Eclipsing the population of New York City, Moscow has an estimated 12.4 million residents within its city limits and over 20 million residents in its greater Metropolitan Area. To support this massive population, the city has four commercial airports. However, its two largest are Sheremetyevo (SVO) and Domodedovo (DME). How do these two major hubs compare to one another, and which facility is better for travelers? Let’s find out.
A quick note before diving into this comparison and analysis: As we are living through some ‘irregular’ times, some of the numbers and figures, as well as airline services, will not reflect normal operating conditions.
Airline service and connections
According to Google’s flight module, Sheremetyevo wins in terms of the sheer number of direct flights at 108. This beats Domodedovo’s (still respectable) 95 destinations. However, quantity isn’t everything, and it’s important to look at which airlines serve which airport.
As far as airline’s and home airports, here is how each hub compares:
Sheremetyevo is home to Russian flag carrier Aeroflot and its subsidiary airline Rossiya (although the latter has a larger base of operations at St. Petersburg). Nordwind Airlines and its 30+ aircraft also call Sheremetyevo home. With SVO home to two of the three largest airlines in Russia, it’s likely the better option for connecting to destinations across the country.
Meanwhile, Domodedovo is home to S7 Airlines as well as Ural Airlines (which also has a hub in Yekaterinburg.
In terms of foreign airlines serving Moscow, a brief glance at each airport’s ‘airlines’ page shows a very clear divide: SkyTeam carriers serve Sheremetyevo while Star Alliance and oneworld carriers fly to Domodedovo. Thus, the presence of Aeroflot at SVO and S7 at DME makes sense when considering their alliance memberships.
The two notable exceptions are oneworld members Japan Airlines and Finnair, which fly to SVO. British Airways was another exception, which had also served SVO. However, in May 2020, it was announced that this London service would end permanently.
As far as non-alliance airlines are concerned, major middle eastern players Emirates and Etihad are at DME, as are Air Arabia and Oman Air. Along with oneworld member Qatar Airways, this makes DME the airport of choice for Middle Eastern connections. Additionally, considering the huge number of destinations, these airlines offer single-connection journeys from Moscow DME to anywhere in Asia and Africa should be quite easy.
In a strange departure from fellow full-service carriers, Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines operates out of Moscow Vnukovo International Airport. Considering this general split between alliance members, it may depend on where you’re coming from or which airline you prefer to fly with when looking at Moscow airports.
Connectivity to Moscow
In terms of connectivity to the center of Moscow, Google Maps has DME taking one and a half to two hours by road and about one and a half hours by public transportation. For SVO, it looks like traveling by road is a little faster at about one hour and 15 minutes, although the fastest route is a toll road. Going by public transport takes a similar amount of time. As with all forms of transportation, where you’re going within the city, and traffic congestion will be two huge factors.
This sentiment is echoed by travelers who know the city well. Those familiar with the two airports say that Aeroexpress costs the same and takes roughly the same time, as do taxis. Therefore, connectivity to Moscow is somewhat equal for both airports.
Passenger feedback and terminal experience
In terms of the actual traveler experience, both airports seem on par with one another. Skytrax contributors have rated both airport’s equality low, with DME getting a 4/10 average score from 63 reviewers. SVO also gets 4/10, but from 139 reviews. In fact, their specific categories were rated equally:
- 2/5 stars for terminal seating
- 3/5 stars for terminal cleanliness
- and 3/5 stars for queueing times
The actual experiences shared by reviewers appear quite mixed and may well depend on the time of day and terminal of the specific flight. Many at both airports reported long lineups, chaos, and rude staff, while others reported ‘clean and spacious’ terminals.
The all-important free-WiFi also seems to be present at both terminals. However, a big catch is that a functioning phone number/SIM Card needs to be present in order to receive a verification code. This may be problematic for some travelers who do not have roaming plans.
Overall it appears that the two busiest airports in Moscow (and in the entire country of Russia) are about equal in terms of passenger experience and connectivity to the city.
For Moscow residents, it appears that major full-service airlines service both airports, and choosing one over the other will depend on the airline you fly with, which may be dictated by destination, departure time, or ticket price.
Thus, at the end of the day, it appears that the best airport for travelers has less to do with the airports themselves but rather the traveler’s own itinerary and choice of carrier. Unfortunately, the airport experience seems equally mediocre.
Did we miss anything in comparing these two major airports? Do you have a Moscow airport experience to share? Let us know by leaving a comment!