Belavia Belarusian Airlines: Nice, Even In Economy

Generally flying within Europe isn’t the most pleasant experience in the world. Airlines like British Airways now charge for all food and drinks in shorthaul economy, and they’re also squeezing more seats onto planes.

What I find interesting is the increasing difference in terms of quality between the global European network carriers (British Airways, Lufthansa, etc.), and some of the smaller airlines in Europe when it comes to their shorthaul service.

After flying Air Italy from New York to Milan yesterday, I connected from Milan to Minsk on Belavia, the Belarusian national airline. The flight was operated by an Embraer 190, and was enjoyable. It’s sort of sad how good service is on airlines like Belavia in comparison to other major carriers.

The first interesting thing is that Belavia has a real business class product on their EMB190s. Most European airlines just offer blocked seats and better food and drinks and call it business class, while this plane had four rows of business class in a 1-2 configuration.

The EMB190 is generally a joy to fly, given the 2-2 configuration in economy. The legroom on Belavia was good, which I often find to be the case on smaller national airlines, as they don’t constantly try to squeeze more and more seats onto the same planes.

Each passenger was offered a candy before takeoff.

After takeoff, all food and drinks were complimentary, and there was even a hot meal.

The meal included tomatoes, a bread roll, dessert, and a hot dish.

The choices were either “chicken or beef,” as they were described. I didn’t end up eating (I wasn’t that hungry and can’t say the food looked that appealing), but other passengers seemed to enjoy the meal.

The crew was friendly, attentive, and efficient.

There were a couple of odd things about the flight, though, like the Ukraine International Airlines trolleys…

And the 737-500 safety cards at some seats…

But overall flying with Belavia was so much more pleasant than what I’m used to within Europe.

I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again.

Comments

  1. The problem with most western food (read white food) is its unappetizing and uninteresting.

    When a culture spent most of its energy thinking about war other aspects of life suffer. Not sure how the French managed to do both.

  2. @ Debit

    I can reassure you the French does and did not always managed to do both well.

    At least now they are not in a war attitude.

  3. Flew Belavia from MSQ-RIX earlier this year on a CRJ-200 that felt like it was about to fall out of the sky. We got the same candy before takeoff, but the crew, impressively, were able to do a full drink service on the short 264 mile, <1 hour flight. Their new E-175/195s are a massive upgrade.

    Belarus is definitely one of the more interesting countries to visit. Have fun!

  4. So glad that you chose to go to Minsk, and thrilled that you loved Belavia! I’ve always found their service excellent, and yes, they feed you even on the really short flights – like a lot of other Eastern European airlines (as well as Turkish). The food in the first photo looks like buckwheat – a type of grain, it’s kind of a staple of Russian/Soviet food, but my American fiance hates it.

    Can’t wait for you to write about Minsk!

  5. Felt something similar when flying Aegean. A candy upon boarding, hot (albeit not appetizing) meal, nice designed uniforms.

  6. @Bob

    Italian food as well. Greek and Spanish as well. And Portuguese.

    Heck, even northern and eastern Europe have their fair share of pretty tasty cuisine.

  7. I’d wager the key difference is that carriers like BA, AF/KLM, and Lufthansa are publicly traded – bottom line is everything, cutting meals and cramming in more seats = revenue. Belavia is state-owned.

  8. Not altogether a new phenomene. When NG was flying 50 seat CRJs the food and service were out of this world and one of the best airline dinners I have heard was a VIE BHX flt on a CRJ catered by DO & CO.
    Lets leave the weenie joke out of this.

  9. Errrmmm priorities….an embraer jet with a 737 safety card? I wouldn’t go near that airline. Free hot meal or not.

    I’d rather fly an airline that nickels and dimes for everything but can get the correct aircraft type safety card into the seat pocket. If they allow important safety details like that to be overlooked, what else is being neglected also?

  10. I am flying from London to Minsk with Belavia shortly, on the Embraer 195, in business class. Do you know if the 195 is similarly configured ?

  11. Isn’t it illegal or contravening IATA/ICAO rules to operate without a (correct) safety card for each seat, just as it is to fly over water without a life vest for each passenger?

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