Review of Uzbekistan Airways flight Kuala Lumpur Singapore in Economy

Airline Uzbekistan Airways
Flight HY552
Class Economy
Seat 40A
Flight time 00:40
Take-off 14 Sep 16, 19:30
Arrival at 14 Sep 16, 20:10
HY 7 reviews
Alif A.F.
By 1076
Published on 5th November 2017
Good day everyone,

It has been more than a year since I posted my last flight report here. Today, I am going to post about my trip to Uzbekistan. Stay tuned…

BACKGROUND

My first ever overseas trip since January 2015 came at a rather short notice. The idea of going to Central Asia first came to mind in July 2016 when my aunt and her family paid a visit to our home for the Eid. Whilst talking about family matters and what not, the topic of overseas holiday sure came. We all know my aunt is an avid traveller and whenever we have a family get together she talks about how she is planning to go here and there, visiting the exotic places that we seldom heard of. But, when the price starts to be mentioned, everyone started thinking twice. For several years, she always eager to invite us for a tour of exotic places but the cost does not always justify the intent. Although my parents did follow but that so far that is only for places that are within five hours flying time.

“We are planning for a trip to Uzbekistan this September,” she said. This is not the first time I heard about that country, but it struck a chord in my mind that I may finally have a chance to go for seldom seen places. Immediately, I swipe my smartphone and began searching online to know more about the country. Sure, we all somehow heard this and that countries before, but knowing a bit more detail is always exciting when someone especially in your family begin enticing you on a trip like that.

I didn’t make instant decision that afternoon. I need to sink in whether I should join this trip or not. I promised to my aunt that I will decide later. “You are still young and energetic, this is a great opportunity for you to get out and see places beyond. Not like us elderly, getting harder to walk,” she quipped. Fast forward few days later, I finally decided to join the trip.

When I told my colleagues that I am planning to go to Uzbekistan, I can see bewilderment on their faces. “Uzbeki…what? Which …tan? Where is that? How do you pronounce it? Isn’t there war going on there now?” are all the reactions I got. Quite frankly, mention the countries with the suffix ending with –stan nowadays have a bad connotation in them. Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are way more popularly known and sadly for all the wrong reasons and large part of it have to do with portrayals in mass media, be it news channels or films.

Anyway, my return journey to Uzbekistan involves six flights. The highlights of the trip are my experience on flights in business class with Malaysia Airlines and Malindo Air (recently renamed Batik Air Malaysia) for the domestic leg of the journey and of course my first flight with the seldom heard airline, Uzbekistan Airways. We also took a domestic flight too within Uzbekistan. All will be told in the next six reports. So, stay tuned.

PART 2


Ever heard of Uzbekistan Airways? It is one of those seldom known airlines that we rarely seem to care when travelling long haul unless we have something to do with that airline’s country. Nowadays, we are being ‘bombarded’ with major airlines trying to outrun each other to be the biggest, most luxurious, and most importantly not the least safe airlines. And some of those that I would say state owned enterprises that until 10 to 15 years ago rarely went into headlines (for positive reasons) are now making a huge presence in the commercial aviation industry. However, Uzbekistan Airways wants to prove that the airline wants to get the slice of the prestige too. I let the story pull through in the next sentences (and photos).

There are three major events that coincide with our trip to Uzbekistan. Firstly, Uzbekistanis were celebrating their nation’s 25th year as an independent country just two weeks before. Secondly, a week before we made this trip was the passing of that country’s first and only president. And thirdly, the airline has just received its first of two Boeing 787-8 aircrafts a.k.a. the Dreamliner. Arriving from Boeing Field, just in time for the country’s independence anniversary, I was hoping that we might got the chance to get on-board this aircraft on the trip to Tashkent. I even visit the airline’s website to see the initial schedule and routes of the Dreamliner. The website is obviously not really intuitive per se, but it gets the message across. But, nope, seems like we will be hopping in one of the airline’s Boeing 767-300ERs. The first leg of our flight to Tashkent would actually involve a stop in Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN), so I made a separate report on the long haul part from SIN to Tashkent International Airport (TAS).

I received a WhatsApp message from my tour group that the tour leader requested everyone to be at the check-in area at 4.30PM. There were 21 of us going off for the trip to Uzbekistan and most of the members are more than 50 years old. To kill time, I took out my super light Surface 3 Pro and surf the internet by feeding data off the free 30 minute connection available throughout the area.

