Exploring the Russian wings of “Pobeda

This is my very first aviation review regarding an airline, and being a Russian carrier too. Do bear with me, as the bitter sweet taste has its own unique flavouring. 

For those of you who are not familiar with Russian Airlines – Pobeda Airlines is a budget carrier and a wholly owned subsidiary of Aeroflot Group, which exclusively operates a modern fleet of 33 Boeing 737-800 on both short and medium haul flights, with an average flight length of 2 hours and serving 40 destinations as of 2020. 

All budget Airlines have a love-hate relationship with its flying customers. The never ending melodrama of “cabin baggage” and “weight allowance” has constantly irked its audience. Pobeda in particular is no different. I have been flying it since 2015 and never once encountered a problem. 

In each of my flights, the aircrew have been smartly dressed, with pre-intermediate or higher level of English spoken. However in almost all occasions, I found the captain or the first officer to have spoken a slightly lower level of English as compared to the flight attendants. Like other budget carriers, the airline has some similarities, outlined below:

  1. Non-reclining seats (standard with all budget carriers)
  2. No inflight meals or service. However water is still offered. 
  3. Restrictions on cabin and checked-in baggage. 

However, unlike other budget airlines, Pobeda does have several advantages

  1. Automatic 10KG free cabin baggage (not all airlines offer this)
  2. Free boarding pass issuance (some airlines charge for this)
  3. Excellent aircraft maintenance (this is really a positive aspect of this airline. Since its owned by Aeroflot Group, the aircrafts received best-in-service engineering and maintenance service and has one of the youngest Boeing aircraft fleets in Russia)

Despite its budget tag, the airline does provide customer satisfaction unlike other airlines in its category, with Ryanair being the worst in class (my personal experience). Here I would like to mention in particular when the aircrew celebrated my birthday inflight 2AM while enroute from Moscow to Ufa. I doubt other budget airlines or even standard airlines would accommodate this celebration. With that being said, most Russian people have complaints with this airline, which I shall answer below:

Cabin baggage dimensions

Let’s compare cabin baggage and weight allowances between popular low cost airlines:

  • Wizz Air:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 40 x 30 x 20 cm (10kg)

  • Ryanair:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 40 x 25 x 20 cm (10kg)

  • EasyJet:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 56x45x25cm cm (as long as it fits in the locker bins)

  • Utair:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 40 x 30 x 20 cm (5kg)

  • Azimuth Airlines:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 55 x 40 x 20 cm (5kg)

  • Rusline Aero:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 40 x 30 x 20 cm (5kg)

  • Yamal Airlines:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 55 x 40 x 20 cm (5kg)

  • Pobeda Airlines:

Cabin baggage dimensions: 36 x 30 x 4 cm (10kg)

 

From the given comparison, while Pobeda has a  non-competitive cabin baggage policy as compared to “international” low cost airlines, it does have a competitive advantage when it comes to Russian airlines.  One might argue that the dimensions offered by Pobeda are restrictive and which indeed might be the case, nevertheless the weight allowance is more generous than other Russian airlines. In my personal opinion, weight carries more value than the dimensions itself, because if you are a skilled packer, you can pack more weighty items in a compact backpack than say, a large backpack with only a 5kg allowance. 

However if you look at “additional” costs lived by the above-mentioned international airlines, Pobeda again has its advantages. For example, Ryanair charges an astonishingly high airport check-in fee, with a princely sum of £55 per passenger (God forbid if you forget to web check-in). The costs keep adding up, if you forget to print your boarding pass, you’ll again be charged £20 per passenger. Pobeda has free airport check-in and boarding pass printing at the airport. However as of now, the airline has a PWA (Progress Web App) for their mobile application, as opposed to a dedicated mobile app, this does offer a poor experience. 

Therefore taking into account all of the above, certainly within the Russian aviation industry, Pobeda does have a competitive advantage, especially given the low cost of airfare. An average flight lasting around 1.5-2 hours, costs £80 round trip which is certainly a competitive option for a frugal or an intrepid traveller wishing to explore the mesmerizing Russian countryside. Anything cheaper than this, and you’re looking at a carpooling option, which is certainly not a viable option given the 1-2 hour flying distances between Russian regions. 

So now the question arises, when and when not to fly Pobeda?, I give my reasoning below:

 

When to fly Pobeda?

  1. If you want to travel light and within 1-2 hour flying distance
  2. When visiting a city for 2-3 days, or on a business trip
  3. If you are comfortable to fly from Vnukovo Airport in Moscow
  4. If you are skilled in packing your luggage effectively 
  5. Are able to restrict your toiletries to 100ml  (according to IATA rule)
  6. When your travelling is not mission-critical (a.k.a attending some important meeting or equivalent of that). Especially given the COVID situation, last minute changes can occur and this is not only a Pobeda issue)

When not to fly Pobeda?

  1. If you are on a mission-critical holiday or event (where failure is not an option)
  2. If you want inflight service (meals on board)
  3. You want comfort-level seats (reclining)
  4. If you can afford luxury 

Additionally, few people have complained about not having the full information in English. This is not correct, because the airline offers full terms and conditions, during booking, after booking email (T&Cs contained in the PDF), Pobeda also has a copy of their terms on their website. What I wrote about is my own personal experience of the airline. Last but not least, remember to be nice with aircrew and staff. They work incredibly hard, and some of them have to fly several flight segments before they go home, a little smile, a little respect will go a long way. Of course Pobeda is not the perfect lowcoster you were looking for, but it’s certainly not the worst, and certainly not the last.