As I was searching for flights to get from Tokyo to Vienna in December of last year, several options showed up.
By far the cheapest of them was Aeroflot – and so, having flown the airline numerous times before, I went ahead and booked a one-way ticket for myself (as I already had a return flight booked courtesy of LOT’s unbelievably cheap business class fare from Copenhagen to Singapore) and a roundtrip ticket for my girlfriend.
As soon as I finished booking, my girlfriend asked: “Is flying with Aeroflot safe?”
My answer was – of course – “Yes, it’s as safe as flying with any other major airline such as ANA, Lufthansa, or Air France.”
Since my girlfriend was not the only person who asked that question or doubted Aeroflot’s safety, I decided to write this article.
Aeroflot: A Very Brief History
To better understand where the perception of Aeroflot not being a safe airline comes from, it’s important to understand the airline’s history.
While the airline traces its origins back to 1923 making it one of the oldest airlines in the world, it wasn’t until 1932 that it was officially named Aeroflot. Translated, its name means “air fleet,” which is exactly what it was back then – the entire Soviet Civil Air Fleet.
From then on, the airline grew to the point where by the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992, it operated over 5,000 airliners, as well as almost 10,000 helicopters and light airplanes. In fact, until then, it was the world’s largest airline, and reportedly, one in ten flights in the world was operated by Aeroflot.
With the Soviet Union dissolving, so did the airline – and so, what remains of Aeroflot today is only a part of what used to be the Russian part of the airline back in the Soviet era.
Currently, Aeroflot operates about 250 aircraft on flights within Russia, as well as on international flights mainly out of Moscow Sheremetyevo airport.
Was Flying with Aeroflot Safe Until the 1990s?
If you are concerned Aeroflot’s safety, that fear can likely be traced back to somewhere between 1940s and 1990s when Aeroflot was the largest airline in the world and operated thousands of aircraft.
Naturally, operating thousands of aircraft – many of them helicopters and light airplanes – leads to many accidents and incidents. Several dozen each year, in fact, which is why every decade from the 1940s all the way to the 1990s has a separate “Aeroflot accidents and incidents” page on Wikipedia.
A closer look, however, reveals two things – that there are quite a few accidents and incidents with zero fatalities, and also that the number of accidents and incidents dropped considerably after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In fact, the last major crash that Aeroflot had in the 1990s happened on March 23, 1994, when one of the pilots of flight 593 let his children into the cockpit and they deactivated the autopilot – sending the aircraft into a deadly spiral.
The only other deadly accident in the 1990s that happened after the flight above was a crash of an Antonov An-124 cargo aircraft in 1996 which cost six lives.
Overall, though, while flying with Aeroflot might not have been as safe as it is today during the Soviet-era and the era immediately after the break up of the Union, its safety record improved significantly in the late 1990s.
Is Flying with Aeroflot Safe Now?
With the new milenium, Aeroflot truly became – practically speaking – as safe as any other airline.
In fact, since the year 2000, Aeroflot only had one fatal accident – flight 821 from Moscow to Perm on September 14, 2008 – in which everyone onboard including 82 passengers and 6 crew members were killed.
To be precise, though, even that flight was not operated by Aeroflot, but rather by its partner Aeroflot-Nord. And, after the crash, Aeroflot broke cooperation with the airline which was then renamed to Nordavia.
Just to give you some perspective, airlines that had at least one fatal crash in the 2000s and 2010s also include Air France (2 accidents / 337 victims) and Singapore Airlines (1 / 83) – airlines that hardly anyone would think are “dangerous.”
While I am not sure how much the fact that Soviet aircraft were used by Aeroflot for a long time contributed to its safety record, for your peace of mind, I have to mention here that Aeroflot currently operates a fleet of young – mostly – Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
Whether it is because of its Soviet past or the fairly large absolute number of fatal accidents, there seem to be a fairly large number of people that are worried about flying with Aeroflot even nowadays.
The matter of fact, though, is that while the airline suffered from many deadly crashes before the break up of the Soviet Union, it was also by far the largest airline in the world back then that also included a lot of light airplane and helicopter operations.
Once the airline became what it is today, the Russian flag carrier, in the 1990s, its safety record started improving to the point where it “only” had one fatal accident in the last 20 years – not more than some major airlines including Air France.
And so, if you are worried about booking a flight with Aeroflot, don’t. They are a perfectly safe and fairly comfortable option.
Before committing to the airline, though, you might want to read my reviews of the airline (A330 from Tokyo to Moscow and A321 from Moscow to Vienna), as well as about my experience with a transfer at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport between those two flights.