September 30, 2004

TO MARKET, TO MARKET...:

Aeroflot ... we have take-off (CHRIS STEPHEN, 9/30/04, The Scotsman)

FOR years it was a symbol of the cold, grey face Russia showed to the outside world, with cramped planes, a terrible safety record and frowning stewardesses.

But now the Russian airline Aeroflot insists it has changed its spots - with a little help from a British PR firm.

In a makeover of ambitious proportions, the airline has spruced up its planes, service and reliability, and insists the old service-with-a-scowl is a thing of the past.

The task was not an easy one. Until now, Aeroflot has had a well-deserved reputation as a Communist-era theme park with clunky planes that nobody trusted to stay in the air.

It is often said that an airline’s personality reflects its country - think Lufthansa’s lumbering German efficiency or Alitalia’s maddening Italian chaos.

Aeroflot’s fate is to track Russia’s many changes. Bright and hopeful at its formation in 1923, its stagnation began soon afterwards and gave the airline the reputation it has struggled to shake off. [...]

With the nation’s economy, if not its politics, now on an even keel, tough new managers have joined the airline.

They have slashed dozens of unprofitable routes, kept open from the days of the Soviet Union to former satellite countries.

Passenger numbers are up, the airline is now in the black and it harbours hopes of luring foreigners deep into the largest country in the world. This summer, Aeroflot squeezed into the top ten index of the world’s most profitable airlines, and Air France has begun talks about forming an alliance.

By contrast, many western airlines are mired in debt and a few teeter on bankruptcy.

Mr Duffy is impressed. "I fly Aeroflot 25 to 30 times a year and I have noticed a huge difference," he said.


It was always amusing that folk who wouldn't fly Aeroflot at gunpoint were convinced the Soviets military machine was functional.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2004 9:21 AM
Comments

The weird thing about the Russians is that they lose every war until you invade them.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 30, 2004 12:09 PM

>It was always amusing that folk who wouldn't
>fly Aeroflot at gunpoint were convinced the
>Soviets military machine was functional.

Once more, hindsight is always 20-20.

Add to that the assumption at the time that the USSR was shortchanging its civilian infrastructure (like Aeroflot) to put its best into its military machine. What matters if the rest of the country is a crock if the Army is powerful enough to take whatever we want?

As in:

"Prussia is not a state that has an army. It is an army that has a state."
-- Frederick the Great

"You have a stockpile of canned food. I have a gun. One pull of a trigger and I have both the gun and the food."
-- anonymous Survivalist, sometime during the Late Seventies/Early Eighties

Posted by: Ken at September 30, 2004 12:25 PM

Now, if the pilots can just keep their children out of the cockpit.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 30, 2004 12:37 PM

Chris:

The lesson being that they're very beatable, just not conquerable.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 1:23 PM

Ken:

Hindsight?

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 1:25 PM

Oh, I think the Germans believed in the efficacy of the Russian miliitary

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2004 4:12 PM

"...eventually believed" would be more correct.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 30, 2004 5:46 PM

"The weird thing about the Russians is that they lose every war until you invade them."

Mongols would disagree.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2004 6:34 PM

Good point, Barry.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 1, 2004 2:40 PM
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