Aeroflot May Stop Flying To The US

With increasing tension between the US and Russia, it looks like Aeroflot may soon stop flying to the US. At least that’s the threat. Aeroflot is Russia’s largest airline, and presently flies to Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Washington DC. They’re also the only airline to offer year-round flights between Russia and the US.

So, why is Aeroflot considering cutting flights to the US? The Russian Foreign Ministry says that this is due to increased delays by the United States in issuing visas, including for their crews. The waiting time for interviews for US visa applications is now about 250 days, and at that point, some say there’s no point in even applying for a visa.

Officially, the ministry statement said that Aeroflot “may be forced to stop (flights) because the crews are experiencing growing difficulty in obtaining American visas.”

The US Consulate in St. Petersburg was recently forced to be closed, though the Russian Foreign Ministry says that this shouldn’t impact visa waiting times.

While the official reason here is the increased wait times for visas, it’s anyone’s guess if that’s the real motivation here. It could also be that this is just the latest threat in the growing spat between the US and Russia, as we’re seeing diplomats expelled. We also don’t know whether Aeroflot is seriously considering pulling out of the US, or if this is just an empty threat. I could see either being the case.

It’s also possible that Aeroflot just doesn’t have great yields between Russia and the US (due to a variety of reasons), and this is a way for them to save face while pulling out. Frankly I’m surprised Aeroflot continues to operate as many flights to the US as they do, as I can’t imagine demand is that high, and there are plenty of other one-stop routings between the US and Russia.

These are some interesting times as it pertains to aviation between the US and Russia. A few days ago American Airlines avoided Russian airspace while enroute to China, raising rumors about the possibility of Russia blocking access to their airspace going forward.

I flew Aeroflot a couple of years ago from Los Angeles to Moscow, and had a fantastic flight. The inflight experience was shockingly good, and I’ve heard similar things from others who have flown with them. They seem to have a bad reputation among those who haven’t flown with them, while their inflight product is almost universally praised. They’re also one of the only airlines to offer a proper business class product within Europe.

It’ll be interesting to see how this situation develops…

Do you think Aeroflot will cut flights to the US?

Comments

  1. I’m no fan of uncle Vlad, but it is clear to me that the US visa system is ridiculous, and discriminates against different nationalities for no rhyme or reason, other than backward American tribalism and xenophobia. That aircrews should have to wait 250 days for a visa they will use for a 24 hour layover is stupid, but that’s where we are, I guess.

  2. I agree: the rolling eyes and raised eyebrows when Aeroflot is mentioned usually come from those who haven’t flown them, or at least not in recent years.
    Their product is solid if not earth-moving and that, combined with the lowish fares, makes them a good choice on some routes.
    I would forgo that though because the Russians are overstepping the mark on many issues. Aeroflot is collateral damage.
    NB. Not that the US is any friendlier in respect of visas/immigration. Line ball.

  3. I might see them flying to Canada instead (YYZ and YVR) then continuing using DL as feeder for DL US hubs.

  4. Wow Lucky you really seem to love Russian propaganda. First it was that Yakutia governor and now this.

    Here we’ve got just another example of a made up reason for US basing. It’s made up by Russian authorities and made up for domestic consumption. I’m saying that as a Russian, who is in Russia right now.

    First Russian Government ordered to reduce the number of US consulate workers. Second they complain about visa processing time. Smart?

    Here is the real thing.
    1. US visa application process was very easy and quick before Putin ordered the reduction of US consulate staffs. Now it turned into nightmare. The average visa processing time is 250+ days. Russian citizens with ordinary passport can’t even get appointment for visa application (2018 is full). Nowadays Russians who would want to visit the US need to go to neighbouring countries and apply there.
    2. Affluent and those close to the Government in Russia persons are not used to 250+ days processing time for their visas. So for those very important people (+sportsmen and some delegations) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia used to send letters to the US Consulate asking to process visa applications with no wait time.
    3. US Consulate used to agree to those letters until recently. Now they decided that all Russian citizens should be processed in the same manner, no matter what Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia asked them for (except UN affiliated). That of course made very important people angry and was a reason for another round of US bashing here.

    As a Russian I applaud US Consulate for this decision. I’m happy that those closer to the Russia Government now would face the same troubles as everyone does (especially considering it was the Government who created those troubles in the first place).

    PS. Aeroflot is fine. They have enough staffs with visas for the time being. Then they have a plan in place in case their staffs visas won’t be processed in time (they would apply for US visas during layover at foreign countries, for crews it’s easy, quick and straightforward process). It’s just… being an extent of the Russian Government Aeroflot ‘raised concerns’ about visas when was told to do so.

