Would You Fly Ukraine International Airlines Business Class To Europe?

I’m always most intrigued by airlines I know very little about. Sure, I love Emirates first class and Cathay Pacific first class, but I’m really intrigued by what AZAL business class or Kuwait Airways business class are like. So when I’m at a US airport and see a plane I’ve never seen before, I always start Googling for more information on what their onboard product is like.

I recently flew from New York JFK to Madrid on Iberia, which departs out of JFK Terminal 7. While looking at the departures board I saw Ukraine International Airlines had a flight to Kiev departing shortly after midnight, which intrigued me. I didn’t realize they even flew to New York, and upon Googling I realized that it’s actually a fairly new route, as it launched in 2014.

JFK-Departures-Board

Totally unrelated to the above, I was looking at one-way business class fares between the US and Europe last night on ITA Matrix, and kept noticing fares in the $1,100 range. That’s really cheap for a one-way business class fare, and upon looking at the details I noticed that all the flights were on Ukraine International Airlines, through Kiev.

Ukraine-Airlines-Business-Class

Ukraine-Route

I knew absolutely nothing about their business class product, and upon Googling found a trip report from back when the route started 2014, though it doesn’t seem especially balanced/objective to me. The flight is operated by a 767 with 12 recliner seats in business class. Ukraine Airlines has a bit of information about the service on their website:

Ukraine-Airlines-Business-Class

Ukraine International Airlines seems to have a good safety record, so I’m almost tempted to take this flight on a trip I’m planning to Europe next month.

Ukraine-International-Airlines

I’m guessing you guys would like me to review Ukraine International Airlines, but I’m curious about whether you’d fly Ukraine International Airlines?

Comments

  1. Yes, of course I’d fly it and I think a trip report by you would be great! USD is really strong against the Ukrainian Hyrvinia the past few months so if a stopover is possible, stay for a few nights!

  2. I had some flights with UAI last year during a trip through Ukraine (inter-city connections like e.g. Lviv-Kiev were like 12 $ with luggage) and I can say that I was pleasently surprised, though I was flying in coach. But after my flight back to Vienna I decided to not chose them again, as first of all the English skills of the flight attendants are very limited and the pilots I had weren’t the best ones (landed too fast so that all kind of stuff was flying through the cabin, didn’t find the gate after landing and so on). On top of that, there was no safaty instructions and there was no passenger sitting at the emergency exits throughout the whole flight (isn’t that an IATA rule?).

    Anyhow, the fares they’re recently offering due to the devalued Hryvna are very tempting, especially on oneway routes to e.g. Iran, Israel or Central Asia.

  3. No lie flat seat no deal. I don’t sleep on flights from Europe to the US so on that route maybe

  4. Kiev may be cheap but its mainly a business city and hotels are very expensive during the summer.

  5. Lucky, any chance you could review some more United? The UA reports in here are aged. Ukraine Intl would be cool, but UA is the glaring hole in this blog! There isn’t another blogger out there with your number of quality, standardized reports. I’d rather you spend some time flying UA over some of the more obscure carriers.

  6. I fly on UIA on a regular basis. The staff is always very professionnal, they speak english fairly well.
    Good overall company with competitive prices

  7. whatever dude
    you had a poll and like 90% of us asked you to fly Kuwait air and you agreed only to have lied to us. What a shame. what would you achieve by asking us again for something that you will not do

  8. Flew them in J to TLV last year via Kiev. Their J ticket was comprable to the non-stop Y ticket on El Al so figured i’d go for it.

    It was fine, nothing special but certainly more comfortable than Y and worth the experience. For the same price ($1800 r/t) i’d do it again

  9. I wouldn’t recommend going to Kiev (transiting is OK, probably). If you don’t watch the news, you should know that Ukraine is in deep crisis now, and situation in Kiev is not stable at all. I wouldn’t risk it (unless you are flying airforce1).

  10. Actually UIA inhereted planes and flight to JFK from Aerosvit that had gone bankrupt in 2013

    You can go both Russia and Ukraine on the same trip, reviewing both UIA and Aeroflot products (though you would need to connect in 3rd country)

  11. I haven’t flown their business class, so can’t comment on this. An interesting part for mile collectors is that one can earn Flying Blue (KLM/Air France) points by flying UIA. When booking, you will need to enter your FlyingBlue number (I did this past December). UIA is not a member of any alliance and has its own FF program, but it’s only valuable if you fly them frequently.

