Review of Uzbekistan Airways flight Tashkent Kuala Lumpur in Economy

Airline Uzbekistan Airways
Flight HY551
Class Economy
Seat --
Flight time 07:00
Take-off 21 Sep 16, 08:30
Arrival at 21 Sep 16, 18:30
HY 10 reviews
Alif A.F.
By 1200
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 5


Hello! Again, thanks for staying put! This is the Part 5 of my journey to Uzbekistan and back. We are almost to the end of this amazing journey, so stay tuned…

After a whirlwind tour of Uzbekistan covering three major cities and countless historic sites in this beautiful country, it was time for us (especially with my heavier heart) to go back to reality (I mean Malaysia). We arrived by bus from Samarkand the night before our flight. The trip from Uzbekistan’s second largest city to the capital took about four hours and along the way the landscape reveals a stunningly barren topography dotted with parcels of farmlands in between valleys. Uzbekistan is basically a landlocked country, so rivers are extremely important for survival and two major river systems are even symbolically represented in Uzbek flag, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. While on the way to Tashkent by bus, we had a Q&A session with Bek regarding anything in Uzbekistan that we want to know further, from taxation, army conscription all the way to corruption levels – yes, our tour guide was also an honest guy who also shared with us some not so flashy behind the scenes of this beautiful country. Funnily, one of the questions asked by one of us was regarding whether there are even fish here since there is no open sea (well, I know Aral Sea lake is in Uzbekistan but that is another matter for discussion) – There is fish available of course and it is a freshwater ones caught from the rivers and there are even restaurants by the roadside that specialised for catering fish based meals to customers. OK, back to the flight report…

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7.35AM so our window for rest was actually quite short as we arrived at the hotel (the same hotel which we stayed briefly at the beginning of our trip) quite later the night before. Bek advised us to be back at the hotel lobby for check-out at 4.30AM to beat crowd queues at the airport.

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We got up early to catch the one of two weekly flights back to KUL…


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There are ATM machines too. I tried converting back my Uzbek currency to USD (No MYR is available for exchange, so USD is highly preferred) at the forex counter the night before, but the lady (with quite a nice smile) politely declined. Until today, I still keep the un-exchanged cash in my closet…


After check-out at the hotel was done, all of us including Bek were in the bus. On the way to the airport, Bek made a brief speech saying thank you to all of us for coming to this beautiful country. It was nice having a knowledgeable tour guide like him. As we arrived at the airport vicinity, I could already see from afar a huge crowd building up outside the terminal perimeter. So, we got out of our bus and Bek bade his farewell to us as he could not enter the building as non-passenger. But, he did make sure that everyone successfully entered the first line of security check. Our tour leader was again busy making sure that everyone was accounted for despite the long queues. It was still dark outside, but with that huge amount of crowd, you could have been in a lively market.

We immediately went through the second dreadful security check. However, amidst the long queues, one of our tour members was suddenly asked to open high baggage. He grudgingly did so and the security officer began rummaging through the contents claiming that he suspected something unusual appeared presumably from the X-Ray machine as it scanned the baggage content. Finally, it was clear that nothing was amiss and he was cleared to go. That kind of incident alone has set us back quite several minutes and our tour leader could not do anything but wait until everyone was inside the departure area for group check-in.

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Scene inside the departure hall at sunrise…


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Another view…


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Seems like endless layers of hurdles to waiting lounge, if you ask me…


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It was all about patience and more patience as the queue slowly built-up…


After all the check-in process was done and our boarding passes were distributed to all of us, we were then asked to queue up to proceed to the waiting lounge, unforeseen that we had another two security checks to go before even reaching there. As I neared the immigration counter in which I needed to hand in a copy of customs declaration form I filled on the flight to Tashkent earlier, I observe a small argument between the customs officer and a passenger. All I heard was the passenger was waiting for his friend to give money; to waiting for banks to open; and catching a flight while being holed up at the immigration counter - how stressful seeing that.