  5. @Lucky I hope you realize that Aeroflot’s statement is misleading at best. While the waiting time at the Moscow embassy for visitor visas (B-1/B-2) is currently 250 days, this is completely irrelevant for airline crews.

    Crew members are not permitted to travel to the US on any type of visitor visa. They must obtain a Crew (D) and/or Transit (C-1) visa to enter the US, which is a type of nonimmigrant visa (but not a visitor visa). The current waiting time for a nonimmigrant visa at the Moscow embassy is 42 days. At Vladivostok, the waiting time is 30 days. At Yekaterinburg, the wait is 5 days. With SU operating eight daily nonstops on SVO-SVX, getting their people to SVX for an interview would be trivial for Aeroflot. Admittedly, the flight to VVO is quite a bit farther.

  6. @ Lucky I should show you the yellow card for not reporting properly..thanks to @Denis we now understand more why the problem is there..I do not want to go further and insinuate a row over Putin against Trump warmongering ..again ..we have enough of it..@debit always remembers us over this tabloid nonsense!..

    Back to Aeroflot quitting the US routes..well, it is there decision..it will give their competitors some advantages..I only like the regional C products..the longhaul seating with neighbours, no thank you!..I concur the soft products in both regional and international are surprisingly good..better than I have expected..I expected soviet style unedible food bit was surprised how nice it was..just let them follow the footsteps of QR or SQ..then they will be a huge pain in the xxxfor some European competitors..

  7. @Denis I don’t see it as US-bashing. Russia only reduced US staff in response to Americans kicking out Russian diplomats. Plus, Russians don’t have to visit other countries for visas. They can visit the US Consulate in Vladivostok. Just two months ago my friend Ksyusha got an interview slot just two days before the interview, and had a visa in hand in less than a week. But, Vladivostok is on the ass end of Russia and further away than just going to another country for visa interview.

  8. For those in the know – Aeroflot is an excellent choice for premium travel to former Soviet states, Asia (Central, South and Far) and even Europe. Smooth connection in SVO (after a reconstruction), great fares, relatively low taxes and charges, good award availability (use AeroMexico) and a solid product. Have a flight booked for August, keep fingers crossed it will operate by then.

  9. I sincerely hope it’s just bluster and threats. As an American who works in Vladivostok, I routinely fly Aeroflot to JFK via SVO, then on to Atlanta on a DL code-share. I have three round-trip tickets book on them to the US between now and September. I could use Asiana, Korean, JAL, Cathay Pacific, and several others with just one stop, but Aeroflot by far is the least expensive, and definitely offer a good product for the price. Last time I flew between Moscow and New York (February), both the outbound and inbound flights were quite full. I find this to be the case more often than not. Of course, I have no idea how to the loads are on flights to other US cities. The only real losers in this scenario are the consumers, such as me, and my Aeroflot Gold status would basically become useless if Aeroflot discontinues their US routes.

  10. @ Jesse

    nothing has been decided!..you should always regard @Lucky’s post with a pinch or sometines with a bucket of salt..
    your SU Gold = Skyteam Elite Plus means you have great privileges with DL, AF/KL etc. which you can experience even if your are not flying SU..
    Don’t fall to fearmongering here in OMAAT..they are like peaceful lambs..which in certain situations are all replaceable or should I say here all are sacrificable!!

  11. There is very high demand in the Russia – US market indeed.
    Aeroflots yelds are also very high.
    In fact, they’ve just added a third daily flight between SVO and JFK

  12. In retrospect, I’m glad Delta wouldn’t let me book a business award for end of May from Barcelona to LAX via Moscow with Aeroflot. Lord knows what would have happened there if they did stop flying to the US.

    But Delta, can we have a talk about forcing people to transfer points and then telling them the award isn’t available? Rather sheisty in my opinion.

  13. @Jlm

    Don’t worry! I do not assume the western alliance will risk a direct confrontation with Russia especially on the eve of the Soccer World Cup..if SU should cease operations there are other Skyteam partners which will get you to Moscow..

    Now the charming OMAAT community is eager to malign SU or the Soccer World Cup because it is hosted by Russia..just remember dearest opossums..he who sows evil will harvest evil..

  14. @ Jesse

    Ouh Jesse. How is that going on a Russian troll farm today? Hope you managed your daily message limit and would get paid well.

    @my friend Ksyusha got an interview slot just two days before the interview, and had a visa in hand in less than a week.
    Fantastic! Then what all the buzz about? If it’s so easy to get a visa why SU staffs (with the rest of Russians) cannot get their within a week? Why Russian authorities bashing US for not issuing visas for SU crews if visas can be in hands in less than a week?

