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Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:32 pm

Hello Everyone! Apologies for the rather long gap between instalments! This is the final report of my narrowbody trip between Korea and the UK. The other instalments can be found below:

Part 1, Daegu-Beijing, Jeju Air Boeing 737-800
Part 2, Beijing-Xi’an, China Southern Airbus A321
Part 3, Xi’an-Almaty, SCAT Boeing 737-500
Part 4, Almaty-Astana, Bek Air Fokker 100

To start here are some photos of Astana:

The Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre
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The Akorda Presidential Palace
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Nur Astana Mosque
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Bayterek Tower
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The Astana Opera House
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The Korea Pavilion at the Expo
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Background
Despite the fact that this the final instalment of my report, in reality Astana is far closer to Seoul (over 2800 miles) than it is to London (5530-ish miles). However in terms of my route via Beijing, Almaty, Astana and Minsk, I had already reached the midpoint of my journey in a Fokker 100 high above Lake Balkhash on my flight to Astana.

Journeying between Kazakhstan and the UK on narrowbody aircraft can perhaps be labelled as a ‘piece of cake’ thanks to Air Astana’s daily Boeing 757 service from Astana to Heathrow. As much as the American readers of this may roll on the floor laughing, I’m not ashamed to say that the airline’s usage of Boeing’s pencil jet on the route makes this a pretty attractive option for me. After all, scheduled passenger Boeing 757 ops on the Korean peninsula are an unrevivable feature of the past and sadly not that common in Europe too. Whilst I have found Air Astana to offer cheap return tickets between Korea and the UK, unsurprisingly one way economy tickets between Astana and Heathrow cost a small fortune and so this option was a complete non-starter.
I therefore once again I ended up on the homepage of Skyscanner. A quick search revealed that Aeroflot, Belavia, LOT and Ukraine International all offered cheap flights flights via Sheremetyevo, Minsk, Warsaw and Kiev respectively. UIA turned out to be the cheapest however having flown them last year and with both flights operated by Boeing 737-800s I was willing to pay slightly more for to try something new. Had I taken the trip several months earlier or later and thus been able to fly in the airline’s Boeing 737-400s or Boeing 737 MAXs I would have considered LOT, however the all Boeing 737-800 story proved to be the case with them too. Aeroflot was the most expensive of the four however with the number of flights they operate daily between SVO and LHR, they did offer some reasonable connection times.

Belavia’s long connection time, a 6H35 stay in MIA (Minsk International Airport that is, not Miami) as well as their average price when compared to the other airlines likely put many a traveller off flying with them on this route. However Belavia had intrigued me for quite some time, although up until this point I had never really had any plan or need to fly with them. My curiosity began on sunny summer afternoons in the garden of my parent’s house, watching as their white and blue Boeing 737 Classics ascended towards cruising altitude after departure from Manchester. At that time Boeing 737 Classics were a little more common and in my opinion the real gems in Belarus’ nation airline consisted of their older Soviet types, all of which have sadly now been withdrawn from service. Despite this, I was still eager to try the airline and so I navigated my way to their modern looking and easy to use website. After a quick search for flights I selected those with a price tag of 243.00 USD however a further 53.30 USD was then added bringing the total to 296.39 USD, significantly more expensive than the other carriers on the route. Had this risen to over 300 dollars I would have become slightly hesitant about booking these tickets especially considering the fact that the aircraft types scheduled to operate the flights fairly uninteresting (a Boeing 737-800 and Embraer 195). I encountered no difficulty when purchasing these and immediately after this I received my email confirmation for my purchase.

It was not possible to select seats when booking however I was able to check in online and select seats without any problems around twenty hours prior to departure. Whilst doing so, I received a positive surprise, when choosing my seat for the second flight, expecting the 2-2 layout of the Embraer 195, I was happily surprised when this was instead the 3-3 layout of the Boeing 737-500. This would mean two rides on two different airlines’ 735s within the space of three days.

