Uzbekistan Airways began flying non-stop (once per week) on its new 787-8 Dreamliner between New York JFK and Tashkent earlier this summer. What is the seat, food and service like onboard in business class? Here’s my spoiler: I flew Uzbekistan Airways so you don’t have to.
I flew on United from San Francisco to Newark, arriving in the morning and having to transfer from Newark to JFK. As usual, I took NJ Transit to Penn Station, then Long Island Railroad to Jamaica station, where I caught an AirTrain to Terminal 4 at JFK.
Even though I arrived more than three hours prior to departure, the check-in area was a zoo. Ben, who arrived an hour earlier, reported that people were lined up before check-in even began.
A gruff agent angrily barked orders to passengers, trying to keep order. Once I identified myself as a business class passenger, he directed me to a special line where I just had to wait a moment to check in. The check-in agent presented me a with a lounge invitation to the Wingtips lounge along with my boarding pass, but that lounge was under construction and I only stayed for a moment.
Ben and I worked at the gate area, lining up at about 2pm to board. Boarding did not actually commence until closer to 2:30p. An army of passengers in wheelchairs lined up to board and were allowed onto the aircraft first.
Uzbekistan Airways 102
New York (JFK) – Tashkent (TAS)
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Depart: 3:00 PM
Arrive: 11:35 AM+1
Duration: 10hr, 35min
Seat: 2C (Business Class)
Once onboard we carefully took pictures, trying to be as discreet as possible. We later found out that Uzbekistan Airways has a strict no-photo policy (emphasized on both the safety card and safety video) but we did not encounter any pushback when we told a FA we would be taking photos.
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class Seat
The forward business class cabin is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration with three rows of seats. Behind Door 2 is one more row of business class, which remained empty and was used for crew rest during the flight. The forward cabin went out with 14/18 seats occupied.
It appeared, based upon the pleasantries exchanged between the station manager and most passengers when he later came onboard, that the cabin was comprised of Ben and me as paid passengers plus many op-ups who knew the station manager or a member of the crew. That’s just a conjecture, but when you see many passengers profusely thanking the station manager, I think that’s a safe assumption.
The seat is similar to that used by LOT Polish, Turkish Airlines, and AZAL (Azerbaijan). It is definitely not my favorite business class seat, but comfortable enough and fully horizontal in lie-flat mode. Although the cabin was brand new, the seat padding felt worn and lumpy.
The seat could be adjusted by push-button controls and featured a memory feature where you could lock in your favorite seat position and return to it at anytime. The seats did not massage.
A universal power outlet and USB port were conveniently located on the side of the seat.
Handheld IFE controls and a bottle holder were located in the center console at seat cushion level.
When it came time to eat, my tray table would not unfold. I could pull it out of its storage case, but it would not pivot downward. I flagged a FA who summoned…the first officer. He came out to fix it, asking me to vacate my seat while he spent a few minutes coaxing it into submission. He did succeed, only to disappear immediately without any further utterances.
The cabin featured mood lighting that remained on for most of the flight.
Sadly, the blanket and pillow in business class were of low quality. I was thankful the cabin did not get too warm overnight, but the blanket could not even cover half my body. Thankfully, I did manage to nap for a few hours after the first meal service.
A privacy divider provided some separation from the adjacent seat:
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class Amenities
We were curious what the contents would be in our amenity kit. This was easily answered: we never received one. Instead, we found a disposable plastic bag in the seat ottoman that contained Uzbekistan Airways-branded slippers, a low-quality eyeshade, a shoe horn, and “do not disturb / wake me for meals” stickers.
I figured there would probably be tootbrush/toothpaste and perhaps combs and mouthwash available in the lavatory. There was not.
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class Lavatory
The lavatory was clean enough and the standard 787 lavatory, but featured absolutely no additional amenities. Only liquid soap.
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class IFE
Extremely cheap headphones were waiting at our seat. I did not take my Bose noise cancelling headphones on the trip, but thankfully at least had my Apple headphones, which were much better. The provided headphones are the sort that often only work in one ear and become extremely uncomfortable after a few minutes of wear.
The IFE selection was atrocious, despite both an in-seat entertainment system and tablet system.
In-seat featured just a couple English movies as well as games and a very limited audios selection. If you speak Uzbek or Russian, you will have a greater selection. I ended up just keeping the moving map feature on for most of the flight.
Rather humorously, a short film was screened in Uzbek, Russian, and then English warning against excessive drinking and fighting onboard.
