I’m all about booking the best cheapest airline travel I can find. By best I mean the shortest layovers and flight time. Of course, you don’t want your layover to be too short because if your first flight gets delayed it can cause a domino effect. My favorite flight price tracking app is Hopper (it’s free!), and I’ll wait for months to book a flight if I think the price will drop.
Let me tell you about my worst flight experience to date, which was on Aeroflot Airlines in September 2014. A while ago, but to this day I swear I’ll never book another flight with Aeroflot. It may be better there now, but this is my experience from 2014.
PPS: If you ever get the chance to go to Oktoberfest, do it! I’m not a big drinker (especially beer) but I loved the experience. We went on a Contiki tour, which I also highly recommend.
I was heading back home from Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany with my roommate. We left Munich (MUC) at 11 PM on Wednesday and flew 3 hours to Moscow, Russia. Aeroflot is a Russian airline so we ended up at the Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) in Terminal D.
We landed in Moscow at 4 AM local time, beginning our 9-hour layover. We would then leave Moscow at 1 PM Thursday and arrive in Los Angeles (LAX) at 2:45 PM.
This one-way flight cost us about $830 each which was the cheapest option I could find at the time. We knew the layover would be long but decided it would be worth it since the next flight cost about $400 more per person.
Can you ever really be ready for 9 hours at a Russian airport? Hilariously, my original plan was to go out in Moscow and see a couple of sights since we had such a long layover. This plan didn’t work for 3 reasons:
- You need a visa to enter Russia for any period of time.
- We landed in Russia at 4 AM their time.
- We spoke no Russian and there were few signs in English.
Once I realized that we would just have to stick it out in the airport, we decided the best plan was to just try to sleep. However, we were 2 girls alone in Moscow in the middle of the night so we fought sleep for 9 hours while we waited.
Only one place in the Moscow Airport was open at 4 AM, the TGI Fridays. So we ate there, picking pictures of food off the menu and hoping for the best. Our server was the only other person in the airport, we didn’t see anyone else for hours. We tried not to doze off in the TGIF booth as we listened to a wailing cover of the YMCA song in Russian. We left the restaurant and tried to watch a movie, the only other traveler in sight sat directly behind us and stared at the movie for the 2 hours the iPad battery lasted.
The Moscow Airport, Terminal D
The circular terminal we were in offered no wi-fi, no vending machines, no power outlets to plug anything in, a single bathroom with scary notes about not drinking the tap water, and not one but two TGI Fridays locations (one had a bar).
Eventually, around 7 AM a breakfast cafe opened, we got two plates of the worst eggs I’ve ever had. We paid for them with my Southwest credit card, having no idea what the currency conversion was. Long story short, we ended up paying $44 USD for 2 plates of eggs.
Cruelest of all was a sign with a bed on it and an arrow pointing up. We were exhausted and didn’t want to fall asleep out in the open so we searched for what we hoped was one of those pod nap rooms, willing to pay any price. We never found stairs, an elevator, or anything that would lead us to the promise land of sleep. There were also no employees in sight. Abandoned airports are just creepy.
Years later my Russian coworker told me that the Moscow airport is infamous for being the worst place to fly through in the whole country, validating my feelings.
Getting on the Flight
Somehow we struggled through and went to the appropriate terminal. We almost got on the wrong plane because the sole Aeroflot employee waved us through to the gangway after we flashed our tickets. We ran off the plane, sleep-deprived, and wandered over to the only other airplane gate with people around it.
Finally, we had made it to the plane! Now only 14 hours to go before we made it back to Los Angeles. Time to sit back and relax, and hopefully get some sleep! Nope, it couldn’t be that easy. On my seat was a 2-inch spot of fresh blood, placed in a way that could’ve only been period blood. Horrified, I flagged over a flight attendant who snottily informed me that the plane was full and it was the only seat available. After I kept pressing her for a solution, she finally gave me a pad to put over it and I reluctantly sat down.
Meanwhile, my next-door seat neighbor was sitting down. This giant Russian man was not fat but rather built like a linebacker. Probably 6 feet tall and 300 pounds. That’s when I knew that this flight was going to get worse and not better. I felt bad because he looked uncomfortable once he realized the seat next to him was filled with me, perched on top of a period-blood stained pad. Our thighs and shoulders were sweatily pressed against each other for the entire 14-hour flight. We never exchanged a word due to our language barrier and general awkwardness.
At some point they fed us food that I can only compare to whatever potato-type mash we ate in elementary school. The food was incredibly bland but I was so hungry that I barely tasted it.
The Aeroflot Staff
The flight attendants came over to do their final checks as we all buckled in and stowed our bags. One attendant came over and snatched the in-flight magazine from my seat pocket, telling me in broken English that I didn’t need it since I don’t speak Russian. Fair enough, but it seems like she may have forgotten that she was supposed to be kind to the passengers and show some kind of empathy. I’m also incredibly polite to flight attendants since I know how many people just aren’t – so it wasn’t because I was rude to her first.
14 hours later, we touched down in Los Angeles and I was ready to kiss the ground of the United States. It was the usual shuffle off the plane and I couldn’t get out and through customs fast enough.
I learned my lesson that day after 23 hours of misery – sometimes it’s worth it to pay more for a better airline and shorter layover.
My conclusion after this whole experience? Don’t just pick the cheapest airline without doing your homework first. You’re paying for your sanity! So overall, I would strongly recommend choosing any other airline besides Aeroflot.