The Airline
Many of you may be unfamiliar with the national airline of Belarus, however Belavia aircraft can be spotted daily in many of Europe’s major airports. The airline was formed in March 1996 with a fleet of nowadays rare Soviet built aircraft such as the Ilyushin 86, Tupolev 134 and Tupolev 154. A couple of years later the Antonov 24, Antonov 26 and Yak 40 were also added to the airline’s fleet following the merger between Belavia and Minsk Avia. According to the airline’s website during the late 1990s the airline operated international services to Beijing, Istanbul, Larnaca, London and Rome. Over time the airline’s route network expanded significantly and today Belavia flies to a respectable fifty seven destinations across Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. As with many major passenger airlines in the former Soviet Union, Belavia underwent a process of fleet modernisation beginning with the delivery of their first Boeing 737 Classic in October 2003, a 1995 Boeing 737-500 that had previously served with Continental Airlines and Mekong Airlines. A total fifteen Boeing 737 Classics were delivered to the airline, the latest delivery of the type taking place in May 2014. Six Bombardier CRJs were also delivered to the airline between 2007 and 2010. In September 2012, the airline reached another milestone taking delivery of its first brand new aircraft which came in the form of an Embraer 175 with another delivered the following month. Two slightly longer Embraer 195s were added in 2014. In 2015 the airline introduced a new type to its fleet, the Boeing 737-800, taking delivery of two aircraft that had previously served with Air Berlin and TUIfly. In 2016 Belavia took delivery of three Boeing 737-800s directly from Boeing, all of which sport the airline’s new livery.

The Journey
As the sun started to come down over the steppe I stood with a crowd of Sunday shoppers of all ages outside the Asia Park Mall whilst repetitive audio advertisements aimed at waiting passengers blared out of speakers pointed directly towards us. Buses came and went, some old but most reasonably new and well-kept but there was no sign of the number 12 bus that would take me back to the airport. As more time passed I was becoming a little sceptical that I was at the right stop despite my bus being listed on the poster inside the air-conditioned shelter. Not wanting to walk much more in the summer heat I breathed a sigh of relief when eventually a bendy bus with the letters 12 and ‘airport’ displayed in Kazakh on the front of the bus slithered around the corner. Unsurprisingly the bus was absolutely full and it took some time for the conductor to reach me, when he did I paid my ninety tenge and relaxed knowing I was on my way to the airport. A short while after I boarded, the number of passengers began to decrease and I was able to enjoy much of the journey seated. Despite the fact that many visitors to Astana will take taxis to and from the airport, I would fully recommend using the city’s bus system if you do not have large amounts of luggage. Just hop on the bus through either door and pay the conductor 90 KZT, a fare that is at least 33 times cheaper than the taxi fare from the airport to the city. Even if you lack any Kazakh or Russian language skills as long as you know roughly where you’re going and which number bus to take you shouldn’t encounter too many problems.

After arriving back at the airport, I headed back to my large room at the airport hotel. Compared to the airport hotel I had stayed in in Almaty, this one was the Ritz. Well not quite, but it was pretty much identical to a western European budget hotel, say an Ibis, plus being located in the ground floor of the domestic terminal you couldn’t get much closer to the airport. However I did encounter some negatives during my stay, firstly there are only sixteen rooms which tend to fill up fast. If you head straight to the hotel with no Kazakh or Russian knowledge, you will likely hear the words ‘no rooms’ and not be informed of when a room is to become available. However if you go to the airport information desk and ask about rooms at the airport hotel, they will call the hotel and if all rooms are occupied they will tell you when a room will become available. Also, the wifi in the hotel is the airport’s public wifi and thus you must have a working SIM card to use this, I didn’t and spent my stay at the hotel in the early 2000s lacking the ability to surf the web, watch videos, check emails and use social media.

After a short three-hour nap, I packed my things and had a quick shower before heading off to Astana’s brand new and shiny terminal two at 0155. After arriving I headed through the first security check and onwards to the Belavia check-in counters. Landside, the terminal was bright, spacious and spotlessly clean despite the many passengers checking in bound for Amsterdam, Batumi, Frankfurt, Kiev and Minsk. With only a few passengers hanging around at the Belavia check in desks I was seen after less than a minute and within a couple of minutes a friendly check in agent tagged my bag and handed me two stylishly designed Belavia boarding passes with the airline’s new logo. As it turned out I had been the number one passenger to check in!

