harm the country enter.

They were running it under the blue lights and all the other checks for fake passports and that’s what they did to my passport as well. 

However, the officer would not let me go through, so somebody came picked me up and took me to the other area.

I wasn’t really worried because I saw there were a lot of people from all different like races like Asians, Arabs, Westerners, a lot of Ukrainians as well. I was surprised how many Ukrainians come to Russia, that was very interesting, I didn’t know that Ukrainians that are allowed to come to Russia but there we are, they are allowed. 

Eventually an immigration officer came who was quite friendly. He took me to a separate room and then he asked me, “What are you doing in Russia? Why are you coming here? What are you doing for work?” And then he asked me about what do I think about the situation in Ukraine.

I just gave him a brief background about myself and that all I want is for Russia and Ukraine to be at peace. But I also said, I don’t know much about politics, so I can’t really judge the situation. 

In general the immigration officer was very nice, and he was chatting and laughing with me. He then asked me whether I have Telegram and asked me show it to him.

So I handed my phone over to him with Telegram opened, and I think he just wanted to see it whether I’m in one of those groups and might be blocked in Russia. But he went through it and obviously there wasn’t anything on there.

15 minutes later a different guy came and gave me my passport and said, “You can go and line up again, you’re good to go.”

So overall, you don’t have to be really worried coming to Russia in 2024, but you might be questioned and taken to a separate room and interrogated. But as long as you have nothing to hide and you’re not a threat to the country, you’re fine to enter.

I love Russia, I’ve been coming here for a long time to explore and soak in the city which is my passion, politics is something else.

How much is a Taxi From Moscow Airport to City Centre?

I booked a taxi at an airport desk inside to Hotel Ukraina, which is near the City Centre in Moscow. The taxi from Moscow Airport to City Centre costed 500 Ruble (5.50 USD).

Initially, I thought I’ve been ripped off because I was waiting for 15 minutes and no Uber had shown up and I already had paid the guy at the desk.

So, I went through all the pain going through security again because the guy stole my money, and I was not going to let that happen. Eventually, the guy the desk came outside with me and sorted out my Uber taking me to the Centre of Russia’s capital.

Staying in a Hotel in Moscow During a War

I stayed in Hotel Ukraina which is absolutely stunning inside and out. It used to be the tallest hotel in the world for many, many years.

It’s in a prime location, literally just over-looking at the Russian Parliament. I was waiting for this moment for about 17 years.

2007 was when I was here the first time and I saw the hotel from the outside. I’ve always been obsessed about Moscow for so many years and I said to myself one day I’m going to stay at this hotel.

And it was just amazing. An incredible room with so much history. The view from the window was just stunning.

Do Foreign Payment Cards Work in Russia?

My experience was that paying for everything was so difficult. You can’t use your card because of the sanctions so you have to bring a lot of cash into the country, which I did, but then you have to exchange the money and all the admin that comes with it. It’s just an absolute nightmare.

I had to use cash getting a taxi from the airport, paying for the hotel etc. So keep that in mind if you’re planning to travel to Russia soon.

Exploring Moscow in 2024 – What is it Like Visiting Russia?

I recommend everyone to visit it once in your life. It’s an incredible place.

I started the day and when I stepped outside it was freezing cold, -12°, but the incredible sight of the hotel warmed me up.

The Moscow Metro

Taking a ride on Moscow’s Metro is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s one of the most beautiful Subway systems in the world, carrying 10 million passengers a day, but more importantly, it’s the stunning architecture and the history of it that really makes it special. 

I’ve seen a lot of public transport around the globe, but nothing comes even close to the Moscow Metro.

Trying McDonald’s in Russia

So, before I entered the iconic Red Square, I thought let’s check out the former McDonald’s and see what it tastes like. 

It was just interesting to see how Russian’s everyday life has changed. What you will notice is that the majority of the western brands are actually still operating within Russia just under a different name.

However, some are still operating in the country under the same name, for instance KFC and Burger King as well as other businesses.

So what did McDonald’s in Russia taste like? Apart from the fries, it tastes exactly like McDonald’s and the fries are actually not that bad. In fact, I liked them much better than the regular McDonald’s fries so maybe they should adopt the recipe from the Russian branches.

Bottom Line – My Experience Travelling to Russia in 2024

I ended the first part of my Russian Aviation adventure in the heart of Russia, the Red Square. It’s was freezing cold, but what an adventure it was.

Flying Aeroflot was a good experience, they are doing well despite the sanctions placed on them. The flight felt safe, the food was good and the crew were very polite.

Entering Russia was a little difficult with all the questioning but once you made it through, the city of Moscow did not disappoint. I highly recommend you visit Russia if you have the chance.

If you want to have access to some extra products check out my Patreon page where you can join my WhatsApp group, get your Cahill keyring, early access to my videos have your name in the credits of my videos and so on.

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I hope you enjoyed it this adventure with me. This is it, wherever you’re off to, have a safe trip!


About the Author

Josh Cahill is an award-winning Aviation YouTuber who is reportedly one of the most-watched flight reviewers on the internet. He organised Afghanistan’s first all-female flight together with Kam Air in February 2021 on a flight from Herat to Kabul for which he received the Aviation Achievement Award. His favourite hobby? Flying exotic airlines nobody has ever heard of.

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