UIA Will Fly 737s To New York (12+ Hours): World’s Worst Flight?

Filed Under: Ukraine

Airlines are slowly adding back capacity in some markets they served before the pandemic. In some cases we’re seeing airlines restart service with fewer frequencies and smaller planes, which is logical.

Well, I think the way Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) is restarting service to the US is pretty noteworthy, as the airline is taking the above concept to the extreme.

UIA will fly 737s to the United States

After a hiatus of several months, UIA will be relaunching service to New York JFK, its only destination in the US. Specifically, the service will resume twice weekly (on Sundays and Wednesdays) as of December 9, 2020.

What makes this noteworthy is that UIA will be using a Boeing 737 for the route, and as a result the flight will refuel in Iceland in both directions. The journey will operate with the following schedule:

PS231 Kyiv to Keflavik departing 10:00AM arriving 1:15PM
PS231 Keflavik to New York departing 2:15PM arriving 3:35PM

PS232 New York to Keflavik departing 10:10PM arriving 8:40AM (+1 day)
PS232 Keflavik to Kyiv departing 9:40AM arriving 4:30PM

Ukraine’s new routing between Kyiv and New York

With this routing:

  • The plane is scheduled to be on the ground for an hour in each direction in Keflavik
  • The westbound flight is blocked at 12hr35min (5hr15min from Kyiv to Keflavik and 6hr20min from Keflavik to New York), and the eastbound flight is blocked at 11hr20min (5hr30min from New York to Keflavik and 4hr50min from Keflavik to Kyiv)
  • At least Keflavik is more or less on the way for this journey, and it only adds around 40 miles over the direct distance (4,693 miles vs. 4,732 miles)

This is quite a product downgrade

Back in the day UIA flew a Boeing 767-300 between Kyiv and New York, which used to be its flagship aircraft.

Ukraine’s 767 business class

However, in 2018 UIA acquired some 777-200s, which the airline then started using between Kyiv and New York.

Ukraine’s 777 business class

Now the airline will be flying 737s all the way to New York, where business class simply consists of standard economy seats with blocked middles.

Ukraine’s 737 business class

It goes without saying that this is a significant product downgrade. Then again, UIA is a pretty low yield airline to begin with, and during these times I doubt there’s much paid premium demand.

Unfortunately it looks like UIA has in the meantime gotten rid of all three 777s as a result of the pandemic, either putting them into long-term storage or returning them to leasing companies, so that was a short-lived plane for the airline. The airline still has a couple of 767s, however.

Ukraine International Airlines 777-200

Is this the world’s worst flight?

One certainly has to wonder if this will be the most unpleasant scheduled flight in the world:

  • UIA’s 737s don’t feature Wi-Fi, power ports, personal entertainment, or even streaming entertainment
  • There are no real business class seats here
  • Wide body aircraft have the benefit of having a bit more space for people to stretch their legs, while that can be tough to do in a single aisle aircraft

Back in 2018 I wrote a post about a flight that Lufthansa was launching, which I considered to be the world’s worst flight at the time. Lufthansa began flying between Frankfurt and Pune using a regionally configured aircraft, and it had a fuel stop in Baku. The total time onboard was over 11 hours in one direction.

Lufthansa operated a regionally configured aircraft on an 11+ hour flight

This happened because Lufthansa had ended its contract with PrivatAir, which previously operated a specially configured 737 in the market. Fortunately that agreement ended up resuming, so that Lufthansa flight didn’t last for long.

The more comfortable PrivatAir 737 that operated the route

Bottom line

UIA will resume flights between Ukraine and the United States twice weekly in December, using Boeing 737s. I commend UIA’s creativity, since this is a way to add back service with an appropriate amount of capacity.

However, this certainly isn’t a flight that I’d want to take. As I said above, UIA tends to have extremely low fares and goes after a cost sensitive customer base, so this should do the trick for the airline.

What do you make of UIA’s new 737 flight to JFK?

  1. Lufthansa began flying between Frankfurt and Pune using a regionally configured aircraft, and it had a fuel stop in Pune.

    I think this need some correction.

  2. Flew UIA on a 2.5 hour segment last month to Kyiv. Pretty painless, earned Flying Blue miles too.

    I think a lot of people in the world, need to travel, and they need to save money.
    So, here we are.

    Won’t be fun, but, even in J/F on most flights, flying isn’t fun because of wearing a mask. :/

  3. I believe this is because UIA got rid of the 777’s and didn’t renew some certification of the 763 with the FAA, so they only have this option if they want to fly to the US.

  4. This sounds like a terrible flight.

    Should just have a layover in Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Istanbul instead of taking this flight.