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Next up was immigration and security both of which are reachable via escalators located near the check in desks. Despite having read horror stories of officers wanting extra ‘fees’ and the like, my departure immigration experience was no different from anywhere else in the world aka a tough looking officer, checking my passport without a smile, giving me a good look up and down and stamping my document with some force. Like immigration, security also lacked queues and this was again a stress-free experience and I was through to the departure hall within about ten minutes of arriving in the terminal. Very impressive Astana Airport!
As with the landside area, airside the terminal was busy although it was clean and there was plenty of space to sit down. For those not wanting to spend the duration of their wait sitting, there was also a large duty free shop, a souvenir shop selling mostly items related to the 2017 Astana Expo and a few relatively expensive cafes. Outside a Bek Air Fokker 100 departed and a couple of Air Astana aircraft arrived from domestic destinations. The first sign of life at the international terminal came when KLM’s oldest Airbus A330 touched down after a short flight from Almaty as part of its Amsterdam-Almaty-Astana-Amsterdam route, although the airline cannot sell tickets for the Kazakh domestic leg of this journey. At 0320, a mostly white Boeing 737-800 with a blue tail adorned with a snowflake motif touched down in Astana indicating the arrival of our aircraft.

Considering how boarding for the return flight to Minsk was set to commence at 0345, if the aircraft was going to depart on time this was going to be a very quick turnaround for the aircraft, crew and all staff members. A short time later a Lufthansa A330-300 pulled up next to the KLM A330-200, winning the crown of the largest aircraft in Astana at that time. At 0335 a long queue formed at the sliding doors that led to the jetways of the slightly older (but still modern) terminal 1 where our aircraft had parked. At 0400 there was still no sign of boarding however I decided to join the long queue, after another five minutes of waiting the sliding doors leading to our gate opened and we all piled through. Once through the doors our boarding passes were checked and torn and we made our way down the jetway to the aircraft. As I waited to climb aboard our Boeing 737, it became apparent security in Astana was much tighter than in Beijing with a well-built security guard guarding the door to the apron which had been left wide open in Beijing.

My aircraft for the long-ish hop to Minsk would be Belavia’s newest aircraft, seven and a half month old Boeing 737-800 EW-457PA. This shiny aircraft made its first flight from Renton just after lunch on the 13th of December 2016 and landed at Boeing Field 1H46 later after a test flight that took it to Portland. The aircraft was handed over to Belavia only a week later departing Boeing Field at 1011 for its long flight to Minsk via Keflavik. In the week prior to my flight the aircraft had flown around 34000 miles visiting Antalya, Ashgabat, Astana, Batumi, Burgas, Gomel, Heraklion, Izmir, Milan Bergamo, Milan Malpensa, Moscow Domodedovo, Rome Fiumicino, Thessaloniki, Tivat and Venice.

Upon stepping onto the aircraft I was greeted by the scent of warming economy class airline food, a smell which seems to be identical no matter the dish being served. Without any greeting from the crew I headed into the cabin where I found the first few rows to be separated from the rest of the cabin by a curtain although they were still your standard economy seats (with more legroom). The seats on the flight were modern grey leather/faux-leather seats with an adjustable blue headrest. As with many seats these days, the seat back contained a literature compartment featuring Belavia’s inflight magazine and a safety card and an empty more traditional seat pack pocket. Despite the comfort of the seat itself, the legroom was LCC-standard poor although the level of recline was reasonable until the person in front of you reclined onto your knees. As we boarded the mood lighting was set at a calming cream colour. I’m a big fan of Boeing’s Sky Interior, from a window seat perspective obviously the windows seem much larger, and from an aisle seat perspective it makes the cabin feel more spacious than on a normal narrow body aircraft.

Pretty modern looking
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The colourful cover of Belavia’s On Air magazine, introduced in 2009
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All passengers were onboard by 0420 and despite thinking the cabin would be full, there were several empty seats at the rear of the aircraft. I’d estimate the load to be around 80% with many families and middle-aged flyers. At 0430 a sudden automated American accented robot filled the cabin with the announcement ‘direct access message number one – this is a fasten seatbelt announcement’ and the seatbelt signs were switched on. Beneath us the cargo doors could be felt closing and the captain performed a detailed welcome speak in Belarussian and in English with a typical captain cool-as-a-cumber accent whereby he announced the flight time, distance, weather en route and thanked us for flying Belavia. Having been used to the minimal cockpit announcements in Korea (usually just once as the aircraft reaches cruising altitude) and the total lack of cockpit announcements during my flights in China and Kazakhstan, this flight was a nice change in the fact we were regularly kept updated from the cockpit. The cabin crew then performed their welcome announcement and manual safety demonstration which was no different from on any other airline.

