My initial itinerary for the Ukraine trip didn’t include any domestic flights. We were going to focus on train travel instead. And while the trains were nice enough (posts coming soon, I hope) they weren’t a particularly efficient use of time. Plus, I was presented with the opportunity to fly on WizzAir – I love that name – between two airports which I otherwise wouldn’t have visited. And it was reasonably cheap. I was ready to go.
Booking the ticket was reasonable online, though like most LCCs the website offers up far more options and add-ons than a traditional airline bookings. And I have to say that, in this case, it actually worked. As I went through the process I was given the option to buy early boarding or an exit row seat which also included early boarding. For about $15 I figured it was a solid investment so I splurged. With both that and the booking fee we still got away with the tickets for under $100 each (exchange rate is roughly 8:1 these days); only half of that was actually the fare versus taxes and fees.
The airport experience was also rather entertaining. Our flight was around 8am and we had to check our bags (free on our tickets) so we were there early. The Simferopol airport is clean and the terminal is reasonably new. But it most certainly lacks in many facilities. We waited in line to check our bags – 170ish passengers handled by only 2 agents but the line was rather orderly – and then tried to find a quick snack before the flight. The café was open but only vodka and coffee were available; no food. And while that doesn’t always stop me this time I chose the slightly more prudent option and we headed through security to the waiting area.
The waiting area was sufficiently barren and depressing that I apparently managed to not take any photos of it. Had I done so you would have seen bright white walls and floors and moderately uncomfortable chairs in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Fortunately were weren’t in the seats long before an agent shouted something at the crowd in either Russian or Ukrainian and a scrum ensued.
The announcement was for pre-boarding. There was a single door for the gate out to buses which would take us to the plane. And getting through the masses was a mess. I almost just gave up but others in the crowd were also pushing through so eventually we made it. We were two of maybe 20 who had paid for the option and our group received a dedicated bus for the ride out to the plane. It allowed us to settle in before everyone else showed up. And since the flight was open seating that also meant getting to make sure we got our exit row seats.
Because the plane was mostly empty I had the opportunity to try out the regular seats and take some photos, too.
I’m sure the regular seats would have been fine for the short hop but the legroom in the exit row was quite nice. As I mentioned above, between the space and the priority boarding I think the $15 was a worthwhile investment.
I also noticed a few cost-saving measures to keep the weight of the plane down, such as not actually filling any of the galley bins.
Once on board we settled in and pretty much did nothing for the hour-long flight. There was a quick beverage and food cart service with all items buy-on-board. We passed on the option so I cannot speak to the quality; the prices were reasonable from what I remember.
We landed in Kiev at the older, domestic airport and were treated to some entertaining sights in the grassy areas near the runways.
We were also treated to a most ridiculous baggage claim situation. The bags were driven into a shed barely big enough for the tug and then were placed, one-by-one, onto shelves. Passengers jockeyed for position to get to the front and grab their bags. They were then forced to fight back out of the crowd while dragging their bags. It was ridiculous. Fortunately I had seen our bags come off the plane and I knew where they were on the tug carts so I knew when to push forward to grab them. But it was a crazy scene.
Finally, bags in hand, we headed out through the terminal and on to the bus into town. That trip was reasonably quick and definitely cheap. Probably would be even easier if we spoke or understood the language at all but we managed to figure it out.
Overall a completely reasonable experience at the price point, though the check-in and boarding process was certainly a bit trying. And I’m not sure that I’d want to spend a long amount of time in the non-exit row seats. But for short hops around the region the service offered was completely reasonable and in line with the fare paid. At the end of the day that’s really what I’m looking for in a flight.
Read more from this Trip Report under the Ukraine2012 tag here.
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