    There’s literally no advantages of this flight. with a layover at least you dont have to be stuck on the plane during refueling.

  5. I just checked out some random prices for this flight and the prices quoted are staggering. Their one stop in ‘business ‘ is A$5,272 (I’m in Australia and using Skyscanner). Economy at A$1165. Alternative same date fares on LH/AC run $2841 and $535 respectively. Maybe there’s a lot of demand in the BDSM community.

  6. There is more room on a 737 than their high density configurations on the 777 and 767, at least in economy. Being elbow to elbow with 10 per row or 8 per row on their 777’s or 767’s would probably be worse.

  7. Probably no worse than flying AA or UA in Economy (-) from Hawaii to the East Coast on a Max in OASIS configuration with a BOB Tapas box. At least with a stop in KEF, UIA’s crew should be in better moods… after they get some Aquavit in duty free.

  8. For my money, with my height and shoulder width, there is nothing worse than 10 across Y on UA and the others. Prisoners in Guantanamo get better treatment and probably better meals too. I’ve cut back travel if that’s my only option. Wouldn’t bother me if these carriers down in their over capacity now.

  9. Along the lines of what Derek said (ignoring the political bit), this is also not much different from flying Icelandair to continental Europe. From the west coast of N.A., it’s about 8 hours to KEF in a 757 with a tight seating configuration, then you transfer to another squishy 757 for about another 3 hours. Not great, but for those who are on a budget, it’s an acceptable way to get to Europe.

  10. @YM: But on the Hopper you can get of the plane at every stop and it has a regional Business Class and Economy Plus Seating.

  11. UIA could easily make this flight more atractive by removing some seats to allow more leg room. I doubt there would be much demand for this route right now or anytime soon. Removing seats would add more comfort for the passengers and reduces weight for fuel consumption. Which all things being equal would increase profits for light load flights.

  12. Seems preferable to their 8-abreast 767, to be honest with you. Not that I’d be caught dead on either flight.

  13. I think Turkmenistan Airlines have been maxing out the distances on their 737s, with Paris/Frankfurt – Ashgabat flights. Maybe the odd one from London too.

    As a previous commentator noted the UIA offer doesn’t seem much worse than Icelandair.

    Sad to hear that UIA has handed back the 777s. 2018 I flew Business Class with them to BKK. Plane was fine, and crew were really sweet

  14. Lucky, much as I love Alaska Airlines –an airline that compensates you for posts on your website– their East Coast-Hawaii or Alaska flights via any West Coast airport are just as WYSIWYG: Wifi on flight sure makes the long hours more palatable, but it does not make your seat any more comfortable. If UIA sponsored your website, would you refer to its JFK-KEF-KBP flight as “world’s worst flight?”
    Your awesome website is not mainstream media, so you do not need to resort to superlative headlines. Chill out, man.

  15. @YM

    Quite right. UA’s Island Hopper service is a total of 16 hours including time on the ground at each port. Despite that I would not call it the world’s worst. It’s a real favorite of avgeeks and is actually a picturesque way of covering the Pacific, if the mood takes you.

  16. Dear Tiffany:
    I apologize for expressing myself grossly equivocally. I mean to refer to this disclosure:
    OMAAT Advertiser Disclosure: Some links to credit cards and other products on this website will earn an affiliate commission. Outside of banner ads published through the Boarding Area network, this compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site. While we do try to list all the best miles and points deals, the site does not include all card companies or credit card offers available in the marketplace.

    In my 4-year experience reading OMAAT, AS, like FI, QF and even WN seem to get unbiased (fair) reviews. I cannot say the same about other, often non-US, airlines. That.

  17. Covid 19 is the death of the premium classes! Airlines are struggling for revenues. Now cattle class is the only solution to get it. The rise of Eco pax! Dreadful!
    It would not surprise me when more and more single aisle aircrafts with longer range will be used. Airbus XLR and LR variations are the big winners. 4 engine planes are dying out, they are too big and expensive. Bye bye A380, B747, A340..

  18. Just flew AirSerbia to JFK, other then plane being packed full I can say it beats this by miles. Plus it’s cheaper.

  19. Not a good thing at all. I flew from Connecticut to Florida on Spirit Airlines A320 and that’s about 2 hours and 30 minutes flight time. No WiFi. No power outlets. No infotainment. That was such a painful experience. Planes without these amenities are good for 1 hour or less. Anything more than that, it’s worth it to pay a little extra and fly with a full service carrier.

  20. Really sad that many people who book this flight will be in for very unpleasant surprise. Most people assume a baseline and don’t check plane type or configuration when they book.

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