At 0434 we pushed back leaving the Lufthansa A330 behind at the gate, starting our engines in the process. Compared to the Fokker 100 I had flown the previous day, this Boeing was near silent! As we made our bumpy way to the runway the crew removed their luggage from the rear row and I prepared to move to these seats once the seat belt signs were extinguished. At 0445 we taxied straight onto runway 22 without any holding and made a roaring powerful takeoff, as we rotated the lights of Astana came into view, the skies above the city were already slightly lit up as the sun prepared to rise above the steppe. After ten minutes, the dark cabin with the faint blue glow was replaced with bright light and the seat belt signs were switched off waking up all light sleepers. At the time I then attempted to change seats but my request was refused by a cabin crew member who told me a family had already reserved those seats.
Upon reaching cruising altitude the captain made another announcement informing us of our cruising altitude and speed. After around thirty minutes of flying in clear non-turbulent sky, the scent of food got incredibly intense and then the drinks service began. By 0545 Astana time I was handed a Belavia branded box containing plastic cutlery, hard bread and a chocolate chip muffin as well as a loaded main dish consisting of boiled potatoes, meat and egg in a sealed foil tray. Whilst the quantity of food was reasonable, the main dish itself was probably one of the blandest inflight meals I’ve tasted in living memory and was certainly nothing to write home about. After the meal service another drinks round was made and I opted for a boiling hot tea.

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The only sign of the airline’s previous branding
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After the meal the red sun continued to rise and I drifted off to sleep however there seemed to be a near constant queue of passengers next to me wanting to use the lavatories which resulted in me occasionally waking back up. I awoke for good at 0740 Astana time, by then the red sun had already risen and daylight filled the cabin. Our route that morning had taken us northwest from Astana to the Russian border near Kostanay upon entering Russian airspace we flew directly west passing over the neighbouring cities of Samara and Tolyatti, south of Moscow and onto Bryansk before crossing into Belarusian airspace. As we neared Belarus I paid a visit to the facilities and found these to be in a good, clean condition which was impressive considering how it appeared they had been used non-stop throughout the flight.

The relatively clean toilet
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At 0530 Minsk time, five minutes before our scheduled arrival time the aircraft seemed to slow down a little and we experienced the first patch of turbulence during the flight. After this an announcement was made in Belarusian and English informing us of our descent and the queue for the toilet reached record levels. The crew then came around with Belarusian arrival cards although this was not needed for many of the passengers either due to the fact that they were natives of Belarus or the country served no purpose for them that day other than as a stop off point to another destination. After levelling off a little before continuing our descent, the captain performed his own decent announcement informing us of the cool summer weather in Minsk and our new arrival time of 0610, 35 minutes behind schedule. At 0550 the sudden sharp and slightly out of place tone of the automated direct access message played again as we sank further down into Belarus' flat, green rural landscape.

After doing some turns at low altitude to line us up for the approach to runway 33 and at 0603 we gently touched down on the runway with hardly any sort of bump which was followed by some heavy braking. As I looked right I could see a long line of Ilyushin 76s and Antonov 12s, some active belonging to Transaviaexport and Ruby Star Cargo and some likely to never fly again zooming past as we decelerated before Minsk’s grey space-age terminal popped into view. As we slowed down the purser performed a welcome to Belarus speech and as we taxied to the gate the captain did the same. After a short taxi, we pulled up to towering terminal and within minutes both the front and the rear door were opened and disembarkation commenced. Being at the rear of the aircraft, not only was I the first passenger to check in, I was also the first passenger to step onto Belarusian soil after our reasonably long flight from Belarus. Whilst there are a few jetways at the airport, most stands require passengers embark on a short bus journey to reach the arrivals hall as was the case for my flight. As I walked across the apron in the morning sun, the 11 degree temperature came as a bit of a shock having not experienced such lows since Korean spring.

