UZBEKISTAN AIRWAYS (Tashkent International to London Heathrow International), BOEING 767-300ER, BUSINESS CLASS
Formed on the 28th of January 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan Airways is the national flag carrier of Uzbekistan. Based at Tashkent International Airport, the airline flies to 58 destinations globally using a mixture of 66 Western and Russian built aircraft. Destinations include New York, and London. The airline has ordered two Boeing 787 dreamliners. I decided to see what their Business Class cabin was like from Tashkent to London Heathrow Airport.
Route: TASHKENT (TAS) – LONDON HEATHROW (LHR)
Departure date and time of flight: September 2012
Flight number: HY201 (ICAO callsign: “Uzbek 201 heavy”)
IATA Code: HY
IACO Callsign: UZBEK
Flight duration: 7 Hours 50 minutes
Class: BUSINESS CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 767-330P (ER) (7 aircraft in service)
Aircraft registration: VP-BUF (First flight 6th of December 2004)
Engines: 2x PW PW4062
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
Business Class: 40 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration
Economy class: 157 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration
Any baggage issues:
No issues regarding the baggage. The baggage limit is two bags (upto 30KG in total per passenger). Hand luggage for Business Class passengers at Uzbekistan Airways is limited to one piece per passenger.
Comments on the check-in staff:
I had checked-in at Beijing Capital Airport, so this was a continuation flight following on from a transit at Tashkent Airport (of only a short hour and a half wait).
LOUNGE EXPERIENCE at Tashkent Transit Hall:
It was a very interesting experience as the transit hall for Business Class passengers was almost empty. The few passengers (around 6) that were present in the lounge had apparently been waiting for a connecting flight to a Siberian destination, and seems like they had been enjoying a small party for themselves. In the middle of the near empty lounge, was a wooden table with a few bottles of Jack Daniels, Chivas Regal, and Black Label whiskey. There were also used packets of peanuts, crisps, and half finished take-away food. On one of the leather suede sofa’s next to the table was a man sleeping without a whisker of worry that may surround on catching his connecting flight (presumably thanks to the great list of license free goods on the table). There was a single 21-inch Philips TV airing local news in Russian. Apart from that, there was not much else.
On the other side of the coin, the Economy Class transit hall looked like an old 1960s aerodrome hall. Compared to Beijing Airport, Uzbekistan Airport seemed like very nostalgic.
Punctuality of the flight, and route taken:
Even though Tashkent Airport may be considered as one of the busiest in the whole of Central Asia, it is nevertheless; relatively quiet compared to some of the major international airports in the world. Around 30 international airlines use the airport. On the day I was there, I saw a Turkish Airlines Boeing 777, and an Antonov An-124 (Cargo), and every other plane belonged to Uzbekistan Airways.
The flight departed on time, and landed at Heathrow on time too (rare). We had to stack over Lambourne air traffic control in North London for about 10 minutes, and apart from that it everything else was smooth.
Upon taking off from Tashkent, the flight path took us right over Central Asia, and onto the Kurdish/Turkish airspace, and then onto mainland Europe, before making a decent into the east of London (Southend, and then Basildon). London always looks beautiful at night, and even more so from the sky. A perfect landing on the westerly runway 27R provided some good views of central London as well. Uzbekistan Airways operates from Terminal 4 at London Heathrow Airport (they used to operate from Terminal 3 in the 1990s, and early 2000s).
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Passengers are provided with a wet warm towel prior to departure along with a choice of either apple, orange, or water.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Around about 30 minutes after departure, drinks were served from the trolley along with another helping of cashew nuts (which were known as just ‘Indian Nut’) for some reason.
Comments regarding the first meal:
Uzbekistan Airways offers its Business Class passengers the choice to eat at a time of their own convenience. I opted to eat around an hour after departure.
Unlike other airlines that offer their Business Class passengers meals just like a high-end restaurant would (with starters, main course, etc.), Uzbekistan Airways offers a slightly different style of meal. The meal tray consists of everything provided all in one go. So, it’s plain and simple an enlarged version of a Economy Class tray with extra added bits and bobs.
