21 February, 2023 seen 12,716The Summers in Tbilisi can get damn hot, I mean +40 Celsius, common - it's not serious without air conditioning. And I'…
In mid-November 2016 I faced an issue which I had to handle in the United States. I had to fly there soon.
In the past I have flied twice to the United States, both time leaving from Warsaw, Poland by Polish Airlines LOT and once have returned back via Istanbul using Turkish airlines flight from Houston.
This time I decided to make it happen with less layovers as possible and even smaller waiting times. Our first choice was to fly with Turkish Airlines with connecting flight in Istanbul, the price for two persons round trip (Tbilisi - Istanbul - New York) was nice about $1,200, but it involved 8 hour waiting time in Istanbul, which is not nice for such long flights.
We didn't considered Polish Airlines, as the connecting flight in Warsaw is pretty far from Tbilisi. And last time we flied with them the airplane was some old can from 70ies.
And then Ukrainian Airlines popped up - offering amazing deal, waiting time in Kiev airport just about 2 hours for a connecting flight and price the same as Turkish airlines (about $1,200 for two persons round trip Tbilisi - Kiev - New York). So we booked our flight to NYC with Ukrainian Airlines.
Please note - Turkish Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines and UIA Ukrainian airlines all have direct flights to Tbilisi, with connecting hubs in their base countries (Turkey, Poland and Ukraine)
Before booking our flight we had to renew our ESTA (Visa Waiver Program for select nationals) and here we were at the end of December heading to the New York, to handle some business issues and celebrate New Year's night in New York city.
Flight from Tbilisi to Kiev (Borispol airport) was just a regular, short (about 2 and half hour flight) - regular small Boeing plane, not new not old. Simple and very OK for such a short flight.
When we arrived to Borispol airport in Ukraine, it was announced that our New York flight will be delayed for 10 hours. Personal at UIA Ukraine airlines was not very polite and didn't wanted to answer on our fair questions, there were a bunch of people flying route Tbilisi - Kiev - New York, at least some 10-12 persons. We all were told to wait some official announcements. I told screw you Ukrainian Airlines I'm going to take at least some city sightseeing trip by my own, as I don't want to sit at airport for 10 hours. It would be just normal if the representatives of airline would offer such possibility because of delayed flight, but they didn't (I'm not sure is that even legal)
Anyhow, not to piss ourselves even more, we went to the border check point, presented our passports, got stamps and went for a city sightseeing by our owns.
Kiev is really cheap city, we spent about 40 EUR and drive both taxi's, public buses and even Kiev metro, spent some hours at fancy Kiev restaurants and returned back to the airport some 2 hours before our proposed flight. At that time it was announced flight will be delayed for 30 minutes more. I could start to scream, but I chose not to and just spent the rest of the times at the airports smoking rooms and cafeterias,
Our next connecting flight to New York started. Ohh gosh, the place was the same old can we avoided Polish Airlines because of... the most fun I didn't even had legroom (yes economy class). Luckily we got asleep (somehow) and opened our eyes just after some 9 hours, when it was just about an hour to New York. Thanks Good we had a nice sleep. And thanks God, we landed safely - which is actually what matters most.
It was supposed that we will arrive to NYC in midday, we got booked a hotel in New Jersey, and I was already familiar about public transport options in NYC, so I thought it won't be expensive to get there. As our flight was delayed, we arrived in NYC after midnight, and as I believe there are some of the public transport heading to the Manhattan at that time I was not so sure about public transport to New Jersey. That's why I approached one of the limo service guys at JFK airport and asked what price he would take us to our hotel. We quickly googled and told me $140 (I was ready to pay $200), so I agreed and after about an hour drive though the beautiful Manhattan we checked in at our hotel just shortly after 2:00 AM. We even managed to order Pizza there by phone which was delivered shortly before 3:00 A.M.
Our flight back was after some 10 days again with the same Ukrainian Airlines - New York - Kiev - Tbilisi. We had changed our hotel to the heart of the city (in the Chelsea area, with a nice view towards Empire State building). We checked out from hotel and arranged a yellow street cab to the airport (they have a flat rate from Manhattan to JFK for about USD 65).
Luckily there were no delays at the airport this time and we boarded timely. The plane was still the old junk from 70s with no legroom for me, but again luckily for us, we got asleep and awakened just shortly before landing in Kiev.
Flight from Kiev to Tbilisi was on time (our waiting time was about 3 hours), and for the surprise of me, the last plane we fly with Ukrainian airlines was the most modern (no, no screens in front of you, but at least plenty of legroom in the same economy class).
Gosh, we felt lucky being back in Tbilisi.
The Bottom Line
I wouldn't recommend using Ukrainian Airlines for New York flights, because of the lack of legroom - trust me - for a 10 hour flight it is just evil.
For my next Tbilisi - New York flight I would still prefer Turkish airlines (even with 8 or 10 hour waiting time in Istanbul) or would give a try to Azerbaijan airlines flying from Baku, or I have heard good words for Qatar airways.
I hope Ukrainian Airlines will upgrade their plane flying to New York anytime soon. But for the next 5 years at least I'm not even considering transatlantic flight with them. Flying Tbilisi - Kiev, yes of course. Just not the transatlantic flights.