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After a short bus journey I found myself walking under the ‘Welcome to Belarus!’ sign and into the arrival hall. As I was not entering Belarus, nor was I continuing onto Russia I followed the signs for transit passengers which took me up a dark stairwell bringing me out at a boarding pass and passport check. After passing this I headed through a security check and up another dimly lit staircase into the main terminal.

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By this point I was incredibly tired and wasn’t really fancying a six hour wait on some benches. Fortunately, I spotted signs guiding me towards a cluster of sleep boxes located on the top floor near the business lounge. After heading to the lounge and explaining what I wanted with some difficulty, I finally conveyed my message, paid 20 USD and headed towards the cluster of wooden huts just outside the lounge. These were clean, comfortable and nicely heated and I would recommend any traveller in a similar situation in Minsk Airport to head to these huts!

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From the outside, Minsk National Airport looks like a sort of massive concrete spaceship, the type that designers in the 1960s thought their descendants might wizz around the solar system in in the 21st century. Yet, for those living in the present day, the interior of the building cannot be described as futuristic but rather a remanence of Soviet luxury with grey marble floors and walls with curtains on the windows. The only suggestion that we are in the 21st century came from the large flat screen Samsung televisions and an outlet of Burger King.

To get between gates one must weave in and out of duty free, which from a retail point of view is a clever idea. Here one can buy relatively cheap goods and souvenirs from both Belarus and abroad. With no departing flights between 1055 and 1200 the airport was understandably quiet with only small numbers of passengers wandering about.

Unsurprisgly, Belavia dominate the airport with all passenger departures during my stay bar three (operated by Aeroflot, Iraqi Airways and UTair) operated by the nation’s national airline. Looking outside, it soon became clear that Minsk is a potential contender for the 737 Classic capital of Europe with a range of Boeing 737-300s and Boeing 737-500s preparing for their flights. Most of these were in Belavia’s classic livery although one Boeing 737-300 was in the eye-catching World of Tanks livery and a 737-500 was attempting to hide its age in the new Belavia livery. Aside from these jets, more modern Embraers and Boeing 737-800s belonging to Belavia could also be seen. Non Belarusian aircraft included a Motor Sich Antonov 140 and a Lithuanian Let 410 parked away from the terminal. However, without a doubt, the main treasures lay away from the terminal on the far apron, these consisted of a mix of active Ruby Star and Transaviaexport Antonov 12s, Antonov 26s, Ilyushin 76s and a sole Boeing 747-300F. Many other non-active aircraft of the aforementioned Soviet types could also be seen likely to never fly again. Several recently retired Belavia Tupolev 154s could also be seen.

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With little to do and attracted by the restaurant’s good quality wifi I decided to have an early lunch in the airport’s Burger King. As I ate, a long and thin Belavia Embraer 195 was towed towards the terminal, contrasting with short and stubby Boeing 737-500s that surrounded it. By 1100 a Belavia 735 could be seen being prepped on the tarmac, by the powers of deduction this was to be our aircraft. With thirty minutes until boarding I had another wander around the empty terminal before heading to gate four. Here around thirty people or so could already be seen waiting for boarding to commence although one must assume that a reasonable number of passengers were also heading to Odesa on the flight departing from the opposite gate. By 1130 the entire gate area was full with no spare seats indicating that it would likely be a busy flight across to Gatwick that afternoon.

A few minutes before boarding was scheduled to open an announcement for our flight was made and a long line of passengers suddenly formed. After having my boarding pass checked I headed down the dingy grey marble stairs and onto the awaiting bus. After waiting on the bus for a few minutes whilst they tried to squeeze an entire Boeing 737’s worth of passengers onto it we departed for the short journey across the ramp to our Boeing 737-500. Upon disembarking we were greeted with the sight of a short and stubby Boeing 737 in the classic Belavia livery resting beneath the grey skies. My aircraft for the flight would be almost 21 year old Boeing 737-500, EW-290PA which made its first flight from Renton in November 1996. In December that year the aircraft headed down to Brazil to fly with Rio Sul. In 2005 the aircraft headed to much cooler climes to fly with Lithuanian Airlines which months later was rebranded as flyLAL. In March 2006 the aircraft was leased to short lived Swedish low cost airline FlyMe, following the airline’s bankruptcy a year later the aircraft returned to Lithuania. After flying for almost a further two years with Lithuania’s national airline, the aircraft was stored at Shannon for around a month before continuing its life in storage in Miami. After less than four months of storage in Florida the aircraft was flown to Minsk in August 2009, only 120 miles from where the aircraft had been based only months before and began flying with Belavia. In the week prior to my flight the aircraft had flown over 20400 miles over 39 flights connecting Minsk with Amsterdam, Kiev Borispol, Kiev Zhulyany, Moscow Domodedovo, Moscow Zhukovsky, Palanga, Paris CDG, Prague, Sochi and St Petersburg.

