Introduction: Transatlantic Insanity
Review: Aeroflot Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To Moscow
Review: Aeroflot Lounge Moscow Airport
Review: Aeroflot Business Class 737 Moscow To Belgrade
Review: Metropol Palace Hotel Belgrade
Review: Belgrade Food Tour
Review: Air Serbia Lounge Belgrade Airport
Review: Air Serbia Business Class A330 Belgrade To New York
Review: Air France Lounge New York JFK
Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class 787 New York To Baku
Review: Hyatt Regency Baku
Review: Baku Airport Lounge
Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 737 Baku To Kiev
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
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.
We had assigned ourselves the window seats on the right side in row two.
On the plus side, the legroom was plentiful. I’d estimate that the seat pitch was maybe 55″.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The tray table extended out of the center armrest, and could be folded over.
Already waiting at our seats were pillows and blankets. The blanket was made of fleece and was okay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At that point the crew did a manual safety demonstration.
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.
By 4:15PM we made it to runway 18L, where we were immediately cleared for takeoff.
Our initial climb out was smooth, and I enjoyed the views of the Ukrainian countryside as we climbed out.
The seatbelt sign was turned off five minutes after takeoff, just after we climbed above an initial layer of clouds.
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.
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.
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.
Warm towels were distributed about 20 minutes after meal orders were taken.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tiffany had the chicken.
After that we were offered coffee. I ordered a coffee with milk, though unfortunately the coffee tasted powdered.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
At that point the pre-landing meal service began, starting with a warm 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.
The salmon tasted a bit “wet.”
We were also offered a salad, consisting mostly of shaved carrots.
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.
The chicken that Tiffany ordered just looked plain weird.
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.
After the meal we had about an hour left until our arrival in 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.
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.