Despite the long queue, I successfully passed it and now to the final security check (passport check and hand-luggage and body scan). There was only a handful of passageway to that area despite the large amounts of crowd into the waiting lounge. As I waited in another long queue, suddenly a Malaysian (not from our tour group, but from another set of tour group) that was in the queue had her passport check turned down by the officer on duty because since she was travel in the group, she needed to have her passport stamped in the group in presence of her tour leader. She reluctantly back to square one (gone to the back queue again with her group) while our tour group made it progressively as a team…

As the queue getting longer, the airport staffs finally open another passageway to ease the jam and the queue began to move faster. When I was closing in on the hand-luggage and body scanner, I realise it was manned by not just an ordinary airport officer, but a military clad officer. I was quite nervous as I never encountered an airport security with a military clad person in-charge. When my turn came, the officer purposely instructed me to hand over my hand luggage (my light stroller bag) to him, unzipped it, and then began searching for anything suspicious, just in-case I think… He checked every pocket inside the bag and even took out almost all of the items inside my bag swiftly… But, fortunately the whole process took no longer than 5 minutes. Then, when everything was clear, I was good to go.

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At the waiting lounge…


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View towards the apron…


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The waiting lounge was pretty spacious…


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Coffee, cake…


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Uzbekistan Airways promoting their new 787…


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I assume behind that dark wall is a duty free shop…


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Time for from-inside-the-terminal spotting…


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The sun was already up…


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One of our tour group members remembered that the first time he went to Tashkent for transit many years ago, the airport was very small then, look how big it is now, and it will become bigger in the future…



As our tour group members slowly streaming into the waiting lounge, some members of the group, including me decided to go straight to the gate where our plane was parked for the journey back to KUL. We just felt relieved after had gone through that multiple layers of ordeal just to get here. So, I thought everyone can now feel relaxed as long as they went to the gate for the scheduled flight.

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KUL was calling…


As the queue began to build up at the gate for final boarding call, it didn’t bother me anymore as long as I could get inside the plane. As I entered the Boeing 767, surprisingly the cabin crew greeted us to the cabin. OK, quite a nice change from the inbound flight before. So, I settled into my seat which was by the window on the starboard side of the plane.

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The view was directly over the wing…


Mindful that I didn’t want another loud warning from the cabin crew regarding the no-photo session policy during boarding, I tucked away my camera though still managed to discreetly shot the above photo and that’s it. Then soon after that, one of the cabin crews gave a warning to a passenger, probably seated two rows behind me not to take photos, “No photos please!…” and she continued on loudly. Oh dear, at least she could tone down her voice as could even hear her.

It was already 7.30AM, but the plane was still not moving. I then slowly fell asleep induced by the rather cool A/C (despite the aircraft not having individual vents as I explained in Part 3). As almost one hour had passed, and the plane was still not moving. Then, at about 8.30AM, the plane began to push back and security video was shown…

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Managed to capture a photo while cabin crew not in sight during taxi…


It was a short taxi to the runway and then we were off the ground…

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Hazy Tashkent loomed below us…


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Finally got the chance to see the glimpse of Tashkent in daylight from above…


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We immediately exited the city towards vast farmland…


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The hazy lower atmosphere gave way to clear and crisp blue sky…


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The plane then turned sharply to the south…



Actually, I requested our tour leader to be seated on the port side of the plane so I could see the tallest peaks of Karakoram/Himalaya Range, but at the end got the starboard side instead. But, the views were amazing as well as we crossed Afghanistan airspace.

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IFE rebooted…


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I purposely took out my DSLR camera despite feeling anxious about cabin crew noticing it, but in the end a passing crew didn’t bother – perhaps the warning is only when the plane was on the ground…


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We made a slight detour to avoid the high mountains…



I didn’t remember the choice of meals offered that day, but as in inbound flight, the breakfast meal was tasty (to my standard anyway) and in large proportion as well. Strangely, when the crew handed out the meal set to me, it was still wrapped in a plastic sheet – how odd and the first I saw an airline meal wrapped in that way…

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The unwrapped breakfast meal…


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The main course was steamed rice, peas and tomatoes with crumbed fried chicken…


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As usual, I peppered my rice with the salted peanuts given to us earlier in the flight…



After finishing my meal – clean, I didn’t bother to watch any movies, play games or listening to music. I took some of the time to snap some photos of the landscapes below us.