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After waiting at the bottom of the aircraft steps whilst the agent tried to limit the number of people on the stairs at any one time, I headed up and straight onto the aircraft. I was greeted in Belarusian as I stepped aboard and immediately turned right and into the cabin. Unlike the previous Boeing 737-800, this aircraft featured a three row business class section with comfortable looking leather seats in a 2-2 configuration. The economy class section consisted of blue fabric covered old style seats complete with an in seat ash tray. These seats showed medium signs of wear and tear however overall the aircraft looked to be in slightly better shape than the SCAT 735 I had taken a few days earlier. However on a negative note, the legroom in this aircraft was poor.

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After I sat down in my window seat, the two seats next to me were soon filled. After a couple of minutes I was asked by one of these passengers if I could move from my lovely window seat with a perfect view (F) the middle seat of the same row but on the opposite side (aka the dreaded B seat). Inside I wasn’t too happy about this but I could hardly refuse their offer and so I happily moved across. At 1205 all passengers were on board and the purser began the usual welcome speech. After this the captain began his quiet welcome speech where he informed us of the route, weather and flying time. As has been the norm on my recent flight, boiled sweets were then handed out. As I looked right, over the window seat passenger who seemed to have no interest in looking out the window, the aircraft I had arrived from Astana on six hours earlier pulled up after a short flight from Moscow.
Looking at Belavia’s first ever Western aircraft from my original seat

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At 1217 our engines fired into life one by one and three minutes later our engines blasted us forward out of our stand. Our taxi took us first past the Iraqi Airways Boeing 738 and company ERJ 175 before we headed out past the line of interesting aircraft. At 1225 are engines roared and shot us down runway 31 before we made a gentle lift off and steep climb up into the skies above Minsk.

At 1250 an announcement was made informing us of the commencement of the meal service. First up was the drinks trolley, I opted for an apple juice. Around ten minutes later the meal service began, this consisted of chicken in some sort of maize with vegetables and a box containing several other items including a feta cheese salad, bread roll with butter and a small bar of dark chocolate. Overall this service was slightly better than on the previous flight although the food was still rather bland. After the remnants of the meal were cleared away the crew came around with UK arrival forms for those without EU passports. As we neared the Netherlands I decided to pay a visit to the rear lavatories, unlike the SCAT 735 with its two toilets in the rear galley, there was only one toilet at the rear of this aircraft placed at the end of the cabin. This toilet seemed to be in a much better condition and far cleaner than the one I had encountered on SCAT a few days earlier.

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At 1237 the city of Arnhem appeared indicating we had entered Dutch airspace and within 20 minutes we had crossed the Netherlands, leaving the port of Rotterdam and Hook van Holland behind as we headed out into the North Sea/English Channel. As we crossed the deep blue sea, the plane gently pitched downwards and a rush of people headed to the rear bathroom. Around ten minutes after leaving the Netherlands we crossed the Kent coast near the seaside town of Margate at an altitude of 14000 feet. From here we flew across the county towards the South coast with Dover Harbour clearly visible, we continued to fly along the long sandy coast until reaching Hastings where we turned north towards Gatwick. At this point the seatbelt signs were switched on and the pre arrival announcement was made informing us we would land in ten minutes and the ground temperature was 18 degrees. After popping through the clouds at Gatwick the green fields of the UK came into view. At 1327 we made a soft touch down followed by some very hard braking. After this the crew performed their usual welcome announcement.

