I want to write a report about a trip with a rather exotic Airline, UKRAINE INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES. This was in may this year and I thought it might be quite interesting for you to read about this airline.
As usual, I'll try to remind as many details as possible, as I also love to read trip reports with the most details possible.
I started working as a cruise guide on a river cruise ship for a German tour operator. That's why I had to make this trip to get to the country which will be my new home for the next 6 months. The company I'm working with has an agreement with PS
(Ukraine Int'l), so that's why they booked me on an agent ticket with them, with an allowance of 40 kilos. That'S okay for me, I rather prefer flying with something new and exotic than boring LH
Other great thing: The flight was scheduled on friday May 06, 2005. Fridays and Tuesdays the PS
-Flight from FRA
to KBP makes a stop in Lvov (LVO). That's the Russian name. Ukrainian say Lviv.
My company sent me the ticket with UPS just a few days before the flight. It was issued by the PS
office in Frankfurt and was printed "classic style" on the thin, red transcripting papers and in a kind "old school" cover in blue and white colours of Ukraine International Airlines.
Now, after this short introduction, let the fun part begin!
So this May 06,2005 I leaved me home very early to catch the 6 o'clock train that would bring me to Stuttgart, where I switched to the ICE train which goes directly to Frankfurt Airport. I already knew the Airport station, in my opinion it is quite nice, although there is a little walk, especially to get the the eastern terminal, where my flight was supposed to leave (actually you can take a bus from the station or go to Terminal 1 and take the sky-train monorail). Well you surely all know that anyway.
I knew that there is a special check-in-room just beneith the station where you can already check in your bags and get your boarding card. But not airlines can do that, and PS
don't... So I went to Terminal 2 using the skytrain.
Terminal 2 is quite boring in my opinion... Used a little bit the Samsung self-service internet booth and then proceeded to check-in... I arrived like 90 minutes before and it was already a mess...
Queue was huge (some 20-30 meters) and I realized that the flight would be full. In the corner of the check-in-hall Swissport does check-in for PS
, Malev and Swiss... A supervisor came and explained to a newbie to walk along the queue and ask the passengers if somebody was flying Swiss or Malev or wherever there were flying to... When somebody answered "Lviv" he asked 3 times "what? you mean Swiss?" - "no I mean Lviv"... I think he never understood... Quite unprofessional...
Anyway, as nobody was flying Malev or Swiss I realized that this queue would take long. 3 check-in counters were opened, one for business class passengers. But there would be only one queue, system I like, because it's really fair. Before going to the counter you will get your bags checked... After something like 45 minutes it would be my turn. I could hear the men at the counter saying to a backpacker-student-looking girl that she got the last window seat and I prayed that he just said that to impress her or whatever
Anyway it was my turn. The Swissport-guy was really professional and very polite, he talked to me using my name and as I was putting my two enormous suitcases on the scale it showed 43 kilos... The guy asked in German and very politely "Mr. (calling me with name), are you expecting overweight luguage?" I returned that I had a 40 Kilos allovance, and he excused hisself and said he must have overread that part... Anyway I asked for a window seat, which actually really were all gone... So I asked for a aisle-seat, which I got. I tried my chance and asked if he would be so kind to block the middle seat (as the a/c is configured 3-3). He answered that the flight is very full... I was not expecting lot anyway... But I was really surprised as when we took off later, one of the only free seats was the middle-seat beneith mine. Could be coincidence, but then I'm a really lucky bastard
So my bags were checked to KBP and I went to McDonald's eating the last Chickenburger for 1 Euro in 6 months and watched planes. I really like the McDonald's in Terminal 2. I already saw the 737 from PS
on a remote position, it will be a 737-300. To be honest I don't really remember what was the other stuff around...
I saw some information monitors near that McDonald's. Those can also be found at the Skytrain-stations too... They are great.. I don't know if there are only for airport stuff use, anyway there are some keys to change between departures, arrivals, inbound aircraft etc... They also show registrations and a/c type and so I saw my plane will be UR
-GAL, an old lady which started her carreer in 1988 with Varig and went to PS
in 2001 if I'm right.
Beeing so excited I almost missed my flight. I didn't really realized that boarding time would be so early, although I would consider me as a experienced traveller. Anyway, I was the last at the gate, went down the stairs and the bus was waiting. I like the monitors on the bus showing to which plane the bus will go. "PS
404 to Lvov and Kiev".
) - LVOV (LWO)
404, B737-300, UR
MAY 06, 2005
Departure and arrival exactly on time
We were soon there... The aircraft looks really old and worn... Maybe I'm not used to fly those old things in Europe anymore, but this one had a metal panel which would surely be 30 cm x 30 cm rivettet against the fuselage...
