Trip Reports & Reviews

Ukraine International Airlines Review: UKRAINE’S NATIONAL AIRLINE!

Noel

Noel Philips

Here’s my review of Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), Ukraine’s national airline on a domestic flight to Kyiv from Zaphorizhia onboard an Embraer 145.

Zaphorizia airport is about 20 minutes away from the city – and it can be quite difficult to get there. Taxis are cheap but often in a poor condition, and Uber only works if you’re starting in the city centre.

There’s two terminals at Zaphorizia airport, and they both consist of a tiny departure hall with only one check in desk.

Security in Ukraine is usually pretty quick and simple. No need to take out your liquids or electronics in Ukraine’s smaller airports.

Once through security there isn’t much either, just a small cafeteria and a TV playing Ukrainian soap operas.

Outside on the apron were our aircraft, am Embraer 145, and an MD80 that had just arrived after a charter flight from Sharm el Sheikh, operating a flight for Bukovyna Airlines.

Our aircraft today is operated by Windrose Airlines on behalf of UIA. Windrose operate many of UIA’s domestic routes, on a fleet of Embraer 145s. This one was delivered originally to British Airways CitiExpress in 2001, and operated for BA until 2007 when it went to Flybe. In 2008 it was bought by Ukrainian airline Dniproavia, and it entered Windrose’s fleet in 2017.

Windrose’s Embraers have the standard Embraer seating arrangement, with two seats on one side and one on the other. There’s a few rows of business class at the front in the same configuration.

Today I was seated in the second from last row. These rows are a great place to site on the Embraer as they give a good view of both the engine and the wing – but it does take a while to get through the cabin to the back.

Pretty soon everyone was on board and the doors closed for our short flight up to Kyiv.

Taxying at Ukrainian airports is always interesting, as there’s invariably a huge variety of Soviet aircraft parked up.

Believe it or not, these aircraft are still in use and operated by Motor Sich, Ukraine’s second domestic airline.

Our flight today took us Northwest from Zaphorizia, following the course of the Dniepr river to Kyiv. Flight time today was 57 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 24,000ft.

Windrose’s safety cards are very colourful. They operate a lot of holiday charter routes, and that influence is clear in the safety cards.

There isn’t a food service included on UIA’s domestic flights, but you can purchase a range of snacks in advance on UIA’s website. I’d pre ordered a cheese and tomato panini for a cost of 110 Hryvnia, or around £3.50.

To be honest it probably wasn’t worthwhile, it didn’t taste that great and I’d have probably got better value for money getting something at Borispil airport.

There’s complimentary tea, coffee and water served onboard too.

UIA are known in Ukrainian as Mizhnarodni Avialinii Ukrainii, or MAU, in Ukrainian.

There was an interesting piece about UIA’s Boeing 777s in their magazine, that are used on their long haul routes.

Their fleet also includes the older Boeing 767, and a lot of 737s used on the European and Central Asian routes.

Their route network extends from New York in the west to China in the east. Domestically, the Ukrainian conflict in the east of the country has resulted in two former destinations, Luhansk and Donetsk airports, being destroyed, and subsequently removed from the route network.

On international flights, and domestic flights operated by UIA,there’s a decent selection of buy on board meals available, albeit pretty expensive.

After our short flight, the seatbelt sign came on and we commenced our descent down into Kyiv’s Borispil airport.

As we landed, we were followed in by a BA A320 arriving from Heathrow.

My flight today cost me £47, or 57 USD. This works out at a cost of 17 pence per mile for the 264 mile journey. Even though it’s only 260 miles, the train from Zaphorizia to Kyiv takes over 10 hours, and driving takes almost 8 hours so the plane really is the only way to go.

Motor Sich also operate this route, but into Zhuliany Airport, with a combination of Antonovs and Yaks, for a very similar price.

As we taxied in, a few people got up to empty the overhead lockers, which went completely ignored by the flight attendant.

UIA’s domestic service is pretty decent. It’s not as fun as riding Motor Sich for sure, you don’t get food included, it’s more expensive, and you do end up miles from Kyiv when you fly into Borispil – but you get a decent service, and a good choice of onward connections from Borispil. More crucially for me, the flight time meant I didn’t need to get up crazy early for the morning Antonov flight – and I got a few hours in Zaphorizia before my flight.

So more importantly – you’ve seen Motor Sich before, and now you’ve seen the competition – which one would you choose, the Antonov 24 with Motor Sich or the Embraer 145 with UIA? Let me know down in the comments.