When FAs handed out tablets shortly after takeoff, I was initially hopeful. Sadly, many movies originally filmed in English did not have English soundtracks or subtitles. It made no sense.
The iPad also had a handful of apps, mostly games. One app I appreciated was a tourist app that provided highlights of Uzbekistan’s major cities. Sadly, the tablets were provided without power. Mine had only a 36% charge when first turning it on.
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class Food
I give the food a mixed review on the flight. A- for presentation, but C- for quality.
After boarding, we were offered moist towels and champagne.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I’m not a champagne snob, really I’m not, but this was by the far the worst glass of swill I have ever tasted. It was like drinking fermented body odor…one sip was one sip too much. We tried to find out what kind of champagne it was, but it was one of those flights in which that proved difficult. Trust me, do not try the champagne. Do not.
Meal orders were taken prior to takeoff, actually just moments after we boarded. No menus were offered and the choice was, “Fish, chicken or beef.” Ben ordered beef and I ordered fish, after first asking what kind of fish it was (salmon).
Lunch service began shortly after takeoff. I appreciated how FAs laid out the white tablecloth and then carefully placed each item directly on the table. Meal service via tray may be normal for business class, but I appreciate when trays are avoided.
The appetizers looked great and were the highlight of the meal service on the flight. One dish contained salmon and shrimp. Another had cold cuts. A third had cheese with dried apricots and walnuts. A fourth contained a green salad.
Sure, we can deduct some points for not serving the butter and salad dressing in proper dishes or bowls, but I appreciated how nicely the meal was laid out and that it tasted pretty good.
Ooh, but the red wine. Should have learned from the champagne…it was Uzbek red wine so we had to try it, but it was horrible.
I would have preferred some white wine with my fish, but a FA informed us that white wine was not available.
The main course salmon was a bit dry, but certainly edible. I appreciated the lemon juice and that the rice was not overcooked and crunchy. The portion was small.
Ben’s steak looked tasty enough, but was served very well done. I tried a bite: unfortunately, the quality was bad.
One of the op-ups received his own bottle of wine…
Dessert included coffee (powdered) or tea along with fresh fruit and a chocolate cherry cake. The cake was dry and not worth the calories.
About 3/4 through the flight I became hungry again. Sadly, there were no snacks set up in the galleys. A FA came by and before I could even request a snack, asked if I wanted my breakfast. Since there was still more than three hours of flight time left, I asked if there were any nuts. The FA disappeared and returned with the following–
The first bowl contained a sweet cookie-like snack that crumbled when you picked it up. The second bowl contained unsalted cashews and dried apricots. Both were appreciated and tided me over till breakfast before landing.
Breakfast was served on-demand and I took mine about two hours prior to landing.
No choice was offered, though I would have ordered an omelet anyway. The omelet was tasteless and served with oily potatoes and slimy zucchini. The croissant was cold and hard and the fruit primarily citrus. The yogurt was full of sugar.
A breakfast of champions…
Breakfast was a big disappointment as was the lack of any substantial mid-flight snacks. I am assuming that when the flight stops in Riga there is dinner and breakfast from New York to Riga than another full meal from Riga to Tashkent.
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class Service
Service exceeded expectations on this flight. A FA named Umida warmly welcomed us onboard and made sure we were comfortable. I don’t fault her for having to deal with the poor product her company provided her.
Three female FAs worked the cabin. Two were quite kind, the third…not so much (though it may have been a language barrier issue). But I give all three credit for working the entire flight. During the “overnight” they constantly patrolled the cabin and offered refills on beverages.
Though we were never addressed by name, the two FAs smiled and truly made an effort at being friendly. I’d still rate the service as average for business class, but it was a far cry from the subpar meal service, IFE, and hard product.
Uzbekistan Airways 787 Business Class VIP Arrivals
Two landing identical landing forms were distributed prior to arrival. Both had to be filled out. We landed on time in Tashkent and pulled up to a jetbridge.
As we walked from the aircraft to the immigration hall, a man stood outside a door shouting “Business Class! Business Class!” We entered and found ourselves in a small room with two immigration counters.
As it turned out, we had been ushered into the VIP Terminal which has an arrivals lounge and special immigration facilities for premium class passengers or those who purchase access. Past immigration was a small lounge featuring leather couches and soft drinks.
We proceeded outside and hailed a taxi to the Hyatt.
I felt a pit in my stomach as we left the airport. I’ve never spent so much on a one-way flight for such a poor product. Unless you need to travel to Tashkent and want to fly non-stop, I cannot in good conscience recommend this product.