Russia Dispatch: Flying ‘Imperial Class’ on Transaero’s New Direct JFK – Moscow Flight

There’s good news and bad news. And more bad news. The bad news is that my Transaero overnight flight from JFK to Moscow was delayed five hours. We didn’t board until 1:45 am. The good news, for me, was that I was upgraded. Way upgraded – to first class. My first first-class experience ever. (The flight was basically empty – I counted the business-class seats: 5 out of 60 were occupied.) The other bad news? Because we departed so late, I was asleep for most of my first first-class adventure. But I put up a good fight to experience some of the amenities on Transaero, a Russian airline that launched a direct-service flight from JFK to Moscow on October 29th. Transaero also made waves this month by introducing the first-ever direct Miami-Moscow service. So I was eager to see what the airline was all about – and a little bit nervous about my first trip to the Motherland.

My experience began nicely enough. There are only 11 pod-like seats and tons of space in “Imperial Class”—a staggering amount of space actually—and each passenger is given a Transaero zip-up fleece and slippers, which was sort of like Christmas. Upon boarding, I was offered a glass of Veuve and the most delicious fruit tart I have ever put in my mouth. Then the whole experience sort of plateaued.

On the Boeing 747-400 jet, the individual movie screens did not work, even though flight attendants passed out personal multimedia players. Because it was so late, I opted for a braindead movie, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, which then did not play (the message I received: Copy Protected Video File). So I thought I would just go to bed. The fully-flat seat wasn’t—I’m not really complaining—the most comfortable. The ornately designed pillows were flat and lacking cushion. I woke up in the middle of the night, deciding to have some dinner. The menu was extensive. I went with beef, and when my flight attendant said, “Enjoy your meal,” he curtsied and walked away. Yeah, he curtsied. Cute. Considering I hadn’t eaten in 8 hours, I devoured the food and dreamed of fruit tarts in a land far away.

I can’t blame the airline for trying. It’s muscling its way into the international scene, competing with favorites like Emirates, Continental, and the ever-so-popular Aeroflot. But if the only thing worth the first-class ride was the fruit tart, Transaero may need to step up fast. At least the service was memorable.

And then we landed in Russia…