We are slightly taken aback by Transaero’s latest announcement regarding the cabin offerings on their six new 737-800 aircraft. Transaero, a Russian carrier, that was fairly unheard of until a few years ago, was recently awarded by SkyTrax “Most Improved Airline In the World” and by the looks of things, quite rightly so. In what we believe is the only carrier in the world to offer a true 3-class 737. Transaero have managed to fit in a First Class, Business Class and Economy Class cabin, in an airframe, that low cost carriers can fit just 189 people. So Economy is going to be a tight fit right? Not at all! The airline is boasting 34″ seat pitch on the aircraft, equivalent to that found on Oman Air’s long haul fleet, and one of the best pitches in the air. The aircraft will be delivered in their 2013/2014 winter schedule. These aircraft will be operated on flights from London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Pathos, Astana and Almaty to Moscow.
Transaero’s First Class by another name, ‘Imperial’ is a true First Class product, and interesting to see on a 737 fleet, as the aircraft realistically can only fly a 6 hour flight at its upper limit as a financially viable proposition. So to see deeply-coloured fully-flat beds is a luxury for a short/mid-haul flight, but still welcome to see. Passengers are served by personal VIP service managers and are provided with VIP or Business Lounges at airports, a round-the-clock communications line, and along with the flat-bed seats. In an intimate cabin of just 4 seats (in a 2 x 2 arrangement), passengers can expect high-level gastronomic specialties by the famous Café Pushkin on routes to and from Moscow and on some international routes to Moscow, an extensive wine card with the finest sorts of wines and other alcoholic drinks. The exclusive tableware by the Imperial Porcelain manufactory, is really very special indeed, making you feel like you’ve been transported into a Tsar’s palace. Competing with the benefits of mainline international carriers, for Imperial class passengers, and business class passengers on certain routes, there is a free “personal chauffeur” service available.
What we really love (apart from the lavish surroundings), is the ornate Russian Tea Ceremony the airline provides on certain routes in Imperial Class, in which passengers can relive a historic Russian tradition, being offered homemade jams, berries, honey, cakes with various fillings, traditional Russian open cakes, butter cookies with nuts, candied fruits and chocolate chips. Different types of teas are served with peppermint, thyme, lemon and three kinds of sugar. Passengers can choose fantastically decadent classic porcelain teacups or (if it’s all too much) just ask for a big “home-style” mug. Flight attendants don’t just bring tea for the passenger but arranges a ceremony, in which the passenger is invited to participate by choosing their tea and sweets. According to tradition, the table setting for tea used to be very generous, as it was a measure of a family’s wealth and the hospitality of its owners, if Transaero was a family, it appears it would be one of the wealthiest in the country. We absolutely love the ornate tea set! Transaero introduced this service to stress the company’s national belonging, and to create a warmer atmosphere onboard.
Business class will be a welcome surprise for the mainly European routes into Moscow, with recliner seats more commonly associated with American carriers internal First Class offerings, and whilst the seats look a little more generic than airlines such as Virgin America or Hawaiian Airlines, the seats look comfortable, and perfect for a few hours rest, and with a generous seat pitch of 43 inches (5 more inches than international premium economy standards) and the lack of a middle seat, the sense of space will be well received. Footrests and cocktail tables only help give a little bit extra comfort. One real benefit, is there are only 8 seats in business class, further enhancing the experience and making it a little more intimate.
Recently on thedesignair.net, we commented on our experience on a short haul business class trip with BA, stating how the comfort level of a so-called business class cabin wasn’t up to scratch, and we had a few comments saying that it was a perfectly decent product. We are really glad Transaero have produced a product like this on a similar fleet, to make other legacy carriers sit up and listen to their competitors as they vie for the attention of their customers. Admittedly, there doesn’t seem to be AVOD or in-seat TV’s in these cabins, but they do have a range of portable entertainment devices, which are free for business class users.
What if TV isn’t for you? No problem, thanks to Row44, broadband is available on the flights, for all their customers. The price of using high speed broadband Internet onboard will be 600 rubles for the whole flight or 300 rubles an hour (19$ and 10$ respectively).
Olga Pleshakova, Transaero Airlines CEO, said: “We are delighted to offer our clients new enhanced comfort onboard Boeing 737-800 aircraft in a new configuration. I am sure passengers will highly appreciate luxury of Imperial class, comfort of travel in Business and wider seat pitch in Economy class comparing to traditional standards on narrowbody aircraft. Imperial class is our unique product. Since its launch five years ago more than 52,000 passengers travelled in Imperial class. Introduction of new services on medium-range routes is a part of the company’s strategy aimed at enhancing client services and fleet renewal.”
One thing is for sure, Transaero are managing to shake off the history of Russian aviation, with an excellent product, way above European standards, on a fantastically safe airframe and now more than ever, we want to book ourselves a ticket, using Moscow as a hub. Transaero may be one to watch!