My first impression of the cabin was "this looks worn"... Everything was looking "yellowish". Business class was quite empty and separated by a curtain form the economy section, which was almost full. The cabin had nice blue leather seats, which were quite confortable for that lenght of the flight. But some of them were broken ("auto-recline"
Tables were in a very bad shape also... And some things in the a/c were still written in something that must be brasilian portuguese considering the previous owner: "Uso a assento para flutuacao", "occupaidos". The exit-signs were covered with some stickers in cyrillic, and same with other things, like the life jacket under the seat.
Cabin crew were four, one of them male, and one of them in business class. I know you should not complain about a poor country, but there blue uniforms looked really cheap. Announcement were made in Russian/Ukrainian und in English, but a very bad one (worse than mine
). No German announcements.
When boarding was completed, some complimentary newspaper were distributed, almost only in Russian and Ukrainian, even a TV
-Guide. They only had the cheap "Welt Kompakt" for German travellers.
Pushback was exactly on time (at least I didn't delayed the flight
Safety demo was done manual (no IFE on that a/c), but I understood nothing at all, because we taxied very long and the floor was shaking and as I was over the wing the motor of the flaps was sooooo loud that I understood nothing at all... By the way the a/c made strange noises while taxiing when the pilot put on the gazes... I don't remember if it should be so shaky and loud like that on old a/c, but this is defenitly not the noises you get when you fly on a newer 737...
After the long and speedy taxi light were turned off and it was very foggy rainy and dark outside... Takeoff was done at 11:27 and it almost took 30 seconds to get the heavy bird from the ground.
Time to me to look in the pocket in front of me... Small airsickness bag without closing system, but in PS
-colours at least, safety card and Panorama-Magazine which is rather average... I saw that PS
is operating from KBP to Doha and Dubai... Must have cheap tariffs... What about a flight from LGW
to Doha or Dubai via Kiew? Must be boring as hell on that kind of a/c without ANY IFE...
Very early the fasten seatbelt-signs went off and the lights got on. Damn this was soooo lighty, too much for me... I guess I forgot how lights were on old a/c... They do better today...
At 11:50 meal was served... I was not sure what to expect. Specialized websites showed quite goodloooking hot meals and some really weird cold stuff... Well I got the latter...
There were 3 big sausage slices (some kind of thing between ham and salami) with 3 slices of fresh peppers and beans in cold tomato sauce... The whole thing was served with a "mille feuilles" cake, butter and... KETCHUP together with a bun which was not good either... And some, I'm sure you remember, odd peppermint-toothpicks with a green end... I saw that other people had cheese instead of butter. I took a coke, they gave me a whole 0,5l bottle, which was, compared to the meal, not so cold, unfortanely... They had a whole caddie with alcohol which was complementary (Whiskey, Cognac and especially vodka!) but didn't offered me any... I don't wanted some anyway.
Well I tried one slice of the sausage and some beans, it was really really bad... And I'm not complicated at all with food. So I ate the bun with some butter and the cake, which was really not bad. Afterwards I took some tea. Then crew came, took away the trash and disappeared... There were not really smiling and efficiency was average... Well I suppose their work is not the best paid, not talking about working times in those kind of countries... And they fly to countries were they do nothing than stay the time of a turnover... So I want blame them as much as I would blame crew of a western company acting the same... But there is really some effort to be done if PS
wants to become some kind of "western-standard" carrier, what they pretend to be.
We never heard some words of the captain... So I have no clue of our flight path... Can anybody find out?
At 13:52 approach to Lvov started. Lights were switched of again and the plane was performing a lot of turns and it was really bumpy... On the right hand side I could see the city, well what to expect? A lot of big grey socialist bunkers... Then on final approach it remembered me Kai Tak... Well in Lvov you also fly in front of the peoples balcony. Just before reaching the runway the pilot went something like what must be full throttle and We landed at 14:00. And my god... That was a hard landing... I really flew a lot and this one was really bad... everything was shaking and aching and he braked as hell and we really could here some loud squeezing inside the aircraft (never remembered to hear that before).
At the airport time seemed to have stopped. Not only because of the types of a/c on the ground, but also because there was nothing happening.
We passed another PS
-owned Antonov 24 (that's the true domestic PS
, actually the only flight that PS
operates on western a/c in Ukraine is one per day to Simferopol/SIP on 737).
We parked beneith a Eurolot ATR-72 for Warsaw I suppose. Lvov seem to had better days... The apron is really huge and there are even "roads" marked on the ground like on big airports, but actually nobody cares about that... There are two buildings: The old one is the terminal building, which is actually really unique... It rather looks like a train station and is very beautiful. And the newer one is in blue and white, also quite good looking, and there seems to be the active tower too... But this building is not used for passengeres...I can only suppose this is for kind of VIP's or for administration or something.
Passengers to KBP were told to stay on board as the stop would take 40 minutes and I was suprised to see all but 30 passengers leaving the aircraft at Lvov. Deboarding took place at 14:09.
