Ukraine International 777 Business Class In 10 Pictures

Filed Under: Travel, Ukraine

Hello from Kiev! I just flew Ukraine International Airlines on their brand new (used) 777-200 on the 8hr15min flight from New York, and wanted to share my initial thoughts on the experience.

As some of you may remember, I flew UIA’s 767 business class a couple of years ago from Kiev to New York, and it was awful — the seats were bad, there were no power ports, there were no personal televisions, etc.

UIA has just taken delivery of their first Boeing 777 (the plane used to fly for Asiana, but was reconfigured), so I wanted to see how the experience on the new plane compared. Keep in mind that UIA consistently has great business class fares (I booked a sub-$1,000 one-way business class fare from New York to Brussels via Kiev). On the 767 I thought it wasn’t worth it even at that price, so does my verdict change with the new cabin? Yes, very much so.

UIA’s new 777 business class cabin consists of a total of 21 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. It’s not ideal that they have a center seat in each row, but this is such a massive improvement over their old product that I really can’t complain. Most importantly they have (mostly) flat beds, which they didn’t have on the 767.

I’m happy that UIA not only upgraded the seats themselves, but also some of the amenities. Specifically, the bedding was excellent — there was a thick pillow, a mattress sheet, and two blankets. I’m impressed that they introduced these improved amenities so quickly after introducing the plane.

The amenity kit was the same as before, however.

The plane features built-in entertainment at each seat. The movie selection wasn’t great, but was better than the previous option (nothing). There were a total of 100 movies, though there were some very random titles among them — only a dozen movies were in their “new releases” category.

UIA advertises that their 777s have wifi, but the flight attendant told me that it’s not turned on yet, and that they hope to have a contract by July. Each seat had a 110v and USB power outlet, which is a huge improvement over the 767, which didn’t even have functioning power.

This flight departs out of JFK very late at night — it’s scheduled to depart at 12:30AM, and we took off about an hour later (which was infuriating, because best I could tell the plane had sat on the ground for many hours, and it’s just that they had the most inefficient boarding process imaginable). Given the late departure, I was thrilled by the pace of the meal service, as the meal was done just over an hour after takeoff, despite a full cabin.

Service began with some sort of a nut mix as well as drinks and packaged towels.

For the appetizer there was the choice between tomatoes and mozzarella amd smoked fish with salad (that’s how it was described — there were no menus, which is something they need to change). I selected the former, and that was served with a side salad. It was excellent.

For the main course the choice was between rice with chicken, beef with potatoes, and cheese ravioli. I chose the rice with chicken, which ended up being a good curry dish — it’s not what I was expecting on UIA, though!

For dessert the option was between a fruit plate and a fruit tart, and I selected the latter.

I found the meal before landing a bit odd as they couldn’t seem to decide whether it was breakfast or lunch — the choice was between an omelet and pasta, and the accompaniments were a beef starter and dessert. More on that with the actual trip report.

I got some solid sleep on this flight. These seats don’t have much privacy, as you can just lift the armrest between seats. I’d also note that the seatback isn’t quite flat. While the legrest and ottoman make a fully flat surface for your seat, I’d say the seatback was angled a few degrees. As someone who is extremely sensitive to angles, I didn’t find this to be an issue at all, and it’s actually how I’d choose to have my seat anyway.

One other thing that really impressed me was the crew. The entire crew consisted of young and stunningly beautiful ladies (not that they should be hired based on that, I’m just pointing out that it really stood out to me), and they couldn’t have been more professional.

The cabin was full, and most of the business class passengers were total jerks. I’m not sure what it is about UIA, but I’ve never seen so many people boss around flight attendants in such a rude manner. The flight attendants handled it in stride and provided great service despite that.

Is UIA’s new 777 business class industry leading? No. Is UIA’s business class perhaps the single biggest improvement we’ve seen in a business class product in many years? Yes, I think so.

Would I now recommend flying UIA on a cheap paid business class fare? Of course I’d first try to redeem miles for a great airline, but I think flying UIA on a cheap business class fare is now an excellent option, as this is a perfectly comfortable way to cross the Atlantic.

Well done, UIA!

