I Can Fly Uzbekistan Airways… At Last!

As you guys know, I’m trying to review as many new airlines as possible, especially in business class. While I’ve enjoyed trying more mainstream airlines, I’ve especially enjoyed trying some airlines that might not otherwise be that well known in the US market, like Air Serbia, Air Astana, AZAL Azerbaijan, etc.

One airline that has been on my radar for a while is Uzbekistan Airways. They have a single route to the US, which operates twice a week. Specifically, they fly from New York to Tashkent, though the flight operates via Riga, Latvia, which is a pretty cool place to make a stop.

jfk-tas

However, I’ve intentionally been holding off on flying them on this route. That’s because the route has been operated with an outdated 767, while the airline is in the process of taking delivery of two new 787s, featuring fully flat seats in business class.

Until recently Uzbekistan Airways has just been flying their 787 on shorter routes, given that they’ve been familiarizing their crews with the plane. However, I assumed that they’d eventually fly the 787 to New York, given that it’s their longest route. I was also wondering if they’d cut out the stop in Riga, since the 787 can operate the route nonstop, while the 767 can’t.

The good news is that Uzbekistan Airways will finally be flying the 787 to New York as of March 26, 2017.

Now, the hard product as such doesn’t look too inspiring — it’s basically the same forward facing business class seat you’ll find on many other airlines, like LAN Chile. At least it’s fully flat, unlike their current product.

LAN-Business-Class-787 - 11

However, I’d be curious to see what their soft product is like.

Uzbekistan’s fares aren’t cheap, unfortunately. One-way business class from Riga to New York costs ~$1,380:

uzbekistan-1

Going all the way from Tashkent to New York costs ~$1,880:

uzbekistan-2

Again, that’s far from cheap, but if that’s what it takes to review the product, I guess that’s what I’m doing, unless anyone knows of better fares on them.

On the plus side, a new Hyatt Regency recently opened in Tashkent, which looks quite nice, and seems to be a great use of points.

Has anyone been to Tashkent or flown Uzbekistan Airways? Anyone know of a cheaper business class fare on Uzbekistan? Would a review of their product even be interesting?

Comments

  1. Lucky,
    I just flew the London to Tashkent to London route. Your experience should be pretty similar to Ukraine Air. Samarkand and Bukhara are two of the most amazing places I have ever been. Please, please, please go. You can reach both by express train or short flights from Tashkent.

  2. Hey Ben… I grew up in Tashkent and would probably recommend sticking with Riga, unless you are ready to take your Astana adventures to the next level. Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Netflix about Uzbekistan is worth checking out if you want to get a feel for what the country is like. If there is one reason I’d ever consider going back, it would be for food. Safe travels! P.S. You really need a Russian-speaking friend 😉

  3. I flew Uzbekistan in economy from Heathrow to Tashkent and back last summer and spent two and a half weeks travelling through Uzbekistan in a loop back to Tashkent, which was a great trip. There isn’t that much to see in Tashkent although there are a couple of nice squares, the main one being Independence Square, which seems to be almost next to the Hyatt, and the main bazaar (Chorsu Bazaar) is quite cool with a variety of stuff for sale. The real charm in Uzbekistan is in the other cities, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, and you’d be missing out on that if you just went to Tashkent so if you have time, a couple of days in Samarkand would be great to get a real flavour of Central Asia. We only spend a day in Tashkent at either end of our trip last year and that was perfectly sufficient.

  4. I haven’t been yet but Tashkent is high on my list, so I would love to see your review. The country is definitely up and coming tourism wise from what I’ve read, but many of the best sights are outside the capital. Hassle factor is non-trivial: visa, currency and border crossing issues, etc. On the other hand, you can’t go wrong with Riga if you avoid the Ryanair lads.

  5. This is our second year in Tashkent, and we have been waiting for the 787 to begin non-stops to New York. Unfortunately, price wise, it isn’t worth it considering you can fly Aeroflot for less than $1000, or Turkish via Istanbul. We’ve experienced Uzbek economy class long haul to Seoul and found it to be much roomier and more comfortable than Korean.