  12. Ben, I think what we really want you to review is Air Koryo business class. Come on Ben. Pyongyang or bust!

  13. Yes, you need to fly them . . . because that’s what you do!
    No, I wouldn’t fly them — assuming I had other viable options.
    Yes, you should stopover in Kiev to give equal time to Ukraine to help counter your proposed trip to Russia.

  14. You are so circumspect sometimes, Ben. That review was hilarious! Recliners are better than UA first. Sure.

  15. There’s a nice Sam Chui review about AZAL from DXB-Baku Great to see new products ttotally do it

  16. Honestly lucky
    Unless you reinvent the wheel
    This blog will die
    Sane AA reviews all the time.
    And then theres EK first CX first

    Just try something completely different.

  17. Lucky,
    UIA took over from AeroSvit who used to fly the same route before. It was really a reshuffling of assets rather than new market entrant. Even planes are the same.

    Business class is angles and old school. FAs have an attitude. Delays are common. Safety is perfectly fine. I have no issues flying UIA domestically within Ukraine or even short-haul to Europe, but wouldn’t fly them across Atlantic. In fact that’s why I got into miles & points game when back in 2011 I had enough after another horrible flight on AeroSvit.

    Kiev is a beautiful city and is perfectly safe to travel to right now. Sure the mood in the country is not the best, but USD is strong vs. UAH, and there is tons to see in Kiev and Lviv. Girls are gorgeous too 😉

  18. Ben go for it! Ukraine is interesting and Kiev is perfectly safe.

    If you get the chance do visit Lviv.

  19. You absolutely should. You’ve become the Anthony Bourdain of business class seats. Why not polish up your street cred flying some whacko airlines.

  20. I keep reading the Lucky/Ben is barred from flying United, but I can’t find out why. Can someone link to a post with the back story? I would love to find out the deal!

    Ben:

    I would like to read more reviews – that’s the reason I came to this blog in the first place – I love reading reviews of airlines and hotels; those posts are far more interesting than speculating of what Alaska Airlines is going to do next 🙂

  21. Unless Lucky needs to pad his FlyingBlue account, I’d not take this flight and stick to something less extreme. Perhaps review airlines that are less known but part of an alliance, e.g. TAP, Iberia, Czech Airlines…

    There’s plenty to see in Kiev/Kyiv — not sure how anyone can make that complaint.

  22. Flew ‘Uki Air’ as I call it, from VNO to KBP this past summer.
    The 737 was clean and the stewardess was versed in English with a delightful
    Ukrainian accent ( it is pleasantly different from Russian)
    Although tight seating, the short flight over Belarus was pleasant and no where near ‘extreme’ !
    The brand new modern airport terminal at Boryspil was a pleasant surprise…
    As is true of many ‘war zones’ in the world, Kyiv is alive and well, with
    Only war victims memorials on the terraces surrounding Maidan square as
    A sad reminder of the conflict in eastern Crimea…
    Spend a day at the Russian Aviation Museum located next to the Zhuliany IEV Aerodrome…
    Well worth the visit to be ‘up close and personal with a Russian Bear Bomber…transports, passenger, radar observation and fighters et al.
    A brand new Hilton will accommodate you near the center park, as for me I
    Selected a bare bones hotel, located over an active fire house…..
    Live life so you have some ‘extreme’ memories….when you can no longer travel….
    And, Yes, the girls are attractive !

  23. I flew them to Kazakhstan from Europe in 2013. It was one of the worst flights of my life. The Europe to Kiev flight was ok despite some soggy chicken and the a/c didn’t work. The connection in Kiev was fine except the concessions there are really skimpy. Think plastic wrapped muffins and twix bars….

    From Kiev to Astana, they offered unlimited vodka to the passenger across the aisle from me. He ended up getting so wasted that he went to the bathroom and passed out in it. The FA started shrieking and thought he was up to no good (we were over Russia at this point….), got the bathroom door open and dragged him out to lie in the aisle for the remaining 2.5 hours of the flight. It did not make for a restful journey, but its a good story.

    My advice: just fly a mainstream European carrier, your reviews of those are equally important!

  24. I would not fly them at the moment because of the conflict there with the Russians. It is not that present on the news but it’s still going on. Thinking of MH17…probably wouldn’t feel comfortable.

