Review of Uzbekistan Airways flight Tashkent Bukhara in Economy

Airline Uzbekistan Airways
Flight HY1327
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Ilyushin Il-114
Flight time 01:00
Take-off 15 Sep 16, 19:30
Arrival at 15 Sep 16, 20:30
HY   #132 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 20 reviews
Alif A.F.
By 1199
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 4


Hello again! Again, thanks for staying put! This is the Part 4 of my journey to Uzbekistan and back. The amazing journey continues…

This was a rare opportunity for me to hop one of domestic flights within a country or region in the world that not many of us used to but worth telling. Tashkent is a very beautiful city in its own right, where the main highlights are some of the many historic buildings dating back to the golden era of Silk Road to the more recent Soviet legacy of grandiose buildings dotted in many places around this metropolis of 2 million people. However, I will promise to you all that I will show all the pictures later as I need to catch the next flight!

After a full and interesting trip and sightseeing to some of Tashkent tourism highlights, it was time for us to get back to the airport for a one-way domestic flight to another historic city of the country called Bukhara. I didn’t have enough sleep the night of the previous flight, and the brief rest at the hotel certainly didn’t completely alleviate my drowsiness. Strangely, I didn’t feel that way at first as I was very excited to experience the city and the country on first sight. As the bus brought us on the way back to the airport later in the late afternoon, I began to fall asleep. But along the way, I thought I noticed quite a huge prison with several watchtowers around the perimeter which are actually manned (OK, security watchtowers are always manned but I only saw them in movies, never really saw them back in Malaysia – exactly in the locality where I live anyway). But, then I realised something – it wasn’t a prison as I thought initially – that is the Tashkent International Airport that the watchtowers actually meant for! This is the first time I saw a commercial airport so heavily guarded that at first sight it could be a high security prison. But, instantly I knew I didn’t take any photos knowing that this could be a very highly sensitive security area. The bus dropped us off at the parking lot which is strangely quite a distance away from the domestic terminal. I would have thought the bus would take us straight to the departure hall, as is the norm elsewhere, I presumed. So, we got our baggage out and this was where another airport experience unfolded…

Instead of walking straight into the terminal, we had to pass a security booth complete with baggage and body scanners. And If I remember, there was only booth provided. So, being in tour group, long queues were expected. This was the strangest way for someone to enter the airport as passengers. Later on, questions popped into my mind – are these extreme measures needed because Tashkent International Airport is so targeted by people with evil intentions? Or is it just plain paranoia? What about during winter when temperatures could plummet well below 0 degrees Celsius as is the norm in Central Asia where a long queue could mean standing outside in the cold just to pass through that security booth?

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Noticed the white security booth that we had to pass through to get inside the terminal…


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Yes, that is me (the big fat me) standing in front of the domestic terminal…



Those black coloured gates in my photo above are supposed to ward off non-passengers away from accessing the terminal. So, after all of us passed through those security booths, we chugged our baggage all the way across the huge green lawn (as you see above) to the domestic terminal. The terminal size is quite respectable and contains element of the Uzbek architecture especially its pillars which can be found in many of the country’s historic buildings. And the terminal is newer than the current international terminal too.

But, as we arrived at the terminal entrance, another round of baggage and body scanners await us right at the entrance. I could not believe this – as if the previous check wasn’t enough, why need another one? So frustrating… Anyway, after anouther round of this procedure, both our tour guide, Bek and our own tour leader then proceeded to the check-in counter to checked-in all of us including our baggage. The terminal was rather almost empty with us being the biggest group of passengers and very few other passengers coming through. I didn’t seem to recall any shops or eating places inside the departure area. It was about 5.00PM by then and our flight didn’t depart until about 7.00PM. So, we sat there waiting for the final security clearance to open up its doors.

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Inside the rather almost empty domestic terminal, except us in there and few others…


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Another view…


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We waited patiently until the security control doors open up for final check…



Being someone from another part of Asia, it is very interesting for us to observe the faces of Uzbeks. I still remember the male security guard maybe of European-Middle Eastern descent, judging by his brunette hair, or the lady manning the scanner at the terminal entrance might be of Eastern European stock judging by her skin colour and blondish hair and an elderly male passenger that looks like a mix of Mongolian and Chinese blood. If I get my stereotypes of racial appearance seems wrong, I do apologise though. But, this is what I see of Uzbek people, a mix of various ethnic groups all the way from Europe and all the way from Asia that has settled in this land for generations and the rest is history…

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Got my boarding pass…


It was almost 6.00PM and the security control area finally opened. We headed straight into the area – again with long queues in a rather small area as well. After clearing security, a huge waiting lounge with high ceilings and high glass walls greeted us. It was a nice welcome change and as the sun set against the very clear sky, I could see the airport tarmac wide open in front of us. So, I had another chance of brief photo session.