After disembarking the aircraft there was a long walk to passport control, however having a British E-passport I was able to use the automatic gates and was thus through immigration in no time. Upon reaching the carousel my bag could already be seen spinning around and so I picked it up and walked out to arrivals where I met several family members.

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SUMMARY
Whilst there are things I can complain about with Belavia such as the tight legroom or the bland food served onboard, I must remember that I paid relatively little for my ticket. Had I paid a similar amount and made the journey with Ukraine International Airlines I would have not received a complimentary meal. Focusing on the positives, the Boeing 737-800 was in a good condition and appeared to have been cleaned well, whilst their Boeing 737-500 was in a relatively good condition considering the aircraft’s age. On both flights the crew were friendly enough and appeared to have good levels of English. Transiting in Minsk was easy and the ticket check and security were quick to get through, although this may have something to do with the fact that I ended up near the front of the queue.

Anyway, that’s the end of this series of reports! Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

OTHER TRIP REPORTS
Please note, the photos of many reports seem to no longer be working however these photos can be viewed on my blog Forever in Y
Korea Domestic
Asiana Boeing 767 Gimpo-Jeju
Air Busan A320 Busan-Jeju
Jeju Air Boeing 737-800 Busan-Jeju
Jin Air Boeing 777-200ER Jeju-Gimpo
Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Jeju to Busan
Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Gimpo to Jeju
Korean Air Boeing 787-9 Gimpo-Jeju

Short Haul
Bek Air Fokker 100 Almaty-Astana
China Southern Airbus A321 Beijing-Xi’an
Cityjet Avro RJ85 London City-Cork
Far Eastern Air Transport MD-80 Taipei Songshan-Makung
Jeju Air Boeing 737-800 Daegu-Beijing
Joy Air Xian MA60 Yantai-Dalian-Yantai
Lucky Air Airbus A320 Lijiang-Kunming
Southern Sky Airlines Antonov 24RV Almaty-Balkhash-Astana
Thai Airways Boeing 777-300 Bangkok-Phuket
Tibet Airlines Airbus A320 Kunming-Lijiang
Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 Kiev-Istanbul
V Air Airbus A320 Taipei-Busan

Medium Haul
Air India Boeing 787-8 Incheon-Hong Kong
China Eastern Boeing 737-800 Incheon-Kunming
China Southern Boeing 777-200 Urumqi-Beijing
Korean Air Boeing 737-800 Incheon-Kunming
SCAT Boeing 737-500 Xi’an-Almaty
Vietjet Airbus A320 Ho Chi Minh City-Taipei

Long Haul
China Southern Airbus A330-200 Istanbul-Urumqi
KLM Cityhopper/KLM Fokker 70 and 747 Combi Humberside-Amsterdam-Seoul Incheon
Korean Air A380 Seoul Incheon-Paris CDG
Oman Air Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 787-8 Heathrow-Muscat-Bangkok
Thai Airways Bangkok-Karachi-Muscat
Vietnam Airlines Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-9 Heathow-Hanoi-Seoul Incheon
Somewhere between Korea and the UK.
 
igtrader88
Posts: 49
Joined: Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:52 am

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:36 am

Hi there, was waiting for the conclusion to your TR's! Thank you. Having flown Belavia in Jan from Zhukovsky to Minsk I must say that they are doing very well considering their fleet size and being generally a young airline. Hope you have a chance to sample them again perhaps from Manchester to Minsk!
 
brucetiki
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2017 4:36 am

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Mon Feb 26, 2018 11:29 pm

What a great adventure. That, along with the rest of your reports for this trip, was a wonderful read.
 
TWA902fly
Posts: 2950
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 1999 5:47 am

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:31 am

Great trip report, I've been curious about Belavia and their apparent transformation into a more modern airline recently.

One note: Astana is actually basically midway between Seoul and London.

TSE-ICN nonstop is 2812 miles
TSE-LGW nonstop is 2991 miles

'902
life wasn't worth the balance, or the crumpled paper it was written on
 
mdavies06
Posts: 473
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:28 pm

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:47 pm

Thanks for the report. It is an interesting read, this and the previous TRs on the same trip.
 
345tas
Posts: 160
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:05 pm

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:18 pm

Thanks for this series! Several under-reported destinations and airlines.

Why did feel like you had to change seats though? I usually do but always regret it so have vowed to be more assertive from now on.
 
