Major U.S. and European carriers have a number of nonstop flights to Russia, making flying here a lot more convenient than it used to be. Two Russian airlines, Aeroflot and Transaero, also make nonstop flights from North America and Europe. Flying time to Moscow is 9½ hours from New York, 10 hours from Washington, D.C., 11–13 hours from Chicago, 10½ hours from Atlanta, 12½ hours from Los Angeles, and 11 hours from Miami. From Europe, it's 4 hours from London and 3 hours from Frankfurt. Moscow is 24–30 hours from Sydney, depending on which airline you choose.
Nonstop flights from the United States to Moscow originate in New York; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Miami; and Los Angeles. To St. Petersburg from the U.S., your options are either a direct flight, which requires at least one stop (usually in Moscow), or a connecting flight, which requires a change of airplanes in Moscow or another European city. Some flights, especially those that are nonstop, may be scheduled only on certain days of the week and at certain times of the year.
Two airlines may operate a connecting flight jointly, so ask whether your airline operates every segment of the trip; you may find that the carrier you prefer flies you only part of the way. To find more booking tips and to check prices and make online flight reservations, visit www.fodors.com.
If you're flying as an independent traveler within the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, a quasi-confederation of states that includes most of the former Soviet Union), it's best to purchase your ticket with a credit card via an agent in your home country or a reputable one in Russia. This will allow you the best chance for refunds if your flight is canceled. Russian airlines have a habit of permitting refunds only at the office where the ticket was purchased. If you book from abroad, you should reconfirm your reservation in person as soon as you arrive in the country.
Note that in Russia, check-in officially ends 40 minutes before departure, and if you arrive late you may need to do some serious begging to be allowed on to the plane.
Smoking is prohibited on all international flights, but some of the smaller Russian carriers may have designated smoking areas partitioned off by a curtain on some of their domestic flights. Ask your carrier about its policy.
Within Russia, you don’t normally need to reconfirm your outbound flight or intra-destination flights.
Airlines and Airports
Airline and Airport Links.com. This handy site has links to many of the world's airlines and airports. www.airlineandairportlinks.com.
Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Administration. The agency has answers for almost every security question that might come up. www.tsa.gov.
The major international airports are Sheremetyevo II Airport (airport code SVO), which also handles some domestic flights, and Domodedovo (DME) in Moscow. Pulkovo Airport (LED) is the international airport in St. Petersburg.
For domestic travel, Moscow has three airports in addition to Sheremetyevo II: Sheremetyevo I (for flights to the north and west), Domodedovo (for eastern destinations and for the carriers British Airways, United Airlines, and Transaero), and Vnukovo (VKO) (for southern destinations). Even though the departing or arriving airport may be printed on your ticket, double-check this information with your local travel agent.
When flying internationally, you must usually choose among a domestic carrier, the national flag carrier of the country you’re visiting (Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines), and a foreign carrier from a third country. National flag carriers have the greatest number of nonstop flights. Domestic carriers may have better connections to your hometown and serve a greater number of gateway cities. Third-party carriers may have a price advantage.
Within Russia, in addition to Aeroflot, there are several smaller, regional airlines (sometimes called "babyflots"). Aeroflot offers good international service between Russia and some 200 destinations, and it also flies several domestic routes. Babyflots are slowly bringing their service up to international standards, with especially good service between St. Petersburg and Moscow. Two airlines that stand head and shoulders above the rest are Transaero, which flies to several destinations in Europe and the CIS, and has internal flights to major Russian cities; and Rossiya (formerly known as Pulkovo), which also has a number of international flights as well as good domestic service. Both have established partnerships with international airlines in order to increase their reach—Transaero has links to the United States with Continental, Virgin, and Lufthansa, for example.
Delays and cancellations are more frequent in winter, particularly in those places where the climate is severe.
Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines. 10 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1015, New York, New York, 10020. 888/340–6400; 212/944–2300; 495/223–5555; 812/438–5583; www.aeroflot.ru/cms/en.
Air France. 800/237–2747; 495/937–3839; 812/336–2900; www.airfrance.com.
British Airways. 800/247–9297; 495/363–2525; 812/336–0626; www.britishairways.com.
Czech Airlines. 810/42023–900–7261; 499/973–1847; 812/315–2240; www.czecharlines.com.
Delta Airlines. 800/241–4141; 495/937-9090; 800/700–0990; www.delta.com.
Finnair. 800/950–5000; 495/933–0056; 812/676–9898; www.finnair.com.
KLM. 800/618-0104; 495/258–3600; 812/346–6868; www.klm.com.
Lufthansa. 800/645–3880; 495/980–9999; www.lufthansa.com.
United Airlines. 800/538–2929; 495/980–0882; www.united.com.
Rossiya (formerly known as Pulkovo). 973/884-5952; 800/333–3800; 495/956–5019; 812/633–3800; www.rossiya-airlines.com.
S7 (formerly known as Sibir). 800/200-0007; 495/777–9999; 812/718–6876; www.s7.ru.
Transaero. 877/747–1191; 800/200–2376; 495/788–8080; www.transaero.ru.