As some readers might be aware, I have been quite intrigued by the history of the USSR and the post-Soviet era of the states that have emerged since then. Last year, I had made a trip to progressive Kazakhstan, oil-wealthy Azerbaijan, and the Silkroad crossroad of Georgia - all of which are peripheral states with their own rich and unique identities. The trip reports can still be re-visited below
From the Heart of Eurasia: Air Astana in J and Y To Kazakhstan Expo 2017 http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1373919
Hopping across Eurasia: Azerbaijan and Georgia with AZALjet http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1378475
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine to partake in a dance festival, and I couldn’t resist seeking out the Soviet era nostalgia both in aviation and architecture, both of which are in ‘endangered state’ and are in the point of extinction. There are beauties in these aspects which sadly not too many appreciate for both economic and aesthetic reasons.
I am dividing the report in 4 parts because there are so many that I would like to share with respect to the unusual region and I believe this would be the first time most readers would have heard of the places I visited.Part 1:
Ukraine International Airlines to Kyiv with plenty of Soviet-era nostalgia at the State Aviation MuseumPart 2:
Time-travelling back to USSR: Antonov-24 to Odesa and overlanding through Pridnestrovian Moldavian RepublicPart 3:
Throwback to 1990s: TAROM old school economy service from Moldova to RomePart 4:
Saudia business class experience (FCO-RUH-CGK)Chapter 1: The Flight
Airline: Ukraine International Airlines
Age: 9 years
Load: Business (0/12) Economy (Full)
I would like to start this trip report in the Turkish Airlines Arrival Lounge at Istanbul.
I had earlier arrived with TK in J class from BKK at 4am local time. I had decided not to start the trip report in BKK because I would like to focus on Soviet-era themes and TK is fairly regularly reported and there is plenty of information available. Just a short summary: TK 65 was booked solid full in business class. Aircraft was A330-300 (TC-LNF). Seats are in 2-2-2 configuration with plenty of legroom but little privacy. Food was great and well-presented as expected and usual. Service was friendly above average for the crew who was serving my section. I slept really well onboard and woke up fresh. My only complaint was cabin felt too warm but I asked for temperature reduction and the crew obliged.
TK Arrival Lounge is a small lounge for arrivals located after customs and just opposite of the TK free tour / free hotel counter. It’s very handy for extra early arrivals like TK65 which usually arrive just before 4am. The lounge seems to open by 4am.
The modern interior design is of the same theme as the famous airside main lounge.
My favourite corner is the very comfortable day bed.
Shower facilities are available and prove handy for me who has come a long way since I started by journey in Singapore (early morning SQ 787 to BKK) more than 24 hours prior. Ironing facility is also available.
Food selection is fairly simple but sufficient. I was in any way still full from breakfast onboard.
I just had a quick juice and proceeded upstairs to departure area to drop my luggage for the UIA flight to Kyiv.
UIA has a very professional and easy-to-use website. http://www.flyuia.com
Booking and check-in were done online, and interestingly they are making it mandatory to print your own boarding pass or else there will be an additional charge at the airport. This is truly a Low cost model and indeed UIA is targeting this segment.
As such, there is minimal personnel required at the airport. And I had trouble finding it due to it being so quiet and discreet!
Airside, the hive of activity was through the roof. 5-6am would have been one of the peaks. It’s like stepping into a different world from the ghostly landslide.
IST has turned to be a bit like a theme park in parts which could be interesting. Such as this ice cream parlour crewed by a person in costume.
I proceeded to the gate directly due to the relatively tight connection of 2 hours between STA and STD. Boarding had just commenced and I was confused on which lane was which. Apparently, there was no lane (Ukrainian style). The lanes were for TK. For our flight, boarding was ‘as one wish’
Down the jetbridge, excited to fly a little known airline.
Passed the business class cabin which is European-style. Costing about USD600 more than my USD82 ticket! Crazy.
Economy seats are almost just like business class
but with flatter headrest. Design is very generic and is probably from the Boeing catalogue.
Legroom is fairly tight but not as bad as I had read from the few reports out there on UIA. I was expecting much worse like Air Asia.
Plenty of reading materials.
And a booklet full of menu. Very extensive just like Scoot. But prices are much cheaper. In Ukraine itself, as i later found out, prices are really low. It's really a very good value-for-money destination
Looking out the window, it’s Turkish territory obviously.
With some odd and unusual airlines such as Afriqiyah of Libya.
Safety demonstration was manual.
And then we pushed back to a sea of red. TK obviously has a very impressively extensive fleet and network.
And then we were airborne on the cloudy cold Istanbul spring morning.
We were travelling along the Bulgarian coast.
I didn’t get anything but a glass of water.
Recline is really poor.
Checking out the contents of the reading materials.
Network map is quite decent with footprint mainly in Europe and the Near East but also covering Long hauls such as Bangkok, Beijing, Colombo, New York, Delhi (new), and Toronto (new).
Fleet is modern and entirely western.
The 777 is their newest and flagship.
It’s just a short hop from Istanbul and less than 2 hours later we were descending over the Dniepr river, the main river of Ukraine.
We overflew Boryspil Airport.
Before making a sharp 180 degree turn to land.
The terminal building is newish.
And we docked next to another UIA aircraft.
Transit connection was hectic. At least 60% or more of today’s load we’re making connections. UIA business model is on Low cost connecting traffic and they are geographically perfect for this and also they have Low wage costs. Noticeably there were a lot of Chinese honeymooners from Istanbul connecting to Beijing via Kiev. This is a big market (China-Europe). Of course they are also competing with Aeroflot and Air Astana.
I had to first get my visa. It was an online pre-application. But paid at this counter (credit card only), and in 5 minutes, I was owner of Ukrainian visa. Very simple and transparent procedure.