Cabin was looking really disordered by now and I took time to see what kind of a/c were on the ground....
Left of us was UR
-UCA (i think) from Ukrainian Cargo Airlines with some mechanics doing maintenance works... Some kind of russian baby.. Behind there was the same bird but with an hungarian or arabic flag on it. There also were 3 Yakolev of some other Ukrainian carrier, I couldn't write down the registration.
During the stop passengers were chatting, using their mobile phones and soon cabin crew told that everybody should take their hand lugguage so that they can perform a manual check. One bag was left in the overhead bin and we were asked which passenger this bag is belonging to.
Then they performed a passenger count with the small little machine in the hand were you push a button for every passenger counted.
It was litteraly impossible to stay on board if you shouldn't.
I was also positively surprised that no new pax would board. We would have a light load to KBP!
And that's why at 14:30 the crew asked everybody to move to the back to the a/c for weight balance reasons. I switched to 20A and saw UR
-UCA towed away behind us.
I took time to saw passengers arrive to the Eurolot-Plane. Luguage was stored manually in the back hold and about 50 passengers went in line at the back door were something was checked (boarding cards or passports or whatever). A lot of them had to put their hand luguage in a cart, so that it could also be stored in the hold.
I also loved the towing truck. This was a big soviet and yellow truck attached to a bar to the plane. The truck was almost bigger than the ATR! Really strange sight... Although I don't really understand the need, as the ATR had not to be towed back for leaving the stand...
LVOV (LWO) - KIEV BORISPOL (KBP)
404, B737-300, UR
MAY 06, 2005
Our plane started to move from this deserted airport in direction of the runway... As there is no taxiway we had to go down to the end of the runway, turn around and off we went. It was really bumpy and lights were turned off again.
After departure we flew over some other cargo stored... And then over a field with a lot of old soviet fighters stored and over Lvov's suburbs... There is a lot of green in the surroundings and a lot of roads seemed unpaved, as they were brown, even those connecting towns. We then soon went into the clouds.
Immigration cards were handed out, but almost nobody took some as there were almost no foreigners on board (I wondered why they didn't gave them to passengers leaving in Lviv, which also belongs to Ukraine???). A women on the other side of the aisle got a nice on in blue and yellow colors (national colours) with ads on the back for restaurants and some casino. As I didn't got any card at all I asked for one and they gave me an old grey crappy immigration card, but who cares....
Then cabin crew came with a tray of glasses with some apple juice, some orange juice and some water. The business class-crew member came to the back galley taking some sweets/cooking/whatever to the few passengers still in business class.
Approach started at 15:33. I saw nothing of the city as it was to cloudy. We landed at 15:40 on RWY 18R. Again before landing the captain gave throttle, and after touch down the a/c seemed to went up again, at least the front... I'm really not a scared flyer but I really was awaiting my first tail strike, thing that luckily didn't happened...
We taxied past a vast apron with IL62, some Yak 40/42 and Aerosvits 737 and 767... There were no Tupolevs. Actually for domestic flights, strangely there can only be found Yak's-40/42 and An's-24.
There are 3 jetbridges at the international terminal, which looks quite modern by the way. I saw a 737-(800?) from Malev and a KLM at those jetbridges. On the apron there was a BA
737, a LH
-CRJ and 3 other PS
737 (which all were on remote positions). There was still a lot of space anyway.
Curiously a/c on remote positions don't park nose in direction of terminal (like in FRA
for instance), but side to terminal... And they all park differently (some with nose to the one side, some to the other). Guess it's easier to start because they don't need to be towed.
A really modern flat-floor and futuristic looking bus came and took us to the terminal.
Immigration was quite full and it took some time to pass, but it was bearable... There were some "1st class and VIP" counters, but actually nobody cared where to queue.
My luguage came fast, and before beeing able to leave to the public part of the arrival hall I were asked a few questions about how many money I had and what did I had in my bags. They dind't openend them thou...
I didn't saw a lot of Borispol airport, and we were quickly out... The ride to Kiew went fast, although it's 40 km...
What to say to conclude? Well the flight itself was enjoyable, comfort was okay... Ukraine International is doing not bad for a ex-soviet country but there is still way to go... Crew's efficiency is average, but a bit of smiling could really be done... Also, catering on this flight was just horrible... And to be honest, during both landings I felt very bad... Also the a/c is not in the best shape, not talking about the cabin...
I will fly back in a month. I'm booked on a non-stop flight with PS
this time. But as my ticket can be exchanged for free I will try to fly 2 days later and get a AN
-24 ride with PS
to Lvov, were I will connect to the PS
-Flight to Frankfurt. Would be great if that works out. If you guys are interested I will post a report then!
Thanks for reading! Any comments are welcome!