  15. Thanks to all the level headed responders!

    I was panicked as I fly Moscow-LAX on June 9. But it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t fly that profitable route.

  16. beachfan, no worries you’ll most definitely be fine.
    Aeroflot won’t stop serving US until Putin decides so, which could happen midterm but not necessary would.

  17. Lol the American trolls on this forum are ridiculous. I’m neither American or Russian but am really disgusted by the tribalism, intolerance, narrow world view and Cold War mentality exuded by these people. Have fun fighting the rest of the world!

  18. @Blair

    You can google all the statistics you need about SU..I can only share my experience..it was a great one. The aircrafts (B777 and A320) were okay. The crew were efficient inspite of some glitches because of the language barriere but overall my flights were solid and most important it felt safe..

  19. It’s remarkable that the information comes out of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rather than Aeroflot (the two are not the same). Maybe the Ministry just needs an excuse to whine about the US. But then the US is in the wrong here. Russians issue visas to Americans in a week or two. The US keeps people waiting for… 285 days?

  20. Back when the Soviet Union had collapsed and the Russians were allowed to travel, but there were no directs between Russia and the US yet, Finnair made lots of money on Moscow-Helsinki-JFK. Most pax on those flights were Russians. Moscow-Helsinki, a 90-minute flight, was operated by DC-10 (and JFK by MD-11). There were, and still are, very few widebodies operating short European flights. The connection was, and still is, perfectly streamlined with a transfer time of some 40 minutes both ways (and yes, in case there was a delay, the planes waited). Helsinki is still a small airport but back then, it was minuscule, so it was a very easy connection.

    If Aeroflot suddenly stopped their US services, it would be a great gift to Finnair.

  21. @ DanielfromFinland

    You are right. Not only AY but all other European carriers..who does not want a huge piece of the Russian market..

  22. Hey Denis (and other Russia bashers), You are a complete tool and should not be considered an American. You would fit in great in Russia! You seem good at accepting govt propaganda at face value… you know, like a Russian would do.

    The Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves… an American empire badgering the old Rus empire… a land war in Asia? If you think that is “American” you are utterly clueless of our history of radical politics and anti imperialism. Because actual Americans kicked hell out of the largest empire in world history… You would have been a loyalist!

    And you are a coward… courage is STANDING UP TO YOUR OWN GOVERNMENT.

    Great article by Lucky, played it right down the middle. This is sad for the world and of course for travelers. Aeroflot is an excellent airline.

  23. @Denis called me a Russian troll. That’s hilarious.
    On to more important things, this diplomatic row between the US and Russia is stupid. Sure, there’s plenty of blame to go around on both sides, but the US started this cycle of kicking out diplomats around the end of 2016. Russia in kind responded. Who knows if the visa backlog is due to the decrease in staff or is a deliberate act by the US State Department. As @A mentioned, Russia issues visas to Americans in a week or two, but, and I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, there are a lot more Russians seeking to go to the USA than vice-versa.

  24. @Myles Yeah, being Skyteam elite plus has its advantages when I fly Delta or Korean Air. The only thing is that I always have to fight with Delta to get my privileges. I have been shouted down in Atlanta trying to use Delta’s Sky Priority baggage drop because some over-zealous agent who was roaming the kiosks looked at my economy boarding pass and asked if I was a Medallion member. I said no, that I am a Skyteam elite plus through Aeroflot. They said they never heard of Aeroflot and that I should go to their check-in area (facepalm: Aeroflot doesn’t even serve Atlanta). Of course, I assume that situation was an outlier and some agent bent on being on a power trip. The other, more consistent, problem is when Delta still tries to charge me for my go st checked bag, though as an elite plus I am entitled to the first checked bag free. I have had to point out my status multiple times to Delta to get the benefits, even though my boarding pass has my status. I usually have to do it the old fashioned way and pull out my membership card. On the flip side, Korean Air is very good about recognizing the status.

  25. @Jesse

    Sorry that you can not use your Skyteam Elite Plus privileges without any prejudices..this should not happen. Oh yes, those typical check in dragons with their power plays who often think they know exactly how it works..and when you show them that they are wrong..you often get tantrums and your luggage not properly labeled or left behind at the point of departure.
    Why Delta have to hire ignorant people? Skyteam has a lot of exotic airlines like Saudi Arabian Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Garuda or Vietnam Airlines..these employees would surely behave similarly when they see or hear these names!? Watch out they might call DHS because you are being threat to them..at the moment everything which is not typical seen as good for America is considered not kosher so it has to be eliminated..