It was almost 4.30PM. I made my way to check-in area via one of those transparent elevators that soundlessly lifting people up and down this five storey complex ever since it’s opening in 1998. While not so much activity happened in the arrival hall, it was fully packed with travellers at the departure level. We were asked to wait at Check-In Island G, which I opined usually reserved for several foreign airlines at once. Out of all tour members, I only recognise my aunts and her family and the rest were complete strangers to me until we truly met at the meeting point as told by our tour leader. I told via our WhatsApp group of me already arriving at the said meeting point. Few responded by saying they still on their way to the airport. So, I sat at one of those electronic exhibits platform as all the benches were fully taken. From that vantage point, I could see the world at one glance – a young Englishman called his relative that he would be on the way home via Emirates, a parent had to seemingly content with her kid’s berate behaviour while waiting for their turn for check-in. Later on, what is even more shocking in the midst of all this sea of people was that I saw the airport’s security guard carrying a crying child desperate to find his mother yelling and calling out “Mama! Mama!” I hoped that by the time we gone for boarding gate, he would be reunited with his mother.

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Sitting and watching the world went by…



My smartphone showed that it was already 4.30PM, and no one seems to be at the said meeting place, not the ones I know anyway. Then, one message came through in the WhatsApp group from the tour leader who said he just arrived and began describing the clothes his wearing for him to be more visible. After some brief look around, I finally found our tour leader, a young (younger than me) man that would be responsible to lead us all the way to Uzbekistan and back. We introduced each other. Soon afterwards, more of us came to the meeting point and I slowly start to know more of them too.

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Long queues to Tashkent – there are only two flights per week to KUL and SIN…



After everyone arrives, the tour leader requested everyone to briefly pass their passports to him for check-in purposes. I personally managed to ask him to get me a window seat even though it was a night flight. We don’t have to wait in the queue as our tour leader himself would do the check-in for everyone in the group as long as our baggage are put in one place so easier for check-in purposes. The process itself was completed quite quickly I would say. He then came to us and began calling our names so he could distribute our boarding passes and passports back.

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A green tag was also given for carry-on bag…



My request for window seat had been granted – thanks everyone for the help! Since the flight was scheduled to depart at 7.40PM, we have lots of spare time so our tour leader requested us to be at the boarding gate at 6.30PM. So, I was chugging along following my aunts and the family – I myself don’t have anything to do really. I would have gone straight to the boarding lounge if I travelled alone.

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Waiting for my family members finishing whatever they do…


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It was Durian season in Malaysia – a visit to South East Asia is not complete without a savour of the King of Fruits…


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Long queue for customs check…



As 6.30PM approached, we proceeded towards customs and passport checkpoints. Honestly, I truly hate going to that metal detector thing where you have to take off your belts (I purposely didn’t wear one) and put everything in your pants on the tray provided. But, I later found out that in terms of security, I begin to fall in love with KUL so much more now – read on.


Afterwards, we reached the passport checkpoints where there are rows of automated passport validation machines to speed up your travel process. As my turn came to the machine, it requested me to open my passport book so it can scan the microchip embedded inside it – and it won’t read. Oh no…. Then one of my aunts which already passed the machine said I don’t need to open the book (even if the machine instructed me to do so). But I did follow my aunt’s advice anyway and it worked wonderfully (after some tapping here and there to get the laser pinpoint the microchip correctly).

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Diecast model collectors’ dream in their living room…



We took the Aerotrain as the aircraft was parked at the Satellite Building just across the taxiways. As I stepped out from the Aerotrain after reaching the Satellite Building, I could feel that the ambience have change somewhat for the past several years. When I stepped into the building for the very first time way back in 2002, it was so immaculate, the air-conditioning was in ‘full blast’ (I thought it was very cold back then) and definitely less retail spaces. Nowadays, seems like the airport management is eager to reclaim bits and pieces of open spaces and monetising it via retail. And the air inside seems warmer than ever before. For those of you who are familiar with KUL/KLIA knows that the centrepiece of the airport is the man-made rainforest that is tucked at the building’s central axis and has been a symbol of KLIA as ‘Rainforest in the Airport’. But, recently I heard (after the trip) that the management has pruned all the tree branches supposedly to prevent birds from coming to the area as claimed by an employee who was asked by a local aviation forum member. Whatever the reason is, I would think this can have negative impression among the travellers. Anyway, we made it to Gate C6 where the aircraft was parked. Before entering the waiting lounge, we have to pass through another layer of security although the process was quick.

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Watching the sunset while waiting for boarding call…


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The Boeing 767-300ER that brought us to Tashkent (via Singapore)…



The waiting lounge soon packed with passengers, though I suspect some of them ended their journey at Singapore while others (including us) only beginning to start our journey to Tashkent with a stop in Singapore.

At about 7.15PM, boarding was announced. We waited until most of the passengers entered the aircraft. The ground staff checked our boarding pass to make sure everything was in order. Upon reaching the aircraft doorway, I expected the two cabin crews standing there would give us a warm welcome into the cabin. But, all I got was that stern looking and emotionless facial expression. Perhaps, I expected too much. I think so. So, we passed through the Business Class section on the way to my seat at 40A.

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The aircraft cabin has been fitted with Boeing Signature Interior similar to the ones fitted in the larger 777s…


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View from seat 40A…


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Legroom is a bit tight for my size…


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More cabin view…


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There is no overhead air-conditioning vents in this aircraft…



There is on oddity which is that there is no overhead air-conditioning vents at each seat like most aircrafts. I find it rather odd that no such amenity is installed. Although, I didn’t feel particularly cold, but later on during our long haul journey to Tashkent, having no overhead A/C started to bother me.

