Dear everyone. I enjoy reading your trip reports, but I mostly don't write any, as my written English has some mistakes (maybe too many) and I'm never inspired to write about anything. I don't fly business or first class, and I'm always in sort of a hurry to leave the airplane and airfield as soon as I can.
Sure i've done some interesting flights, like the Tu134 or Tu154, and they have been properly reported.
But what about a report about my absolute worse flight so far?
So this adventure started about four months ago when my dad announced he had planned to spend his holidays in Southern France and NW Italy, beautiful places I hadn't visited for a very long time.
So, I had a lot to plan in order to get there having very fixed work commitments.
As my father was flying to Barcelona, the best option was flying there and being the driver of the car, from Barcelona to Santa Margherita Ligure (in the Genova Province) where we had rented a villa. The option, amazingly, was Air Moldova, with a 4 hour connection in Chisinau, a city I hadn't visited before. So I did a tour there (a tour on my own, tour operators don't work at midnight).
I landed in BCN just two hours after my father, who had find his way to the Old Terminal 2C of BCN to pick me up.
Then we went to the car rental company, and were scammed as the booking we had done (and paid) didn't include the insurance to leave Spain. It was stupid it couldn't be bought. So we had to rent a new car. Goodbye C-Class Mercedes, hello C3 Citroën, the cheapest available, for over 500EUR 10 days.
We drove (I drove) to Italy with no pain (besides paying absurd tolls in Spain and France), and we spend a lovely week in the Liguria region of Italy. Day 2 at 5am, I picked up my sister, who came by train from Sicily. It was the first time in years we spent so much time together. Unfortunately my mother is no longer between us, but it was present the girlfriend of my father, a lovely lady.
After Italy, we went to Monaco and Nice and spent some days there before the Citroën drove us to Arles, the van Gogh village, where weather was awful.
On Wednesday 10th, 09:30am, we drove the last 70km or so to Montpellier and drop my sister in the train station (she would continue to Barcelona to fly back to EZE), and later they dropped me in Montpellier Méditerranée Airport, also known as Fréjorgues.
It is a very small provincial airport, that features a relatively new terminal, but very small. I arrived there 2h30 minutes in advance, a record for me (i tend to arrive the latest possible). It was only 11:15, for a 13:40 departure
The Wifi of the airport was erratic, and my mobile phone didn't work any more. It seems the Orange Europe fare didn't include Monaco and I had overused my data there. So I couldn't do the OLCI.
Check in was messy. Counter 5 was only Business class, 6 and 7 was Economy. Load was 0% J, 100% Y.
I got to the line at 11:18, and by 12:20 the line had moved maybe 5 meters, still ten to go. Problem was Ural has a hand luggage policy of 5kg and people is used to 8 or 10kg of other airlines. So most had overweight and had either to pay more, or throw some things. There was a girl wearing a LOT of clothes (including 3 skirts) in order not to pay anything. Also, in counter 8-10, was the Check In of Easy Jet, pretty empty, so people used their scales, besides employees telling, or begging please not to use them. I saw a girl throwing away expensive jeans, a Mooleskine notebook and a hard cover book because she had 7kg of hand luggage. People was insane. And, until they paid or they had the things thrown, the check in didn't move.
At 12:40, one hour before take off, the girl in counter 7 left and there was only one counter left for over 50 passengers. We were asked to proceed to the Business Class Check in. I had paid extra for luggage. The ticket costed 11400rub (2000rub were luggage). It was close to 200U$S one way ticket!
My bag was only 12kg, and I knew it wouldn't be more, but my things didn't fit in just 5kg. Nothing fits in 5kg. Just the wiring of computer, tablet and phone is close to 5kg. And then you eventually need clothes (no nudist beaches for me please). And medicines (or a toothbrush), and things you tend to buy like salami from Italy, cheese from France and amazing pesto from Genoa. So 12kg was fine.
When at the check in, business class counter, employee spoke some vague English, no Russian, and pure southern French. My French was good enough. I asked for a window seat (no OLCI, remember). But also no window seat. I asked in the front of the plane. No front of the plane. I asked an aisle. No aisle. Well, I told him: why don't you choose. He gave me lovely 18E.