Comments
  1. Wow. Saw the Point Me To The Plane first impressions post of Ukraine’s 777 and it’s nice to see two glowing first impressions reviews of UIA business class in a row. Love the privacy partition (of sorts) and bedding could rival the ME3. Looks like the airline did a turnaround faster than a Southwest 737.

  2. I knew it was bound to happen at some point! 11 photos on a 10 picture post!! 😀

  3. Lucky, I love your enthusiasm for trying new things! I’m a bit of an airline snob (well, for One World – loyalty benefits are now too important!) so it’s great to read your blog and get so many insights into things I may never experience. And it’s not all snobbery either – a lot of my reasons and choices are safety ones and knowing your past fears, I’m very impressed with how far you’ve come. Well done and thanks!

  4. Those seats appear to be basically the same seats that TK has on their 777. If so, they technically have a 177 degree incline, and while not in the same class as some of the newer seats out there, are pretty good, especially for a flight that isn’t that long anyway.

  5. @Lucky. I was planning to fly from Italy back to JFK on this flight (via Kiev of course), and was excited what I had read about the plane even before you flew on it. I am very much looking forward to experiencing this myself.
    It is excellent however that the FAs were so great and professional. I noticed the same thing on our Aeroflot flights as well (horribly demanding passengers, FAs being wonderful).

  6. Lucky you already know why the people are jerks it’s people buying bargain basement business class fares on the cheapest carrier possible to Europe and expecting the world when they don’t have the true money to fly business consistently.

  7. Wow, those raised armrest “privacy partitions” look like they’d be mighty painful to elbows, arms, and hands if one doesn’t turn very carefully while in bed mode.

    \

  8. First impression is of the seat is good, beddings look great, amenity kit is dreadful, the food pics looks more PE catering as its best.
    Well, it is known people from former CIS states tend to be rude and bossy to FAs when flying SU, PS,HY, KC..but Chinese do itt to!

  9. @Myles

    actually I found most of the Chinese really easy J passengers. Due to the language barrier, a lot of Chinese pax flying J, including my mom, did not even dare to order food, and simply nodded yes/pointed to things when they are asked or is in desperate need of something. The Chinese guy on the 15 hour DOH-GRU flight next to me told me he slept the first 10 hours so he could avoid talking to FA about meals lol. (I later helped him translate so he could get his meal on demand since he was starving)

  10. I travel to Kiev and Odessa all the time. I have taken UIA, usually when the travel gods are displeased by my lack of a sacrificial goat. I try to avoid them like the plague. However, I do like their biz class much better than before. And you are spot on with your review. Of course, Ukrainian ladies are stunning. However, they work at it. As far as everyone in biz class being jerks? Welcome to Ukraine. The stewardesses are trained in Western standards of behaviour and expectations. The rest of them act like typical Ukrainians. I have traveled in coach on UIA, and the attitude is the same. It is just how they are.

  11. @ beyounged

    Your assumption might be correct regarding foreign carriers when served by foreign FAs who do not speak chinese..
    I am referring to my flights with chinese carriers where 90% of the premium pax behave as if they own the FAs! They talked them rudely as if they are their paid personal butlers. Yes, probably these 1% of the chinese elites who have money and power that they do not really care what others think of them.
    It is not only a nice gestures but also an ice breaker when gweilos or laowais like us know a bit mandarin to help overcome the language barrier.. The FAs tend to become more nicer and appreciative of your efforts and actually it becomes a better flight.

  12. Looks like a typical practice for UIA to serve meal with lights off.

    @Alvin don’t get too excited, they aren’t getting rid of 767’s anytime soon. They plan on using them to expand to Shanghai, Toronto and a few other cities. Curious to see if it actually happens (and when) since the 777s were introducted already a few months past their original schedule.

  13. Re: Jerks in Business class.
    Lucky, since you have obviously already visited Kyiv, you may have noticed $100K Porsches and Mercedeses parked on sidewalks (even though there could be $1/hr parking garage 500m down the road) .
    Those are the guys.

  14. The trip is worth it .. just to see those stunning young UIA Ukrainian blond FAs.. Since UKR joined the EU, money has flowed to make many UKRs rich.. Still… KIEV ,LVIV are nice , old fashion cities

    UIA Service rivals the Cathay upper deck service on the old 747s

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