Flight Review: Ural Airlines A321 Economy Class
Flight #: U6845
From: Moscow Domodedovo (DME)
To: Barcelona (BCN)
Flight time: 4h 50min approx.
Aircraft: Airbus A321
About Ural Airlines
Named after the mountain range that is said to mark the divide between Europe and Asia, Ural Airlines, one of the country’s five largest carriers. has been growing outside of its home base of Ekaterinburg (a city more than 1,000 miles east of Moscow) and it now has a large share of its capacity deployed at three of Moscow’s airports (Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky).
In this occasion we would be flying one out of Domodedovo airport, Moscow, on an Airbus A321.
Ural Airlines is a sort of hybrid, offering three levels of service within a single cabin product. The price differences, which at least in this particular case, were not substantial, reflect things like the amount of luggage you can carry or the possibility of choosing seats, but other than that, there are not very marked differences in the level of service. As I was traveling light I chose the Promo fare in economy.
Ural Airlines has fitted its A321 fleet aircraft with a rather dense configuration: 220 passengers in a single cabin.
Well, in fact, there are some physical elements that would enable Ural Airlines to create a proper segregated premium cabin at the front of the aircraft, but the frames for separating curtains are not used at all during the flight.
These I guess are the “best seats” that Ural Airlines sells for a fee during the booking process, although at first glance and, other than their forward position next to the entrance door, it was difficult to spot any differential trait compared with the rest of economy class (it is possible that they have a bit more of seat pitch, but it was not obvious).
The cabin interior is just functional, with seats in dark blue leather lined in red, in line with Ural’s corporate colours and the crew’s uniforms. Quite an elegant palette, in my opinion (it reminds me of Air France’s)
The seats are of the traditional sort, a bit sturdy and with built-in electronic controls for a non-existent IFE, but not bad in terms of comfort.
I guess they were taken from some other aircraft when Ural took delivery of this aircraft in 2018. This A321 in particular had previously been in Monarch’s fleet until the British airline folded in 2017 (I might actually flown on this same aircraft when it was operated by the British airline, since, for a period of time a few years ago, I was flying on Monarch quite often!).
When booking the flight I decided to do a little experiment: for once I departed from my usual practice of choosing window seat and opted for a seat in row 25, which is basically a row with only two seats (instead of the customary three) just ahead of the emergency exit. In fact, it’s two seats and a jump-seat for the crew, that is occupied only during take off and landing.
As expected seat pitch was quite tight and no better than the other free seats (unlike the seats right behind, which were located immediately after the emergency exit) and, unexpectedly (and unlike other standard economy seats around), it did not recline at all. Also the window on the emergency exit is too small and too far to be able to see anything, so, when it comes to views, this is, de facto, like an aisle seat.
On the plus side, though, this seat has the advantage that you have some extra space on the side and, although, you need some flexibility, you can reach the aisle from the right side too, so you don’t need to force your neighbour to stand up whenever you want to leave your seat.
THE passenger experience
The passenger experience itself is quite spartan, or, I’d rather say, functional.
There are some freebies, but they are quite limited: water or tea (but no coffee) and a sandwich (which I did not eat because I did not find it particularly appetizing). The crew served two rounds of drinks during the flight.
They also handed out blankets upon request.
And that was it.
There were not trying to sell you or up-sell you stuff either. There was no inflight menu or duty free. There was not even an inflight magazine.
On the plus side, while there were not many amenities, we were neither disturbed by commercial announcements nor tempted by premium food and drink offerings. Quite an egalitarian experience!
And this is how, after an uneventful flight, we landed in Barcelona.
At this point I have another comment to make: the disembarkation was done in a way that was far from ideal. To be fair, this might have been more of an issue of the ground handling company rather than the airline, but nevertheless it is still part of the passenger experience and this is why I chose to include it here.
When we disembarked, it turns out there was not enough capacity in the first wave of buses, so people were left in the stairs (which were obviously blocked until the arrival of additional buses) for about 10min while the engines were blasting fumes directly on them (particularly those towards the middle of the stairs). Not the best of sensations when you get off a 4h flight!
Simple and functional. But for flights this long (4h) it is advisable to procure your own food and drink and entertainment beforehand.