Aeroflot Subsidiary Launches Low-Cost Service to Crimea

Simferopol Airport Crimea

Sorry Ukraine. But you’re not getting Crimea back. It’s now official. Russia’s state-owned Aeroflot has launched its dressed-down low-cost carrier – Dobrolyot – into your stolen territory. Nothing says “it’s mine” like a flag-carrying budget carrier.

Cheap mother’s milk flights right into your capital city of Simferopol and its international airport, which Russian troops highjacked on Feb. 28, 2014. Where is the TSA when you really, really need them?

Reuters captured all the excitement of the inaugural flight by translating word-for-word Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s eloquent nine-word formal address: “The seats were cramped but the price was right.”

Does it get any better than that? Next comes Objective-C, the code used to build most apps for Apple devices. Or remember postcards?

Russia wants to jack-up tourism in Crimea and bring more Russians to a victory lap. This time without the ski masks. You know, put the past in place. “Politically symbolic” is how Reuters analyzes the situation.

I’ve flown Aeroflot between Washington-Dulles and Moscow. You bet I’ve got some stories (see below). But let me just say that I can’t imagine a dressed down version of those flights. I can’t even paint a picture of that for myself yet alone anyone else.

Based on my experiences I’d suggest passengers bring your own roll of duct tape, which was in high demand and low reserves on the Aeroflot flights I flew.

The Crimea annexation resulted in economic sanctions by the West and boosted Putin’s popularity at home. He’s on a roll, even without the unmarked armored personnel carriers that stormed the Crimean peninsula.

“The plane (Dobrolyot’s 737) is cool, it’s completely new. Its seats are narrow, but the flights aren’t very long so I hope everything will be OK,” Medvedev unconvincingly told Reuters before the maiden flight from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

One-way tickets cost about $90. “Really great,” said the prime minister.

Politically symbolic flights to Crimea also are offered by Aeroflot, Transaero and Sibir airlines.

The Tarmac’s View: One of my Aeroflot flights was a press trip – six reporters, plus one. There’s always one out in left field who doesn’t have a clue and never takes notes. Our guy worked for a New York City tabloid – let’s call it The Post, because it was. In Red Square he got lost and wasn’t packing a passport and didn’t know the name of the hotel we just left. (Hotel National – fabulous, infamous and across the street.)

Later in the day we fished him out of the U.S. Embassy. They picked him up after he called and cried for help. The embassy offers the only ride in Moscow that doesn’t jack up the price when taxiing an American.

While boarding Aeroflot for the return flight home, the lost-but-found guy demanded an upgraded seat while flashing press credentials and blocking the jet way. (Really!) For the rest of us it was gut-wrenching to watch.

The flight was now 20 minutes late because of him. The Russians blinked first and escorted him into the front cabin, skirting a duct-taped lavatory and economy seats. We departed. To this day I consider his antics one of America’s great victories over Russia.

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