Review of Uzbekistan Airways flight Singapore Tashkent in Economy

Airline Uzbekistan Airways
Flight HY552
Class Economy
Seat 40A
Flight time 08:05
Take-off 14 Sep 16, 22:15
Arrival at 15 Sep 16, 03:20
HY   #93 out of 115 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 22 reviews
Alif A.F.
By 2766
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 3


Hello again! Thanks for staying put! This is the Part 3 of my journey to Uzbekistan and back. The journey continues…

At about 9.30PM, we proceeded to the waiting lounge at gate C17. However, we must pass through security first and hand back the transit passes that were given to us after we arrived earlier.

photo 20160914_214034
Our aircraft parked at gate C17…


photo 20160914_214001
It was a crowded waiting lounge…


At almost 10.00PM, boarding was announced. I proceeded towards the cabin and again went to my same seat which will be my little home for the next 7 hours.

photo 20160914_220136
I still managed to capture some photos discreetly…


photo 20160914_222544
Lining up for take-off from runway 02C…


photo 20160914_223027
Ships plying the Straits of Singapore seen as we ascended towards the sky…


photo 20160914_223422
Overflying the eastern tip of Singapore…


photo 20160914_223436
Changi Airport looked like a giant semiconductor grid from above at night…


photo 20160914_223640
Back to Malaysian airspace over Johor…


As we climbed higher towards Tashkent, I managed to take a nap before realising that we already overflew Kuala Lumpur, where our flight started. I looked through the window to see the lights of KL, but then the plane already passed it. The weather was a bit bumpy and cloudy as the twinjet climbed towards its cruising altitude so I couldn’t see urban lights that spread across the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

A packet of salted peanuts was given to each of us before the main dinner was served. As with my habit, I keep the salted peanuts unopened until the main meal came. When the cabin crew arrived at our area, she only asked a very simple question, “Chicken or beef?” with that frozen look. I opted for chicken. When the meal was given to me, it was the nicest thing that I ever experienced while on board Uzbekistan Airways so far.

photo 20160914_203706
The full set…


The meal was tasty (I don’t know how to describe in detail but it wasn’t too salty and very healthy too), the portion was sufficiently big and the cabin crews even offered extra buns (to which I declined) if you want one. Almost as good as Emirates if not same or better.

photo 20160915_002346
Over northern India…


After finishing my meal, another cabin crew asked whether we want coffee or tea. I chose tea, and when he handed a cup of tea, I didn’t realise I almost took the small tray which the cabin crew used to pass the cup of tea to me (probably because I was tired and not realising my action properly). The cabin crew then gaze his angry eye at me and rudely without saying anything give me signals to me to take that cup and not the tray (he handed the tea to me using a tray). Oh well…

photo 20160915_005809
A cup of tea and a muffin as a supper…


photo 20160915_002958
Cruising over Northern India – notice the moonlight was reflected off the wing…



As the flight moved on, I felt more uncomfortable inside the cabin. I blame the lack of overhead A/C vents as the contributing factor to this. Later on after the flight, one of our tour members claimed the seats were even heated! I don’t know if her claim is true or not but being in Central Asia with its cold winters, I guess it is a possibility to make flying supposedly more comfortable in that region.

photo 20160915_004322
A straight line would have taken us above and across the highest peaks of Karakoram Range, but that’s not how pilots see that…


I didn’t watch any movies that night and a game or two made me feel bored pretty quick. So, apart from trying to sleep comfortably, I gaze the dark sky above to see the moon shone brightly under a very clear sky, while I gaze the world below to see the moonglint on the surface below that was dotted with cities and villages of northern India and Pakistan.

We then made a smooth right turn towards Afghanistan, flying across the mountains. We avoided the tallest peaks of the Himalayas and Karakoram range before reaching Uzbekistan airspace. I could barely see, with the aid of the moonlight, the bare mountains of Afghanistan with whitish hues on top, probably snow.

About 1 hour before landing, cabin crews started to distribute customs declaration form. Two copies were given to each passenger and must be filled before entering customs check. In the form, passengers that declare themselves as tourists must declare the amount of money that they bring (regardless of whatever currencies in their wallet or purse) and upon returning, must ensure that the money brought is decreased (indirectly meaning visitors to Uzbekistan must spend their money, not gaining money).

photo 20160915_020958
Sometimes I forget that I need a pen to fill this form when flying international…


About less than an hour later, our plane started its descent from its cruising altitude. Since it was dark, so I couldn’t see the landscape below, except few dotted lights that was getting bigger in numbers as we approached the outskirts of Tashkent.

photo 20160915_023909
Sprawling city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital and largest city…


photo 20160915_024728
We landed at approximately 3.00AM local time…


After a smooth landing, the plane exited the runway towards the terminal. I realise it wasn’t as busy as other major international airports I’ve been to. I saw rows of Uzbekistan Airways fleet parked for the night. And I also saw a Turkish Airlines A330 in the distance, perhaps the only foreign airliner I saw from my vantage point inside the cabin. The plane finally stopped at its designated gate. We disembarked via stairways onto a waiting airport buses. As I stepped outside the plane, the air was very mild and cool, perhaps in the mid 10 degrees.

photo 20160915_024950
One of the shuttle busses that brought us to the terminal…


photo 20160915_025804
I exited via rear door of the aircraft and walked our way towards the airport bus…


OK, this was where the complications began. The bus, already full with arriving passengers including us, began shuttling us to the terminal. Some members of our group were in the other buses, so I would assume that we will meet again at the terminal. I remember that back in KUL, we were briefed by our tour leader that we were supposed to meet at the same point at the immigration counters in the TAS terminal. So, as the bus arrived at a rather deserted entrance way to the immigration counters, I and some members of the group began waiting patiently for the rest of the members to arrive. 10 minutes had passed, and none of the members of the group were seen. The area was still deserted, devoid of everyone else.

