Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 767 Kiev To New York

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Review: Kiev Airport Lounge
Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 767 Kiev To New York


I’ve flown most of the world’s best airlines, so nowadays I especially like trying new airlines, ones where I really have no clue what to expect. Usually there are already reviews out there about an airline, though UIA’s business class was a real mystery to me, as there wasn’t much out there about it at all. To me, that made the flight even more exciting. Ukraine’s website does very little to explain what to expect onboard, so I honestly had no clue what to expect onboard.

Ukraine International Airlines 231
Kiev
(KBP) – New York (JFK)
Thursday, November 3
Depart: 11:05AM
Arrive: 3:45PM
Duration: 10hr40min
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 2H (Business Class)

We boarded through door L2, which is rare for a 767. At the door we were pointed left towards business class. In front of the door were a few rows of UIA’s premium economy, which is in a 2-3-2 configuration with a decent amount of legroom (UIA’s normal economy section is in a 2-4-2 configuration, which is insanely tight for a 767, where almost all airlines have seats in a 2-3-2 configuration).

Ahead of premium economy were two rows of business class. UIA’s 767 business class consists of a total of 12 seats, spread across two rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. My first impression was that this reminded me of American’s old 767-200 premium cabins, except this cabin felt even tighter.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class cabin

We had assigned ourselves the window seats on the right side in row two.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class seats

On the plus side, the legroom was plentiful. I’d estimate that the seat pitch was maybe 55″.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class legroom

However, the seats were outrageously narrow. I don’t know if the picture does justice to it, but I measured, and the seat width was just under 17.5″, which would be tight even for economy. They would have been better off making the center console or armrests smaller, as these were the tightest business class seats I’ve ever sat in.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class seat

Upon settling in I tried to find the personal television, though was surprised to find that they didn’t have any sort of personal entertainment. Instead the only entertainment option was what was displayed on the overhead monitor.

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Ukraine Airlines 767 business class

The audio controls were located on the bottom side of the center console. Of course since there’s no personal entertainment, those were just for what was showing on the overhead monitor.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class audio controls

Seat controls were manual, and easy to use, given that you could only adjust the recline and the legrest. As anyone who has tried to manually adjust a footrest knows, it can be a pain to use. That’s because when you push the button the footrest doesn’t actually raise, so you have to push the button while leaning over and manually raising the footrest.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class seat controls

In theory there were power ports located under the center armrest, though they were broken. I asked the flight attendants about this, and based on her response it seemed like they were permanently broken, rather than them just being inoperable on this flight.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class power outlets

The tray table extended out of the center armrest, and could be folded over.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class tray table

Already waiting at our seats were pillows and blankets. The blanket was made of fleece and was okay.

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Ukraine International Airlines business class pillow & blanket

The pillow, on the other hand, was terrible, and what I’d expect in economy. As you can see below, the pillow wasn’t thick at all.

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Ukraine International Airlines business class pillow thickness

A few moments after settling in, a flight attendant came by our seats to offer us drinks, suggesting champagne. Given the plane we were stuck on for the next 10+ hours, I wasn’t in a position to turn down alcohol. 😉 At least the pre-departure beverages were served in glassware, which isn’t the case on many airlines.

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Ukraine International Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

I was impressed that we were offered refills during boarding. I should note that the entire crew was young and generally quite friendly. They weren’t over the top friendly or especially polished, but they all at least seemed well intentioned.

The business class cabin quickly filled up, with all seats taken within about 10 minutes of the start of boarding. The cabin was filled mostly with middle aged male business traveler types. There was an older lady seated in front of us, but otherwise it was a pretty “normal” business class crowd.

Once everyone was settled in, the crew rolled a cart through the cabin with newspapers, magazines, and amenity kits.

The amenity kit was basic, with socks, eyeshades, earplugs, a brush, a pen, and a toothbrush and toothpaste.

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Ukraine International Airlines business class amenity kit

Before takeoff I quickly checked out the lavatory, which I don’t think they’ve refreshed in any way in the past 25 years (come to think of it, that’s true of the entire plane). There was a single lavatory for business class located at the front of the cabin, right behind the flight deck.

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class lavatory

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Ukraine International Airlines 767 business class lavatory

By 4PM an announcement was made that boarding was complete. Moments later the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 10hr25min and anticipated smooth ride. A few minutes later we began our pushback.

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Pushing back Kiev Airport

At that point the crew did a manual safety demonstration.

