Flight Report: Gazpromavia 4G-409 (sold as Газпромавиа ОП409) Route: Moscow “Vnukovo” – Yekaterinburg “Koltsovo“ (VKO-SVX) Date: 11FEB2016 Scheduled time: 0030-0510. Scheduled duration: 2h40m Real departure Time: 0035 (take off UUWW RWY 24). Real arrival time: 0437 (local time) (landing USSS RWY 26R). Real duration: 2h02m Aircraft: Tupolev Tu-154M– MSN 92A933 C/N 0933. Built December 1992 Reg: RA-85751 Seat: 05E –Economy LF: 90% Economy, No Business Class. I’ve been in Russia over 2 years, and was never able to catch a Soviet beauty. Flew the Tu204 and the SSJ, but nothing else (and I’ve flown quite a lot here). Bought a ticket on the An148 (FV) and also on the An24 (UR), and both were rescheduled, one to an A319 and the other to an ATR72. Hadn’t been lucky. Wrote in various forums, and never received clear nor satisfactory information. Either the flights wouldn’t leave from Moscow, or would be only for workers of a certain company, or from the Russian Armed Forces. I was once invited to take place on a chartered Tu134 but couldn’t afford it. So I simply gave up. I arrived back to Moscow after two weeks in the Balkans, completely exhausted. Too much work to be done during this week, as I’m flying abroad (again), next week. But after a heavy Monday with work, Tuesday morning, checking aviaforum, I contacted one highly respected member via PM, and asked him: I can see in your signature, where your Last Flights are, that you keep on flying with Tu154 some times. How you manage it? He answered me: “Next scheduled flight is tomorrow night, on Gazpromavia, to NYM”. I love geography, and Nadym (Надым) is a town in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (sort of State or Province), next to the Arctic, where current temperature is -16°C (or +12°F, as you wish). There was no way of returning easily to Moscow from there. But also learned (tracking the flight on various websites) that the plane made a technical stop in Yekaterinburg and a ticket from Moscow to Yekaterinburg was also able to buy. But the Tupolev did a one-way trip (it is based in NYM). So I’d to buy a return ticket on a separate airline. Yekaterinburg, previously called Sverdlovsk (that’s why the IATA Code for the airport is SVX), is Russia’s 4th largest city, so there are plenty of options to return to Moscow. Tried buying on Gazpromavia website but it looked impossible or unsafe. Gave a chance to normal websites as Expedia or Orbitz, but they don’t even know of this airline. And checked one of this Russian flight searchers which send me loads of junk mail. I checked on OZON Travel, and it was pretty easy to have a ticket bought, and sent both to my e-mail and to my phone as SMS. So I bought the return ticket going in the Tupolev and returning 2 hours later on an A320 to DME (Ural Airlines). But I checked that I’d be flying the whole Thursday night and Thursday is my day off from work (I work Saturdays instead). So called OZON call center (at 6am) and a nice lady picked up (no machines, just a real person) and I told her that I wanted to void my ticket because I’ve done a mistake while booking. She said: are you Eielef? Yes indeed, how do you know? You are the only person who has bought a ticket at this time of the day. That’s what I called personalized service. In Russia, if you cancel your ticket in the 1st hour after having bought it, you receive all the money back. I was pretty happy with this website, so bought it again, now returning on a Friday morning. Instead of Ural, I choose Pobeda as I much prefer Vnukovo (just 20 mins of my house). This, also, made me save some money. Booked a hotel for two nights and went to work, both on Tuesday and Wednesday as usual. Wednesday, I returned from work at 4pm, and took a nap until 10. Was planning on going by bus to Vnukovo (no luggage, just 20 mins walk to the bus stop and another 20 mins bus rids). But I was too lazy so called a cab, and in no time we were in the departures level of Vnukovo (Terminal A/B). Checked the screen, check in was done at counters 127 or 128. I arrived there at 23:30 on Wed 10th. 01 Check In counters @VKO Airport . They couldn’t easily find my booking, as I had written my name in the Cyrillic Alphabet and in my passport it is on the Latin Alphabet. Happens often, they mostly just check your date of birth! I asked for a window seat, and they told me the flight was full, and there were no windows left, not even aisles. I said: well then, whatever. Bad idea L Security took no time, and I entered the pretty empty Terminal A. There are few flights at that time, mostly long flight by Pobeda (the Russian low cost). I read my boarding pass and found 08A and said: great seat. But no, that was the gate 02 Standard Vnukovo Boarding Passes. No Gazpromavia mentioned 03 Boarding had already started, but the closest gate from the entrance to the terminal is 08/08A. Gates are all 08/08A, 09/09A, etc. 08 is jet-bridge, 08A is taking the stairs to a bus. I boarded the second cramped bus and we drove a long while to a remote position were we spotted this Tu154M. My heart was happy… We were given immediately permission to board, as the previous passengers were already seated. There is no priority boarding, nor lines for some rows. There is just a general boarding. Climbing the stairs on a cold winter night, I took some photos, most of them are pretty bad 04, 05 and 06 Туполев Ту-154М RA-85751 There is a front door which was never used. The door used (I’d say its called 2L) was pretty small, and almost everyone (myself included) hit his head. People lost also their winter hats. The crew (three female, one male) checked your pass and told you to go to “1st saloon or 2nd saloon”. I’ve heard sometimes than, when entering a plane and turning left (as of heading to Business Class) gives you some prestige. It was one of those occasions. There were many knobs and very old fashioned technology on the galleys (where we entered), though they kept pushing me, and the crew went mad when I tried making a photo. People are freezing outside! Don’t know why but I went to seat 08E instead of 05E (which was my assigned seat). Was empty anyway, but next to me there were already to males seating. 07, 08 and 09: What you get when you are sitting in the wrong seat. It was already 00:25 and the last bus arrived with the last few passengers, mostly crew members which were assigned rows 01 and 02. I waited impatient to listen to those three amazing Soloviev D-30KU-154 turning on. And the sound was among the best thing’s I’ve ever heard. So powerful, so amazing, so Soviet! (if you are into classical music, listen Арам Хачатурян, my favourite Soviet composer). This music was being played on my mind, the power of an amazing orchestra on those engines. And doors were soon closed, they removed the truck with the stairs, they did the safety demonstration at the old fashioned way, only in Russian. The purser welcomed us (coldly) to the flight 409 to Nadym via Yekaterinburg. Absolutely no announcement was made in English. First time I’m in this situation. The safety card was in English, but all the rest was in Russian. Crew spoke no English at all. As I was sitting in a middle seat, and the person next to me wanted to sleep, he closed the window and fell asleep immediately (snoring included). The other guy was reading a novel, on this very strange (now a days) paper format (I’ve seen many people reading on planes on their Kindles, but Russians, heavy readers, love paper books, and they take them from libraries, or buy them 2nd handed). There is not a very modern IFE system, well, there is no system at all. Also, the signs of turning on the seat belt, no smoking (is completely banned to smoke now a days in Russian planes), and of Lavatories Occupied are in a central console, but not in each seat.