So, it was already 13:15, 25 mins to clear security, customs, migrations, in a very small provincial airport. Seems too easy. I went out for a smoke, and then another. My beloved airportsmokers.com said there were no smoking facilities in MPL, but it was certainly wrong. There was an amazing smoker lounge.
Security took less than a second, it was fast and effective. No shoes, no computers, nothing needs to be removed. There was no one else there. People was still stuck at the very slow check in. I doubt Ural Airlines has its own staff in MPL, an airport with three weekly flights, only in Summer, to Moscow. Boarding passes didn't say Ural, but just a white thing with the Ural logo printed.
So, finding the gate is a bit weird. It says: gates 01 to 32 upstairs. Sure. Then it says gates 01 to 08 turn left. 9, 11, 12, and 15 in the center, and then again 9-32 to the right. So my gate was gate 12, which also stated Gate 22. That was very weird. In front of gate 27 there is this new terrace where smoking is allowed. It was too hot there, so I spent maybe 1 minute.
There was a very fast migration control. I went to an available officer, which stamped my passport and dropped me out of the EU. Now a new stamps reads Montpellier-Méditerranée. Got to the gate (it was the only there). There are no duty free facilities, no shops, no cafes, no nothing. Just one toilet, very small, which the place for washing hands is shared between men and women.
At 13:45 (5 minutes after departure) a very long queue was in front of Gate 12. Our plane, a 15 years old old A320 (VQ-BCI, built for Vueling as EC-JNT that also flew for S7 since 2009 and that has been in Ural since 2017) was waiting at the gate. Hot as hell. Out of the blue, the screen stating Moscou Domodedovo stated: Delayed 1h. No explanation was given. People left the queue. I got a seat with a plug. Sat there to watch some series.
The hour passed very fast. Nowhere to go, no going back for a smoke, no restaurant, nothing, and I was hungry. I don't have access to the lounge either. I doubt there is one.
14:25 we were called to board. No groups, no segments, no nothing. It was like people rushing for free coins. Pandemonium was small. Plus, their hand luggages had gotten pregnant and had children during the time waiting and now most people had 2 or 3 pieces and no one said a thing.
I boarded among the last, and got to my seat which was occupied by a French lady that asked me if I could seat in 18D that her husband was in 18F. No problem for me. We spoke a few minutes. Soon, at 14:40, we started taxing to active 30R, and took off with 63 minutes of delay. Captain didn't explain why we were late, and he spoke bad English and Russian, no French. Also cabin attendants didn't spoke any French and they were many French tourists.
After some 15 minutes, captain announced we were over Lyon, and we would fly over Germany, Poland, Belarus before entering to Western Russia. Moscow is sunny, temperature is +13°C/55F (my favorite temperature! - that's Moscow Summer).
After about 1h I got seriously hungry and enquired to a flight attendant that there was no turbulence warning, what was holding lunch so badly. She said: there is no lunch on board. I say: well, whatever, snack, dinner, breakfast, bring us something. No, there is nothing, besides the food of the captain and ours.
I asked her for the last time, in very clear Russian, please, sell me yours. I'm desperately hungry. No buy on board? no bad overpriced duty free chocolates? NOTHING? She said: I can bring you a glass of water. I told her, again in very formal Russian: in my country we DRINK water, we don't EAT water. I flew this company 6 months ago, in a domestic 1h30 flight, and I got a proper sandwich. Now there is nothing? She said: you should have eaten in the airport, there is a restaurant there I believe. I say: you are wrong, no restaurant, and because of the delay, I stayed one hour in the gate, without restaurant or shops or nothing. I'm starving. I might well be over 130kg (286lbs) but I'll starve soon. I'll do like in the film Alive! and start eating the other passengers.