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Safety demo while taxiing to the runway

With our engines started up, we  began our taxi to the runway, which was quick. Our taxi took about 10 minutes, and I enjoyed the views, given that it was a nice evening and the sun was starting to set.

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Taxiing Kiev Airport

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UIA planes at Kiev Airport

By 4:15PM we made it to runway 18L, where we were immediately cleared for takeoff.

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Holding short of runway Kiev Airport

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Taking off Kiev Airport

Our initial climb out was smooth, and I enjoyed the views of the Ukrainian countryside as we climbed out.

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View after takeoff from Kiev Airport

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View after takeoff from Kiev Airport

The seatbelt sign was turned off five minutes after takeoff, just after we climbed above an initial layer of clouds.

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View after takeoff from Kiev

The views as the sun slowly began to set continued to be gorgeous, and thanks to our westbound flight, the sunset lasted for a couple of hours.

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View after takeoff from Kiev

After takeoff the airshow began to be displayed on the overhead monitor. Unfortunately that only displayed for a couple of hours of the flight, as they otherwise showed movies, and in the middle of the flight turned it off altogether, so that people could sleep.

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 Airshow enroute to New York

Just 20 minutes after takeoff, one of the business class flight attendants came through the cabin to introduce herself and take meal orders. She introduced herself as Yulia, and said her colleague working with her in business class was Victoria. When she got to everyone’s seat she said “what may I call you?”

UIA doesn’t have any menus in business class, so she read out detailed descriptions of both options. The problem was that there was a bit of a communication barrier, so many of the non-Ukrainian passengers had a hard time understanding her.

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Meal orders being taken after takeoff

Warm towels were distributed about 20 minutes after meal orders were taken.

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UIA business class hot towels

At 5:20PM, a bit over an hour after takeoff, drinks and nuts were served. There was the choice of two types of nut mixes (displayed below). We both had gin & tonics to drink. For what it’s worth, they were serving Beefeater gin.

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UIA business class lunch service — nuts and drinks to start

15 minutes later tablecloths were brought out. Service began with a salad and some bread. The salad was not especially good, as you could have probably guessed based on the below picture. I was excited they had pretzel bread, though it ended up tasting pretty stale.

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UIA business class lunch — salad and bread

Once the salad was cleared we were served the appetizer. While there was supposed to be a choice of starters, they were out of one option when they got to us, so we had the salmon starter with parmesan cheese and mango, which was fairly good.

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UIA business class lunch — salmon starter

After gin & tonics we decided to switch to champagne. As it turns out, the champagne was a Jaume Serra Cava (six 750ML bottles retail for 16.50EUR), which was actually reasonably drinkable.

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UIA business class champagne

For the main course there was the choice between chicken baked in almond flakes or salmon with vegetables.

I had the salmon (again), which was dry and not very good.

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UIA business class lunch main course — salmon

Tiffany had the chicken.

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UIA business class lunch main course — chicken

After that we were offered coffee. I ordered a coffee with milk, though unfortunately the coffee tasted powdered.

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UIA business class lunch — coffee

Next we were served dessert, which was the choice between two types of cake. We each ordered one type, and then split them. The cake was tasty.

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UIA business class lunch dessert

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UIA business class lunch dessert

The meal service was done 2hr20min after takeoff, meaning we had another eight hours to go. Overall the food was pretty bad for business class, though not inedible.

After the meal a movie was shown on the overhead screens. I decided to try and get some rest instead of watching it, given that the audio quality was horrible (I also generally don’t have the attention span for movies).

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UIA business class inflight entertainment

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UIA business class inflight entertainment

Given the configuration, the seats recline into the space of the passenger seated behind you. This means if you’re in the window seat in row two, don’t expect to be able to get up without the person in the aisle seat moving.

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UIA business class legroom with seats in front reclined

Below you can see just how far the seat reclined. While the seat went back a decent amount, the legrest didn’t go up much.

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UIA business class seat recline

Somehow I managed to fall asleep (even though I usually struggle sleeping when not in a bed), and when I woke up I was hoping we were almost there. Nope, as it turned out I had napped for 90 minutes, meaning we had more than six hours to go.

I worked for a couple of hours on my laptop, though eventually that was close to dying as well. So at that point I sort of just sat there and twiddled my thumbs.

Between meals the crew didn’t really come through the cabin much to see if anyone needed anything.

About three hours before landing I was offered a cheese plate. I had a glass of water to accompany it.

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UIA business class midflight snack — cheese plate

The screen was turned off for about four hours in the middle of the flight, presumably so that people could sleep without being disturbed by the light. The screen was turned on about two hours before landing, as we were over Canada.