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Welcome screen to the airline’s personal inflight entertainment…


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Complimentary drinks were given alongside salted peanuts and fresh towelette…



As I took photos using my smartphone camera, suddenly a loud voice came straight at me, “No photos please!” one of the cabin crews said as she walked quickly across the aisle, pointing her voice towards me. Her voice is loud enough I thought the entire cabin section where I seated at probably heard her warning. I was a bit embarrassed and didn’t expect to receive that kind of warning that way – how unfriendly… I decided to tuck my smartphone away for a while until the cruising altitude for more photo session.

At about 8.00pm, our aircraft was pushed back for departure. Inflight safety demonstration was then shown on screen in three spoken languages – Uzbek, Russian and English. As for the announcement by on-board crew, it was very hard for me (at least) to understand when the crew started doing announcement in English. It is understandable since Uzbekistan regards Russian as the country’s main international language and English plays second fiddle to it.

We then taxied towards the end of Runway 34R for take-off. At about 8.15PM, we finally departed from KUL. We continued climbing at desired altitude before turned sharply towards south to quickly exit towards Strait of Malacca. I could see we were getting farther from the sea of lights forming the Klang Valley where Kuala Lumpur is located. If the Strait of Malacca can lay claim as the busiest shipping route in the world, then the airspace above it especially between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is among the busiest in the world though I can’t immediately see aircrafts passing us by. It was time to have a photo session again and I tried to be discreet as much as possible though I honestly think the warning is only in effect while on the ground.

I took the time to browse through the entertainment screen. For those inclined towards films, there are surely options but the selection is rather limited. Obviously, I don’t expect something like KrisFlyer, CX Studios or I.C.E. though the ones on offer (the English ones) are mostly local (Uzbek) productions with audios dubbed in English.

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Main page screen…


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Limited movie selections were on offer…


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I didn’t go into details in the airline’s music directory…


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The selection of games is also not extensive but sufficient…


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Uzbekistan Airways’ new Dreamliner grace the airline’s latest magazine cover…


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More details inside…


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Looking forward to visit!..



Although it was a short hop, I even managed to take a nap for 15 minutes or so before realising we were descending into Singapore. Although it was dark, but I could still recognise the coastline lit up by the urban lights of Johor Bahru as we began our descent. We were roughly above terminus of Johor Straits as we descended towards Changi airport. Slowly, we left Malaysian airspace, then Singapore came to view. I was eager to know which runway was assigned to us for landing. As I thought we would land at either runways 02L or 02C, the aircraft then slowly turning right, enabling us sitting on the port side of the aircraft to see clearly the immense lights of the CBD, Sentosa Island and the massive seaport with dozens of ships scattered gracefully along the narrow Straits of Singapore.

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We were just south of Singapore above Batam…



After that the we then proceeded for another right turn right over Batam when I realise that we might not be landing at either runways 02L and 02C afterall because I could sense that we still high above the landing points when I saw an aircraft taking off from Changi and two or three others queuing up behind us. Then I further realised that we will land at runway 20C as we flew parallel to Changi airport before proceeding for a sharp U-turn towards runway 20C before landing.

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Welcome to Changi!..



Moments after docking at Terminal 1, we were asked to disembark. As I stepped out of the plane and walk through the jetway, an aromatic odour greeted us into Changi airport. I was sure I was not on high but the smell was so nice that I think it can probably sooth your exhaustion especially from long flight. A Changi airport ground agent stood by at the jetway looking for transit passengers. “Transit? Anybody here on Transit?” she asked with a nice and warm facial expression. I was then given a transit pass.

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A transit pass was distributed as the aircraft transited for 1 hour in Changi…


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Changi Airport’s Terminal 1…


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Walking on carpet flooring in Changi Airport beats other airports in this aspect…



We transited for 1 hour before our next long haul journey to Tashkent.

Thanks for reading!
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Verdict

Uzbekistan Airways

5.3/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew3.0
Entertainment5.0
Meal/catering5.0

Kuala Lumpur - KUL

8.5/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.5

Singapore - SIN

9.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

Frankly, not so much of a great introduction to Uzbekistan Airways as far as cabin crews are concerned. This is also mark the first time I ever entered the airport which is billed as the best in the world for passenger satisfaction. I would say despite the age (in relation to Terminal 1) and being older than KLIA and even Dubai International (Some of the other major hubs I have been to so far), the ambience is far more welcoming, with its carpet flooring, scented aroma filling the air and the landscaping consisting of natural green plants makes the area more scaled to human lives instead of building a mega terminal with cold, over-immaculate steel frames that seems to overwhelm you.

Informations on the route Kuala Lumpur (KUL) Singapore (SIN)

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