She had a cynical laugh and went to her work station to eat her full lunch, while I was left there on my desperation. I slept the rest of the flight and woke up some 10 minutes before landing. Seat was pretty confortable. I believe being such a bad airline, they'll soon add more seats until the plane is unbearably uncomfortable. As far as I've read, it has 150 seats in Y and 12 seats in J. That means, 3 rows of Business Class and 25 rows of economy. Not the worse I've seen.
There was a male flight attendant who kept returning with more and more almost empty glasses of hot water. The rest of the crew was having a banquet, as I'd do in an All You Can Eat restaurant in Las Vegas (I dream of going there one day).
Eventually, at 19:30 LT (18:30 French time), with 50 minutes of delay we landed in RWY 32R of Moscow Domodedovo Airport. Taxing wasn't long. I couldn't see a thing, as of where we were.
So, 19:30 landed. 19:33 stopped. We stand up. A very weird sound I have heard many times started repeating and repeating and repeating. It is like a screw moving something. I thought it were the flaps retracting or something. But now, I've realized it has to do with the mechanism of the doors, maybe. The sound never stopped, and it got sort of jammed. Crew tried to move around the plane but it was too crowded of people with too much hand luggage.
After over 20 minutes, on the speaker phone, the captain say: please, everyone just use the back door. The front door isn't opening. It was funny. I was pretty close of that door, so went there in no time. But the door was also locked. And there were no stairs or nothing. It took some 10 more minutes to open, and get on a bus to drive only 10 meters to the terminal. 150 passengers fit in just one bus (that's what Ural thinks) so we couldn't even breath inside the bus. And the plane was in front of the terminal, on a jet bridge.
We got to the main terminal of Domodedovo and migration was awfully crowded. I was told by the police to go upstairs. Domodedovo has only one place of migrations which is massive, and upstairs is only for Russian or Belorussian passport holders, while downstairs is for foreigners. But in non-busy hours, upstairs is closed, so you only have downstairs. This time was excessively slow. And at 20:30 one shift left and another entered. So till they had everything they need on place, the computers, scanners and everything, it took more and more time.
Eventually, at 20:36 I had my passport stamped, my new migration card, and my bags were already in the carrousel n°3, with others from an EK 77W that had just landed from DXB. Customs didn't stopped me.
Got out, the bus 308 going to Moscow was full, the following one was empty. So the bus leaves when all 30 seats had been sold. 20 minutes later, we left. Driver was a very cautious and slow driver. Seriously slow. Bikes went faster than us. Got to Domodedovskaya metro station at 21:30, Kashirskaya metro station 10 minutes later, bus 908 to Profsoyuznaya metro station 20 minutes later (I had a snack outside Kashirskaya) and bus 153 to my house 20 minutes later. Got home at 22:10, having landed at 19:30. I hated my life. Sure, from Domodedovo to my house is not an easy ride (3 buses and one metro) but is only 1h10 - 50km are 1h also by taxi).
But I hated this trip particularly because Ural Airlines, which was a decent airline just one year ago, now is among the worse low cost carriers I've seen. But they charged me 200U$S for a o/w flight, whereas Air Moldova (also an obscure airline) charged me a third of it for a longer flight (DME-KIV-BCN), and gave me 23kg of luggage free of charge, also 10kg of hand luggage, and great food (cold but good) in both segments, including a 11pm and 5am departures.
Why don't we all boicot this new low cost airlines? I wrote most of what is written in this report in the email they sent me about how good was my flight.... I hope someone will read and realize: sure, to cut a few dollars, we've done each of our passengers flight a very forgettable and painful experience. Shouldn't we return to the business model that had been used the previous 100 years that worked just fine, with food on board, with luggage included in the regular fare, with a nicer crew, with better seats....
Sure, for those miles addicted, I got 0 miles of this flight. The previous flight logged (the U6 flight to KGD a friend bought the tickets, never added the mileage number) was to IKT, 6h flight, got only 4 miles. I get 100 miles on each birthday as a birthday present, but I'm also deducted 100 miles of the expired miles from the previous year.
So Ural ranks so far as the worse airline in my life. Sure I haven't flown Air Koryo, but I doubt it can be worse...
Seriously unsatisfied, but very happy to be back home.
Best wishes from Moscow,