  26. As far as I know, the type D Crew visa are indeed difficult to obtain. I have a number of friends who work for EU/EEA/Swiss based airlines and have the respective citizenships. They confirm that when on duty, they cannot use ESTA and that processing of D visas at the US embassies in Berlin/Vienna/Berne are difficult and slow. They tell me the roster changes for US bound flights are fairly common, because some of the rostered crew members may not be able to procure the visa on time.

    So in that sense, I’m not sure if it is really a Russia/Aeroflot related issue or rather a general issue that US embassies are difficult and slow in processing crew visas in general, even in the case of allied countries such as Germany.

  27. @ Andy

    You mean allied country on papers only!..I am not starting a row hier but good old ally Germany has been very keen to side step itself from the recent attscks on Syria..indeed too close to Putin to risk angrying big Ivan, do not you think?!

  28. @ Myles and @Jesse
    I hate to defend Delta (I stopped flying with them after many years), it’s actually common for Aeroflot employees as well not to recognize Delta elite plus privileges. I remember when I was a Delta diamond, I was told “No Delta” in Aeroflot lounges at SVO. At LED I had to argue, card in hand, that Diamond is actually a real status (Aeroflot goes up to Platinum). But at least Aeroflot does recognize my Delta Silver at least advanced seat selection. While Delta doesn’t give a damn about my daughter’s Aeroflot Silver.

  29. @A

    Wow, shocking to hear such experiences.. is this only between Delta and Aeroflot? Or are other Skyteam members also bitchy to each other? Have you asked for a supervisor in SVO or LED to handle your situation?..

  30. The should stop hiring KGB folks as aircrew, visa then be faster for them. In the meanwhile hire Trump’s favorite prostitutes recommended by Uncle Putin.

  31. Aeroflot is the preferred airline of the Clinton foundation and Democratic Party. Every inclomning flight the lavatories are checked for evidence of Trump and Russia collusion.

  32. It’s telling how many of the comments to this article have grammatical errors and/or unusual sentence structure that reveal them to be written by Russian trolls.

    In any case, the post by Andrew clarified that the 250 day waiting time does not apply to the crewmembers at Aeroflot, so the whole thing is a bunch of baloney.

  33. So ridiculous @Gus..do you really think that Russian paid trolls really want to infiltrate OMAAT and influence us to what..vote Trump again?, vote Oprah?, get rid of NATO?..what exactly?..the American people are wise enough to do and excercise their own will..now coming back to OMAAT..sorry @Lucky but am saying this frankly just to shut up these conspiracy freaks..this is just a travel blog like any other else on the web and not the mouthpiece of the American nation in which everything said here, is a matter of national interest.

  34. @Myles
    You are, of course, absolutely right. And SkyTeam airlines should have an advantage here if points and status are of concern to pax. Finnair, however, probably offers the smoothest possible connection between Moscow and New York. Arriving from the US, you will disembark straight to the gate area of a deserted Helsinki Airport, where it will take you less than 10 minutes to walk to your next gate. Couldn’t be easier. Arriving from Russia, you need to go through transfer security, which requires a bit more walking but is still supersmooth compared to big European airports. And it’s a very quick transit, too.

    Finnair’s downside, however, is that they only fly to a handful of destinations in the US (excluding current Aerofolot destinations LAX and Washington) and the short transit only applies to the St Petersburg/Moscow–JFK routes (and the outbound to Miami).

  35. Lucky really ought to do more writing, or at least more personal reflecting, on the inherent contradiction in being both an out-and-proud gay man AND someone who loves to fly on airlines operated by some vehemently anti-gay cultures and governments.

    I’d love to visit Russia, but I can’t bring myself to legitimize their current government of bigoted savages. I owe it to the LGBT community in Russia to keep my dollars and my dignity elsewhere. Same goes for Dubai, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Saudi Arabia. But I guess I’m far too principled to be a truly “no-politics-allowed” global traveler.

  36. @Daniel from Finland

    I know AY and Helsinki airport.You are right it is one or probably the airport in the world which you can have a quick and efficient transit. I still remember when I flew them in the 2000/2001..they had old loungers in C class and the food was downright bad. The only food memories I had was first time eating reindeer meat and realized I ate Rudolph! And when I ask at the former airport hotel to open their sauna for me while transiting within 90 min. They thought I am out of my mind to ask them that as no tourist ever ask a similar request!

  37. @ James W

    I fully respect your view! And it is nice to hear that your givinging your best to uphold your principles. But do pls. understand not all are so strong and strictly like you. Just take @ Lucky for instance, so sorry it is your blog and I did not know who to take!, if he will be so resolut with his gayness and condemning homophobic countries or regimes..he will be solely flying US carriers! No..no..that is really inhumane!..even for @Lucky!..

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