· Potato Salad
· Ginger flavoured bread
· Crackers with cheddar cheese
· Ham, salami, and salad dish
· Salmon and lemon dish
· Bread from the breadbasket
· Sausage roll
· Sesame roll
Add-ons included a very colourful packet of tomato sauce, mayonnaise sauce, and mustard (all branded using locally Uzbekistani companies).
Hot meal tray options were fish, lamb, chicken, or beef. There was no vegetarian option available, and Uzbekistan does not offer passengers in any class the chance to pre-order their meal choice before departure. I again opted for the fish dish (just as I did in my previous flight). I couldn't tell what type of fish it was, and nor did they the cabin crew tell me (they probably never knew either).
Accompanying the fish fillet was a spoonful of rice, three boiled baby potatoes, a clove of cauliflower, a clove of broccoli, one red pepper, and one green pepper. Lovely decoration, but that was just about it really. The fish tasted soggy, and the potatoes tasted OK (not fresh is perhaps the word). The chefs at Uzbekistan Airways may not be Michelin starred, but they are working their way to learn how to become one (hopefully)). Its edible, but not really the kind of stuff you would want down your throat everyday.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
A second round of drinks, including coffee and tea were offered prior to landing at Tashkent. Freshly brewed coffee? Not really…it was a three-in-one blended packet coffee which Nescafe makes these days.
Comments regarding the second meal:
There was a light snack offered around an hour before landing at London Heathrow. This included:
· Croissant with cheddar cheese slice (very salty cheese)
· Packet of dried apricots (very dry)
· Two slices of pineapple (just about right….not bad for tinned food on in-flight meals)
· A small pot of strawberry jam
Similar to the first meal, the light snack was presented all on one tray. Plain and simple, yet slightly delicious. It was a wasteful idea to have a decent tasting croissant presented as a very simple cheese sandwich (since when did croissants came with cheddar cheese slices in them?). The best part was the 3-in-1 blended coffee (blended because it came already mixed with sugar and milk). I wonder what the strawberry jam was for. Maybe to add onto the croissant with cheese?! My guess is that the chefs must have been trying to be innovative with Western in-flight food. I am not sure what the likes of the late Egon Ronay would make of this mishmash.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
The seats on the Boeing 767-300ER don’t have any television screen for in-flight entertainment. Interesting thing was that everyone was provided with a iPad after take-off. However, the iPad was mainly in Russian language it was nevertheless very interesting to use.
Business Class passengers are provided with beautifully decorated bright blue slippers, a eyeshade with the Uzbekistan Airways logo, and a show strap.
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
Most of the cabin crew are native Uzbekistanis, and come across to be very proud to work for their country’s national flag carrier. Uzbekistan Airways does employ some foreign cabin crew and pilots (on our flight we had a couple of South Koreans). All the crew that I came across were able to communicate in excellent English. Three main languages are spoken on the airline: Russian, Uzbek, and English. On the Beijing to Tashkent flight, we also had a recorded announcement provided in Mandarin Chinese for passengers who would otherwise not be able to speak in English, Russian, or Uzbek.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
The plane’s interior is beautifully decorated in either blue (as with the colours of the airline), or in beige. The Business Class seats are very comfortable with leather lining on the covers. The cabin brings along a sense of freshness upon entering the aircraft. It’s clean, and very smart interior is a match to any top international airline in the world. The seats in Business and First Class are of the design of yesteryear, and if you are looking for a flatbed then you are barking up the wrong ‘airline’.
Uzbekistan Airways logo and livery:
Perhaps the most colourful airline livery around, Uzbekistan Airways have made full use of the colours of the national flag on their planes. The ration behind the design is to make it look like a large Uzbekistan flag flying across the sky. The fuselage has a light blue up top, white in the middle and green on the bottom with red lines separating them in between- just like the national flag. The tailfin is bright sky blue, with a bright yellow circle bordered by a thick red cheat line. Inside the circle is a bright green crane flying to the front.
The engines are also painted in a beautiful bright sky blue colour, and have the same yellow circle logo as the tailfin. Very beautiful and pleasing for the eye. This is true even more so at night time when the tailfin is lit up brightly.
Overall rating 1-10 (worst-best): 7
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