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Airshow over North America

At that point the pre-landing meal service began, starting with a warm towel.

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UIA business class hot towel

This time around the meal was served on a tray, without a tablecloth on the tray table. The starter options were salted salmon or roast beef with cream cheese. Again, they were out of the roast beef, so the only option was salmon.

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UIA business class pre-landing meal

The salmon tasted a bit “wet.”

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UIA business class pre-landing meal — salmon starter

We were also offered a salad, consisting mostly of shaved carrots.

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UIA business class pre-landing meal — salad

For the main course the choice was between baked salmon with mashed potatoes and a chicken roll with sundried tomato. While I’m a big fan of salmon, I have to wonder if UIA has considered mixing up meals a bit? Salmon was available as a starter and main for both meals.

The salmon was okay, actually a bit better than during the main meal, but still not very good.

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UIA business class pre-landing meal main course — salmon

The chicken that Tiffany ordered just looked plain weird.

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UIA business class pre-landing meal — chicken

After that we were offered coffee or tea and dessert. Since UIA’s powdered coffee was vile, I ordered a black tea instead, which was at least nicely presented. We were also offered a pistachio dessert, which was tasty.

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UIA business class pre-landing meal dessert

After the meal we had about an hour left until our arrival in New York.

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Airshow approaching New York

We began our descent about 35 minutes out, and 20 minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned on. As we descended, the crew distributed packaged hand wipes and heart-shaped chocolates.

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UIA business class towels

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UIA business class pre-landing chocolates

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Airshow approaching New York

Our descent was bizarrely low. If the airshow was to be believed, for the last 15 minutes of the flight we were flying at 600 meters (~2,000 feet), which seems like an awfully long time to be flying so low.

We finally had a rough AF touchdown at 8:47PM. I’m not blaming the pilots for that as I know sometimes it takes some manhandling to land a plane, but it was probably the roughest landing I’ve had all year.

Our taxi took a while, and finally at 9PM we came to a stop. Then we had to be towed into our gate because of how tight it was, so we arrived at the gate at 9:03PM.

Once the door opened we were greeted by several police officers, as they were apparently looking for someone on the plane. This ended up being a mess, as the police wanted everyone to sit down, but nobody was listening (which sort of matches my experience with UIA passengers otherwise). So it was another several minutes before we were off the plane, at which point we made the fastest JFK connection of my life.

UIA 767 business class bottom line

On one hand I had low expectations of UIA coming in, as you generally get what you pay for. However, I didn’t think UIA would be quite so bad. The service was friendly enough and food was mostly edible, though everything else about the experience was underwhelming, from the seats, to the lack of entertainment, to the lack of power ports.

While UIA business class is cheap, I’d actually say that I would rather be in premium economy on a decent airline than business class on UIA. At least there I’d have a power port, personal entertainment, and possibly even wifi. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been as bored on a flight as on UIA.

So yeah, even with cheap pricing, I’d steer clear of UIA’s longhaul business class, personally. Ironically, their shorthaul business class is above average.

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Comments

  1. They were giving a hint to fat Americans to slim down. Only the plants flying to the USA have such narrow seats. At least you had hot ukrainian women to ogle at

  2. Still looks a bit better than the LUS 757 that flies from PHX-HNL… At least you can earn miles for that flight.

  3. Looks like USA domestic first seating but narrow. I think I’d be OK with the seats at the right price but the lack of either IFE or seat power is a killer. Even if you brought your own movie device you’d run out of power on a 10 hour flight.
    Great post. It’s good to know what to expect.

  4. Sounds like every international flight I took in Biz Class in the 80s and 90s. I sat on a NWA flight from DTW to NRT for 14 hours in an angled seat with no electronic entertainment. People chatted with strangers, slept, read books. I flirted with the handsome FA. Shared stories with other passengers, drank a lot, etc. Its what people did before we had an electronic screen to stare at. Plus, how could anyone be bored sitting next to Tiffany? 🙂

  5. Chloe, you’re wrong. LOT’s 767s were retired a few years ago. It’s fully flat BUS product on their 787s now which Lucky reviewed a while back also.

  6. A big +1 to @Mark F. and his wonderful observation.

    Ah! To be in my 20’s again, back in the early 1980s, when flirting with the male flight attendants was the best, most enjoyable IFE amenity.

