My expectations for this flight were quite low. Lucky and Tiffany had just flown the same route a month earlier and posted a decidedly negative review. So it might surprise you that on the whole, I enjoyed the flight.
Wait, what? Bad seats, a proselytizing seatmate who also had a body odor problem, and you had a good flight? As odd as it sounds, I did.
Ukraine International Airlines 231
Kiev (KBP) – New York (JFK)
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 2A (Business Class)
Ukraine International Airlines Business Class Seat
First, I slept for nearly 8 hours. In a terrible seat. I mean, look at this cabin—
12 seats, decent recline, but almost as narrow as economy class. It was like an Alaska Airlines first class seat with better recline and a foot rest that went up 30º.
And yet, I slept though the majority of the flight. It’s not like I could do anything else. Movies were screened on the monitor in the front of the cabin and were far from modern (nor were the headphones). Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way (1996). There certainly was no wi-fi onboard and though the seats had power outlets, “They are broken” said the FA. Plus, I had just flown Los Angeles to London to Cairo to Beirut to Istanbul to Kiev with only short connections in each city. So yeah, I guess I would have been shocked had I not slept for eight hours.
But its amazing how great a scratchy blanket, thin pillow, and recliner seat are when you are tired.
Ukraine International Airlines Business Class Meals
Ah, the meal service. Well, being an 11-hour journey there were two full meal services, one after takeoff and one before landing. First question: do you like salty or sweet nut mix? Uhm, salty please. I’ll give Ukraine credit: it is the first time I have ever been given that choice.
The mix was actually good: a mix of pumpkin seeds, peanuts, corn nuts, and a few pecans.
I should also note that a pre-departure beverage was served in a real glass–
Next, the table was laid for lunch. I liked the very intricate table cloth.
The appetizer was “beef” which turned out to be two slices of cold roast beef with a bit of arugula, tomatoes, and cheese. FAs also offered a bread basket with warm bread.
Next came the salad, which I’ll called the “Soviet Salad”. It featured diced egg, carrots, cucumbers, and peas. And mayonnaise. A lot of mayonnaise.
Finally, the main course, “Steak with potatoes”. Actually, the presentation was not bad. The thyme sprig was even perfectly placed. The meat was cooked medium well, which while not my medium-rare preference, was passable. The quality of the meat was poor.
No cheese course, but tiramisu with tea (coffee is powered, so avoid it).
I’ve got to be honest—it was not a bad meal and the tray-free presentation was better than most carriers manage.
Second Meal Service
Prior to landing, FAs offered a second lunch. I asked for more salty nuts and was obliged. This time the meal was served on a tray. Another beef appetizer, this time with zuchhini, bell pepper, and a bit of feta cheese. The salad was pickled green beans with some red squares that may have been beets or rhubarb. I didn’t eat it. The other appetizer choice for both meals was raw salmon.
This time, I went with fish for the main course. It came with rice and unfortunately was covered in a cream-based gravy with carrots and peas. But I soon understood why: the unidentified white fish was dry tasteless.
The dessert was nice, though: a chocolate fruit cake that tasted like Christmas Stollen in Germany with gingerbread.
On the whole, the onboard meals were better than I anticipated.
My seatmate had ordered kosher meals and took one look at both of them and sent them back. “Get them off my table!” he told the FA. Maybe he was so chatty because he was hungry: he ate nothing and the only thing he drank was a bottle of Diet Coke he had brought onboard. Such an odd fellow. He was also quite rude to the FAs and yelled at one when he found he could not charge his mobile phone. Nevertheless, he said to me, “I love this airline. They always take good care of me.” So inedible food + a poor seat + no power = happy camper.
Ukraine International Airlines Business Class Service
Let me get very serious for a moment. The service was really, really good. While I pictured Soviet-era service for Soviet-era business class product, Anastacia and Viktoria were amazing. Anastacia came over and introduced herself when I boarded, asking me what she should call me during the flight. I am too self-conscious to say, “Mr. Klint” when asked that question directly, so I just said to call me Matthew. She called me Mr. Matthew the entire flight and never failed to address be my name. She and Viktoria also smiled and were gracious, especially to the character next to me who was incredibly rude to them.
I asked for a picture after the flight and they agreed on one condition: I be in it too. But after flying 48 hours without a break, I was not presentable for a picture. So I’ve conveniently blurred myself out below—use your imagination. But you can see the beautiful smiles on the faces of both ladies and their service left me impressed.
Ukraine International Airlines Business Class Amenity Kit
We did get an amenity kit. I liked the blue and yellow colors and the contents were reasonably helpful, though the bristles (hairs?) of the hair brush were sharp…
We also received hot towels before each meal service as well as the smelly little “natural wet wipes” I mentioned in the previous segment. Newspapers were also distributed.
Ukraine International Airlines Business Class Lavatory
Old but clean. No real towels, just paper.
Ukraine International Airlines Business Class Boarding
Now that we are at the end of the report, let me say something about boarding. As you walk toward the gate, you are met with huge banners of soldiers who were involved in the Ukrainian conflict with Russia. It was a reminder that the country technically is at war.
Beyond that, a large boarding gate just for the USA flight. Passports are checked as you enter the gate area and again as you board the plane.
We were delayed 1hr9min in taking off due to an unspecified baggage problem. We made up about half that time on the trip home.
I paid under $400 for the ticket and got more than my money’s worth. Had I paid 4x that like my seatmate, I would have been disappointed at the lack of amenities that should be standard in 2017 like personal IFE, power and at least a last-generation angled lie-flat bed. But similar to my experience on Pakistan Airlines, I somehow enjoyed this flight. Service was not just good, but great. The food was reasonable and I slept for most of the flight, though I think I would have gone stir crazy had I been awake. If you see a good price on Ukraine, grab it. Just be aware there is a reason the price is cheaper.