  6. Grossest in flight moment for me was flying Frankfurt to Tashkent, towards the end of the flight I went to the use the bathroom and there was a huge pile of used toilet paper spilling out of the garbage and gathering on the counter and floor. Uzbeks don’t flush their used TP I guess and it was disgusting.
    But the trip was pretty cool, flew to Nukus then drove back to Tashkent stopping in Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara. Very impressive ancient cities and mosques. They claim khiva as one of the largest walled cities with its original wall. Nukus has an amazing soviet era art museum, the founder saved as many paintings as he could and hid them there from the soviet government. Food is also great but you need cash and have to use the black market. Guys on the corner with large bags of money. Uzbekistan makes Kazakhstan look very modern, they are still 15-20 years behind in development.

  7. Visited Uzbekistan years ago as a 9 year old child, and it’s still my second favorite trip ever (after Galapagos). I recommend staying a few days and visiting Samarkand and Bukhara. Amazing history and architecture

  8. Riga is an enchanting city for a brief visit, but only in the off season; the drunken louts are a major and ubiquitous irritant of Riga in summer.

    Uzbekistan would definitely require a major time commitment. Tashkent does not have much to offer; much of the ancient city was destroyed by an earthquake in the early 20th century. Nonetheless, I did very much enjoy just wandering the streets and taking in some of the Soviet architecture.

    I would recommend using Tashkent as an overnight stop to rest up before heading off via train to either Bukhara or Samarkand. I strongly preferred Bukhara. I know Ben is not much of a tourist but I really hope he (and Tiffany!?!) makes the time to visit this extraordinary city.

    @Bob mentioned Nukus. I absolutely loved Nukus. It’s a butt-ugly city but I found it fascinating; it’s like a shrine to all those miserable industrial cities of the USSR. Nukus’ collection of Soviet propoganda posters from the 1930s is stellar and that alone, IMO, makes it worthy of the trek to get there.

    But perhaps not for Ben and Company (Tiffany?? Please!).

    This is all very exciting! I’m just dismayed that I’ll have to wait till April or so for the trip reports.

  9. Tashkent international airport is hell!
    Was there last month, it will truly bring you undone. As for uzbekistan , khiva is intimate and stunning. Tashkent is a dump!

  10. Lucky, I was traveling to Uzbekistan almost bi-monthly from 1992 until 2010 and have had lots of experience with Uzbekistan Air, both short and long-haul. Hard product was find for short haul, soft product is so-so (though perhaps it has gotten better. If you go to Uzbekistan, DO NOT MISS SAMARKAND AND BUKHARA (also Khiva if you have time) – You can see everything to see in Tashkent in a day as the city was essentially flattened by the earthquake in the early 60’s. Haven’t stayed at the Hyatt but the Intercontinental was my Tashkent home for years and is very nice.

  11. I was in Almaty and Astana and have a few friends from Kazakhstan and they all recommend Uzbekistan and Tashkent. However, their customs and immigration is no joke. Make sure you are departing with LESS money than you declare when you arrive or else you will have a LOT of problems.

  12. You can actually book immigration assistance for the Tashkent airport though a local travel agent. I was there last year, and a nice official met me before immigration, took care of my customs paperwork, and I was hustled through. Tashkent isn’t very interesting, however, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are mindboggling. Don’t miss it. Do not get money out of an ATM, or pay be credit card. Book a driver to pick you up at the airport and he will exchange your dollars for more than double the official exchange rate. Pay only cash for everything in Uzbekistan and in local currency. It’s “discouraged”, but you won’t have any problems if you do your currency exchange through a local driver.

  13. While it’s great to see you trying business class products on new airlines, it would be good to also see business class on airlines we’re more familiar with too, in long haul. Some choices would be on Emirates, Asiana, Korean, Swiss, and Thai (I want to suggest ANA, but I feel like you might have done a recent TR with them, but it isn’t showing up in your TR section).

  14. Hi Lucky,

    I’m an avid Riga-based follower of you blog — let me know if you need any advice / fancy a beer 🙂

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