  7. Good catch, wandering entrepreneur. I also believe that 3 hours 50 min is a typo.
    That would have been also too much on this plane…
    😉

  8. It looks like you flew on UR-GED. With this in mind I can say:

    1993 called – Ansett want’s it’s 767 back.

  9. Just bad! Not the ’80’s but it’s definitely not anything one could call “premium” by today’s standards. Hard to forget those 747s with no IFE and huge smoking sections – boring and miserable! My lungs hurt for two says after each flight.

  10. I played cards with my buddy all the way back from Hong Kong. Made time fly much faster than the entertainment system or wifi could have. Maybe those flights are great times to just enjoy the way flying was a while back.

  11. @ Mark F. @ Ryan — We actually did play cards at one point! If Ben had been less sick (or if the onboard liquor had been less awful) it would have probably been a bit better, but still…

  12. Looks like Chicken Kiev (if it had butter inside). In the 80’s we collectively enjoyed watching the movies like in a movie theater. I also read things (books, magazines, newspapers).

    I would generally avoid flying UIA while Ukraine is trying to survive war with Russia.

  13. “As it turns out, the champagne was a Jaume Serra Cava (six 750ML bottles retail for 16.50EUR), which was actually reasonably drinkable.”

    Yes, I think that’s because it’s sparkling Industrial Grade ethanol mixed with water, sweetener, flavoring, and injected with CO2. Ya know, sort of like Korean Soju, which I think is the by-product of Samsung’s electronics manufacturing processes.

    Ya, know, sort of like this:http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Food-Grade-Ethanol-Hydrous-Ethyl-Alcohol_50025045022.html

  14. I’d be curious to have seen a picture of the economy cabin with their 2-4-2 seating. These business class reviews are simply a dime-a-dozen and I find it difficult to read the complaints about how there was no tablecloth or relief that the the glassware was actually glass. Do people really care?
    The vast majority of travelers fly in economy, but hardly ever a word about it.
    Thank you.

  15. @ Chris McMahon — I walked back there to try and take a picture, but everyone was standing in the aisles and I couldn’t get a clear shot. It was tight, and looked unpleasant.

    And I think people do care, given the relative cost of premium cabin products (with either miles or dollars). There’s also more product differentiation than in economy, and thus more things to actually review. For economy insights though, I highly recommend RouteHappy, which gives a nice rundown on IFE, outlets, etc.

  16. This was my experience with Hawaiian on an “international” business-class flight, also on an old 767, between Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa. While the plane was refreshed, there was no personal entertainment device except for a no-brand tablet with a few random movies and limited audio. The blanket and pillow were the same as the Ukrainian blank and pillow. The catering was edible but pathetic with only the booze and Kona coffee being any good. Yet the price for this flight was about $1,500, if I recall correctly. You need to pay for business-class, as the American Samoans are so obese that you won’t be comfortable sitting next to them in economy or premium-economy.

  17. Looks like you traveled back in time to the early 1990s…

    I hope Tiffany was careful with her first main course, since it looks like there were bits on tinfoil in it…

  18. @Chris McMahon – complaining about Lucky not writing economy reviews (Ben and co. do snap the occasional picture) is like going on a website that concentrates on Apple iOS and complaining about the lack of Android-device articles. It’s just not what OMAAT concentrates on. There are infrequent economy reviews (Travis has posted several in the past, although not recently), and the occasional economy picture, but that’s just not what Ben is interested in, and while there are other writers who post on the site, it’s Ben’s site and he sets the tone.

  19. Personally if I had the choice to review a class I would avoid Economy longhaul as well. It’s pretty damn awful. I do wish we would see more premium economy reviews, several products for intermediate length seem good enough. Not so sure on long haul though.

  20. Aw now I feel like I have to fly on this airline. The mapping system showed is actually a “RosenView” from Rosen Aviation in Oregon. Airshow was one of our main competitors at the time that this system was developed ( around 2006 ). The map graphics look a bit outdated now because, well that’s 2006 for you :).
    It was mainly designed for private jets with a lot of customizable features but I have never seen one being used in a commercial jet. In regards to the altitude, the mapping system usually pulls the altitude information from the same data-bus that the rest of the aircraft systems are using so that 2000 ft. was (hopefully) accurate.

  21. Today Monday July 17th, the 11AM flight is due to depart at 6.30PM.
    Aircraft problems in NY, I am told.
    I was coming from Odessa with the 7.45AM flight and was stuck in the airport.
    I had to pay 3 times $32 to spend 6 hours in the business lounge because I am told I bought the business upgrade in the airport.
    Not cool.

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