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The moon above the wing…


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The barren Afghan terrain began to loom below us…


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I realise just how barren parts of Afghanistan is…


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But, just like in Uzbekistan there are greeneries and signs of settlement in between the mountain valleys…


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It was like flying above another planet…



After some photo session, I began to feel asleep again. So, I took a nap for two hours. And then by the time I woke up the atmospheric conditions began to change. Two hours ago, the atmosphere was very clear with lack of clouds to begin with, but two hours later when I looked up the window, clouds began to appear in large numbers – signalling that we began to cruise our way to the steamy tropics. We were above northern India by then.

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Clouds above northern India…


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Our route took us passing through several Asian countries…


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We entered a puff of clouds above Myanmar…


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Above Andaman Sea shortly before entering Malaysian airspace…


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Above near Malaysian island of Langkawi…



It was about 6.30PM local time. After almost 7 hours of cruise, we began our descent towards KUL.

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Dark storm clouds – a common weather feature in tropics…


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It was almost sunset as we approached KUL…


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KUL in view before a sharp U- turn for landing…


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Initiating U-turn for landing – the weather made me feel so gloomy…


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Flaps lowered and gears downed…



We landed at almost 7.00PM. As the plane exited the runway and taxied to the gate, suddenly a group of passengers stood up impatiently while the aircraft were still moving. Ready to took out all their hand luggage from the stowage bins above. It seemed to me that none of the cabin crews gave any warning although a passenger in front of me were kind enough to remind the group to stay put in their seats – although it was unheeded. We later found out the group was a team consisting of young people from Uzbekistan representing their country on sporting event in Kuala Lumpur. Oh, well…

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MH A380s will soon be replaced by A350s for flights to London Heathrow…


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JAL 787…


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Everyone then rushed to disembark after the plane stopped at the designated gate…



By the time I stepped my foot on KUL’s vast satellite terminal building, it just felt so refreshing and spacious (mindful of what I experienced back in TAS…) and the passport check went by flawlessly. However, the baggage came to us rather late as we waited for about 30 minutes just to get our first bags out.

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At baggage reclaim area…


After getting all my belongings, I then bade farewell to my relatives and say thanks to my tour leader and some members of the group for making this trip a reality. Some of them, including my aunt ended their journey immediately as they live in KL, while some like me will only reach home after another flight back to Kota Kinabalu. In the meantime, I stayed at Tune Hotel KLIA2 which can be accessed via KLIA Express free-of-charge.

For those of you who need a hotel stay nearby while transiting in KUL, Tune Hotel KLIA2 can be a very good choice but can be pricier (but, worth the pay in my opinion). If you arrive via KLIA1 (where full service carriers land), just take a ride on a KLIA Express train or KLIA Transit train (free-of-charge) to KLIA2 and just follow the signs to the hotel which sits just next to the terminal building. But, for first timer like me then, KLIA2 layout can be confusing at first.

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This was the first time I entered KLIA2 since its opening back in 2014, and the layout was a bit confusing for me…


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Direct access to Tune Hotel KLIA2 after I was briefly lost…


I finally arrived at the hotel entrance. Fortunately, I book the hotel in advance because by the time I arrived there, there was at least one passenger who wanted to stay at the hotel without booking, but was turned down by hotel staff due to lack of available rooms. I felt very tired by then and seeing that person’s request for hotel stay was turned down made me pity and at the same time luckier as well as I had planned this journey in advance. So, got my key to my room then off I go to take some much needed rest for my final leg of this amazing journey…

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The hotel was still brand new…


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My room for the night…


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The room was actually quite OK…


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I prefer standing shower room than a bath tub – more practical…


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The sink…



So, that’s it for now! Thank for reading!

Stay tuned for the final instalment…
See more

Verdict

Uzbekistan Airways

7.0/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew5.0
Entertainment6.0
Meal/catering9.0

Tashkent - TAS

4.0/10
Efficiency3.0
Access3.0
Services3.0
Cleanliness7.0

Kuala Lumpur - KUL

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

Again, the meals offered on-board Uzbekistan Airways was way beyond my expectations and I was quite satisfied with it actually. I think the IFE offering could be more diverse but that is just my opinion. I think I explain enough already about Uzbekistan airports management in previously in Part 3 and Part 4. Overall, it was an uneventful flight.

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