20 minutes….30 minutes…and the rest of the group members were still not appearing. We began to feel anxious and confusion began to reign in. Perhaps they were lost somewhere? Or they were being held by security personnel for some reasons? It didn’t seem logical to me. Soon after that, scores of people began to arrive at once and for a moment we thought finally we get to meet the rest of the tour members. But, then amidst the increasing amount of passengers, they were still yet to be found. One of us suggested that we went upstairs to the departure hall (which was partially dark and empty at wee hours during that morning) and try asking someone. Two of us in the splinter group began asking one or two airport personnel about our predicament but were hampered by the locals’ poor command of English. However, one personnel which came out of an office noticed our difficulty and try his best asking in his sputtered English our problem. We explained to him as much as we could and he then seemed to understand us and then fled away to back to his office. But, as one hour passed, the entrance way was already filled with passengers arriving from later flights.

photo 20160915_031002
Other passengers from later flights began to fill the entrance to the immigration counter as we sit there patiently…


photo 20160915_034105
The amount of crowd and queue were astounding in a rather small area…


I was particularly concerned about my cousin as he was an ADHD sufferer and he didn’t used to be separated from his mother (my aunt), and in that kind of scenario, I could see his tension began to mount. The last thing I need was to see someone so upset he ended up broke down and crying. So, I tried my best to calm him down amidst the anxiety and confusion. Seemed like we were the only foreigners there (well, there were a small group of mainland Chinese as well) and the rest were total strangers. Two hours had passed and we seem to be at lost. And then…

I saw someone from beyond the immigration counters waved towards us, and I realised it was our tour leader! He gave us a gesture to tell us something but as we couldn’t hear it, I was forced to cut the long queues and gave continuous apologies to other passengers, hoping they understood our predicament. As I reached the nearest point to the counter, our tour leader finally told me to just stay put and he will manage our way out. My cousin who felt anxious and almost broke down suddenly shout with joy upon seeing his mother and we immediately felt relieved. However, this was just the beginning. We slowly had to queue up as the limited number of officers manning the immigration counters seem overwhelmed by the sheer number of queuing arriving passengers waiting their passport to be stamped.

We were so relieved and bit by bit, we could see the rest of our tour members already cleared the immigration counters. As our splinter group approached the counters, our tour leader began showing the immigration officer a sheet of paper containing our names for visa checklist and then the rest followed through…

One by one we passed the immigration and finally met up with our tour leader and the rest of the group members. Our tour leader told me that he didn’t realise that the airport authority has split the immigration into two separate areas because it used to be just one. So, that contributed to the problem, compounded by the fact that our bus took us to separate entrance way to the terminal. But, it made me think, had we just went to the immigration counters while the area was still deserted, we could have save massive amount of time. But, of course we just didn’t know and we were strangers in a foreign airport in a foreign land.

As if I thought the problem was over, we were then faced with another challenge – getting our bags which seemed to take forever amidst the chaos and crowd of people. And that took another one hour just to get your bags and then had to pass another layer of security where you had to hand in a copy of your customs declaration form whilst ensuring that you don’t lost the other by the time you are on the way out of the country. Quite frustrating honestly due to the sheer number of crowds in such a small area…

photo 20160915_043330
Getting our bags and passing through security area…


And at last I finally manage to get out of the terminal and stepped foot on Central Asia! The weather was very cool and crisp with total clear skies above us. As I got out of the terminal, the sun was just about to rise. After all the members were accounted for, we headed straight to a charter bus waiting for us at the parking lot that would bring us to the hotel. As we entered and settled in the bus, a huge sigh of relief followed after that tremendous ordeal at the airport just now. And then, a tour guide came in and introduced himself. I couldn’t remember his full name, but his nickname is Bek. So, Bek welcomed us to Uzbekistan and with a puff of jokes said that we had just passed through ‘The Hell of Uzbekistan’… But, of course the country itself is very unique and beautiful.

photo 20160915_050804
International Arrivals…


photo 20160915_045411
I was bewildered by the sight of crowds from across the terminal – I then later realised the public aren’t allowed to enter the terminal building to wait for their loved ones – which explains why I initially found out the arrival hall was rather empty…


photo 20160915_053410
The view from my seat in the bus towards the airport as the sun was rising…


photo 20160915_060214
Finally arrived at our hotel…



We only stayed for some hours at the hotel to get some rest as we need to catch a domestic flight to Bukhara later in the evening in which I would cover in the next report. But, in the meantime, we had a full daylight ahead for a brief tour of Tashkent that day.

Thanks for reading!
See more

Verdict

Uzbekistan Airways

6.1/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew3.0
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Meal/catering9.5

Singapore - SIN

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

Tashkent - TAS

3.8/10
Efficiency3.0
Access3.0
Services3.0
Cleanliness6.0

Conclusion

If I recommend a flight on-board Uzbekistan Airways, it’s because of the food. I hope the cabin crews are friendlier and less stern-looking. But, at least they get their job done as crews and we were all safe and sound. Tashkent International Airport was a total disappointment as far as arrival experiences are concerned. Some months after the trip, I found out that the airport was among the worst in the world when it comes to managing the passenger flow. But in a positive light, there is already an effort to upgrade the country’s aviation infrastructure which is the building of Tashkent International Airport’s new passenger terminal which I hope will not only be beautiful but translates to better passenger experience as well.

Related

0 Comments

Login to post a comment.