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Still an empty hall but soon will be filled with passengers…


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The view directly towards the distant international terminal…


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Our ride of that day sat just to the right of this photo…


As a brief introductory, our ride that day was on-board a rather rare aircraft, not in the region I live anyway - Ilyushin Il-114-100, a Soviet era commercial plane that was still much in use one some of Uzbekistan domestic routes. Despite having roughly similar population with Malaysia, the aviation industry in Uzbekistan is still not developing to its full potential. Uzbekistan Airways, until today is the only passenger carrying commercial airline operating in the country. It seems to me that judging by the size of the terminal and passenger numbers, flying may still be out of reach for many common people here. But, on a positive note, the investment in aviation infrastructure is moving apace as far as in Tashkent International Airport is concern.

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Another photo of our ride which is a Soviet era made Ilyushin Il-114-100…


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A closer look at the photo reveals Uzbekistan Airway’s new B787 was parked at the opposite side of the airport…


At about 6.30PM, boarding was announced. We boarded a shuttle bus that brought us to our aircraft which actually just parked some dozens of metres away from where we actually were (we could have walked willingly, but maybe the airport authorities fear some people might accidently gone astray).

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Arriving at our designated aircraft…


At the aircraft entrance, we were greeted by a slightly friendlier cabin crew – complete opposite of what I observed the night before. Despite the age, the aircraft is immaculately maintained. I was seated next to the aisle.

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The seats are arranged in 2-2 configuration…


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I was seated near the emergency exit…


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Legroom was sufficient for a short journey although the seat was a bit tight…


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Safety card is in Uzbek, Russian and English…



Safety announcement was done in three languages. But, I could barely understand the English version as the sound system was a bit unclear. The flight was quite full that evening, with us I presume the only foreigners on-board the plane.

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View towards early autumn sunset…


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A/C vents are available though, unlike the airline’s Boeing 767 that we flew previously…


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We taxied towards the runway for takeoff at 7.00PM…


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Our little plane took off effortlessly…


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We overflew Tashkent as we exited this sprawling city…


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The sunset from above as we flew for about one hour to Bukhara…


Cabin crew then came around offered passengers some beverages (though, I don’t recall they offered any snacks). I didn’t bother to eat or drink anything on-board as I wanted to reserve my tummy for the dinner at Bukhara later on. The plane flew smoothly across the clear sky and the engine noise didn’t intrude so much in the cabin.

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Everyone settled in their seats – some reading newspapers, some dozed off…


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Cabin crews offering beverages…


At almost 8.00PM, the plane began descending as we approached Bukhara airport. I was done with the photo session by then as I was too tired. The plane had quite a bumpy landing and seemed like the pilots applied full brakes to stop the aircraft. As we taxied to the terminal, I could see outside of how quite the airport was, as if we were the only scheduled to fly there that night. The plane quickly stopped and when the doors opened and we got out, some members of our group began taking photos. Suddenly, the airport staff began shouting at some of us, warning at them not to take any photos. Well, my aunt still managed to snap a few.

The terminal building itself was small with big neon lighted Bukhara sign hung at the airport entrance from the tarmac side. The air outside was cool too. As we stepped inside the terminal and headed straight for baggage reclaim area, the terminal was indeed very eerily empty and quiet and I thought the reason the lights were as if just to wait us arrived there.

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The terminal building is decorated with mosaics commonly found in many of Bukhara’s historic buildings…


At least there was no crowd holding us back and the baggage came in more quickly. As we exited towards the arrival hall, I realised that our bus was parked at the parking lot quite a distance away from the terminal. So, again we had to chug along slowly with our baggage to the bus. Quite a pity I must say… I think the terminal is really meant for departing and arriving passengers and not for access by general public.

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I managed to snap this photo while on the way to the bus…


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See, how far we had to walk just to get to the bus despite the existence of access road directly to the terminal…


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We came out of the terminal which is to the right of this photo…


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The bus parked very far indeed from the terminal itself…


We didn’t gone straight to the hotel as Bek brought us for dinner at the special restaurant serving some traditional Uzbek dishes. We stayed in Bukhara for three nights and then proceeded to Samarkand for another two nights by land before back to Tashkent for a flight back to Malaysia.

Thanks for reading!
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Verdict

Uzbekistan Airways

5.4/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew6.5
Entertainment/wifi3.0
Meal/catering5.0

Tashkent - TAS

4.8/10
Efficiency5.0
Access3.5
Services3.5
Cleanliness7.0

Bukhara - BHK

4.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access2.5
Services2.5
Cleanliness6.0

Conclusion

This was the very first time I got the chance to be inside a Russian made aeroplane. Despite the age, the aircraft that flew us to Bukhara which is Ilyushin Il-114-100 is well-maintained. The flight itself was uneventful. But, it is the country’s airports that I have some issues with – the overzealous security measures and a rather inconvenient way to reach the terminal. Although I can understand that we are now living in the world where evil intentions can mean harm at unexpected places, I think that at the same time there should be balance between creating a convenient environment where foreign travellers especially tourists can feel at ease when travel to the country for the first time while ensuring safety is at utmost priority. Perhaps, if Uzbekistan wants to maintain the status quo, they could at least provide more staff and more counters to ease passenger flow.

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