  25. I flew UIA intra-europe twice last summer on their 737 and enjoyed it. Everything was as advertised: safe, comfortable, on-time, with good service and sufficient english skills. The hard product definitely wasn’t cutting edge (there was an ashtray at every seat!), but it got the job done. The snacks were surprisingly delicious. The new Boryspil airport was a great surprise too. It’s clean and modern with great views of the tarmac, and there’s a couple decent-looking priority pass lounges, but I can’t speak on those.

    For the right price, I would totally try them trans-atlantic, particularly if you connect to a new city on your list, like Tel Aviv. Plus their relationship with FlyingBlue means you’d get some points out of it (although Z class shown above only earns 120% instead of 150% in C or D). It won’t be American’s reverse herringbone, but it’s better than economy.

    Kiev was awesome! Just as safe as any other European city with good food/nightlife and friendly people. Plus the strength of the dollar means you can do luxury on the cheap. There are decent hotel options too with a beautiful-looking SPG Design Hotel and a Hyatt, plus the newish Hilton mentioned above, among others. It’s not Paris or Stockholm, but Kiev consistently exceeded expectations the whole time I was there.

  26. My best friend, King Sammy, will be flying UIA in May on our way to Kazakhstan…He got like a $400 one way ticket (economy) so he booked it…Definitely one review im looking forward to. It looks pretty crappy and I wouldn’t fly it even in business b/c I wont get miles, but if it wasn’t an issue to me, I would give it a try. why not?!

  27. I have also flown UIA both within UA and from KBP to TXL. Their planes are rather old but I never felt uncomfortable. Transfers from domestic to international in KBP are a bit of a pain but that won’t affect you, obviously. As others said, the airport is quite new but does not have a lot to offer.

    What you’ll definitely have is other passengers applauding after touchdown 😉 (would be interesting to know if that’s also the case in intercontinental business class).

  28. I flew from JFK to Bangkok thru Kiev. From JFK to kiev the business seats are not flat, just limited recline.
    We landed in the middle of nowhere and had to walk in the rain to get into a bus that toook us into the terminal (my neighbor had a limousine waiting for him on the tarmac, amazing).
    Never again.

  29. Forgot to mention that during the connection in Kiev I went to the business lounge. Even though I had the next boarding pass in my hand they wouldnt let me in until they check whatever thru never ending phone calls to God knows whom. The buffet was bare, the lounge like an old soviet room with basic furniture.
    People were rude but it seems they are going thru a lot in that very poor country.
    Never again

  30. I fly UIA on the London-Kiev route very frequently, it is honestly no worse than other european airlines. The planes are old Lufthansa in case of the Boeing 737 (I think thats the model), meaning seats in business are economy seats with the middle row left empty. They offer complimentary water in the economy class and full meals in Business.
    The hostesses don’t speak English that well (even compared to Aeroflot), but that doesn’t seem to lead to serious communication issues. But I don’t know, since I speak Russian. Their European flights do have a tendency to be delayed, not so for domestic (I flew Kiev to Odessa and back a couple of time), not sure about long haul.
    As far as I know their long haul product is both ne leastwer and better quality standard, including flat beds in business at least on their Kiev-Bangkok route.

  31. WARNING !!! Fly UIA at your own risk and peril. It is one of the absolute WORST airlines in the entire world…in just about every respect. I’m speaking from a ton of experience too. I’ve taken more than a dozen flights on UIA…both domestically and internationally…and the best (and most accurate) description I can offer is “bottom of the barrel cattle cars” that make the “US carrier cattle cars” look and feel like palaces fit for a king. And just last year (2016) UIA came up with yet a new scheme to fatten its bottom line that…if you’re not extremely careful when you buy your tickets…will end whacking you with baggage fees that are 50 euros ($50.00 USD at current exchange rates) per bag EACH WAY. This will happen if you buy one of UIA’s “hand baggage only” fares, which are the cheapest fares they sell. Many aggregator/comparison websites (like Kayak, Priceline, Vayama, etc) don’t disclose this quirk in advance either. Instead, they will sell you these cheap seats (because they are really cheap) and then you get a rude awakening when you check in and find out your checked bag will cost you 50 euros each way. The lesson: check the UIA website itself BEFORE you buy ANY ticket on UIA to make sure you won’t get caught in this trap. Bottom line: If you’re taking a domestic flight from Kiev to Kharkov or Odessa (only an hour each way) UIA is tolerable…but not fun. If you’re going anywhere else, take any other airline. And don’t say you weren’t warned if you don’t take my advice.

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