SQueeze
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Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:39 am

Thanks for the coverage for the little known airline.

The legroom looks brutally minimum. Do they sell emergency and first row seats for extra fees?
The food looks very Soviet although the packaging is really nice. Mẩy be they could be better off selling nicer food for a fee rather than giving half hearted quality.

It must be a Long terrible day for you to fly almost 6000 miles in that.
Reminds me of how I almost booked myself on the 6 hours UIa flight from Dubai to Kiev but upon reading more details about their fleet, and tight legroom, made me lay that idea off
 
FlyingColours
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Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:29 am

A very detailed and gripping report, thanks for sharing.

Phil
FlyingColours
Lifes a train racing towards you, now you can either run away or grab a chair & a beer and watch it come - Phil
 
c152sy
Topic Author
Posts: 129
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 12:26 pm

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:12 am

igtrader88 wrote:
Hi there, was waiting for the conclusion to your TR's! Thank you. Having flown Belavia in Jan from Zhukovsky to Minsk I must say that they are doing very well considering their fleet size and being generally a young airline. Hope you have a chance to sample them again perhaps from Manchester to Minsk!


Thank you for reading and yes, I hope so too. I believe the route to Manchester will be operated by one of their Embraers this summer which is a shame as I'm trying to catch as many rides on 737 Classics as I can these days!

brucetiki wrote:
What a great adventure. That, along with the rest of your reports for this trip, was a wonderful read.


Thank you very much! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the reports.

TWA902fly wrote:
Great trip report, I've been curious about Belavia and their apparent transformation into a more modern airline recently.

One note: Astana is actually basically midway between Seoul and London.

TSE-ICN nonstop is 2812 miles
TSE-LGW nonstop is 2991 miles

'902


Thank you very much! And yes, that seems much more accurate, I must have slipped up with GC Mapper haha!

mdavies06 wrote:
Thanks for the report. It is an interesting read, this and the previous TRs on the same trip.


Thank you very much for reading!
345tas wrote:
Thanks for this series! Several under-reported destinations and airlines.

Why did feel like you had to change seats though? I usually do but always regret it so have vowed to be more assertive from now on.


Thank you very much for reading the reports! And I guess I didn't want to make things awkward for the three hour flight, although looking back I certainly regret moving seats.

SQueeze wrote:
Thanks for the coverage for the little known airline.

The legroom looks brutally minimum. Do they sell emergency and first row seats for extra fees?
The food looks very Soviet although the packaging is really nice. Mẩy be they could be better off selling nicer food for a fee rather than giving half hearted quality.

It must be a Long terrible day for you to fly almost 6000 miles in that.
Reminds me of how I almost booked myself on the 6 hours UIa flight from Dubai to Kiev but upon reading more details about their fleet, and tight legroom, made me lay that idea off


Thank you very much for reading! I'm fairly certain they don't sell the emergency exit seats for an extra fee however I have a feeling that on the traditional business style lacking 738s the front rows are used as a typical Euro-style business class i.e. a blocked middle seat. Having flown with UIA I think you made the right decision haha!
Somewhere between Korea and the UK.
 
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Alphazone
Posts: 183
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Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Wed Mar 28, 2018 3:08 am

Great report. I was considering Belavia 737-classic for WAW-LED but your report makes me think twice. If it was 20 years ago and a Russian-manufactured aircraft I would go for it.
No conclusion can be offered, for the history recounted above is still unfolding.
 
c152sy
Topic Author
Posts: 129
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 12:26 pm

Re: Narrowbodies from Korea to the UK, P.5, Astana-Minsk-Gatwick, Belavia Boeing 737-800/Boeing 737-500

Tue Apr 10, 2018 12:26 pm

Alphazone wrote:
Great report. I was considering Belavia 737-classic for WAW-LED but your report makes me think twice. If it was 20 years ago and a Russian-manufactured aircraft I would go for it.


Thank you very much for reading! If you are eager to catch rides on 737 Classics then perhaps I'd recommend it, otherwise perhaps not - fares this year in particular seem to be particularly high and if you're planning on making the journey for reasons other than flying on Belavia then I'd imagine you'd be able to make the journey cheaper with other airlines.
Somewhere between Korea and the UK.

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