I’m going on a mission to un-draft the posts sitting in my draft folder. This post was written in January 2007, about the rather alarming experience of flying back from Kazakhstan to Ukraine on ‘UM’ Air (I kid you not). I don’t know why I didn’t publish it, and any reason I did have is now long gone. Enjoy!
Flying in the Former Soviet Union
I really enjoy reading this really funny blog, called ‘Carpetblog’. You can check it out here. Carpetblogger has a lot of really apt, practical insights into life in the Former Soviet Union. And she’s a seasoned FSU-er, having lived for a few years in Azerbaijan, then for a year here in Kyiv.
Well, she decided to defect to the normal world, and, two days ago, tried to move to Turkey. OK so, she didn’t just ‘up and decide to move’, but really, she planned very hard… only to have her plans go awry.
Now, Mr_Moi and I recently had our very own fun experience with Former Soviet travel. You can scroll down on the Carpetblog link above to read about it, but, for your convenience, I have also pasted it here…. Enjoy! And never complain about Qantas again.
Ahh UM Air (Ukrainian Medditerranean Airlines). Such a ‘woe’-nderful airline. Not only do you get to fly on a 1989 DC9 with Spanish signage inside (luckily I know what a salida is). But at 2am when you’re about to board a hop from Almaty to Astana, then back to Kyiv, you’re told you have to pay money because they made a mistake on your ticket.
But this is after they have issued you a boarding pass. So, while sitting in customs listening to your name being paged, thinking “I have a boarding pass. I have so dodged that bullet”, the ticket-dyevushka chases you down, accompanied by an interpreter whose two languages do not include english, with some Kazakh passport control goons in pursuit. She drags you back through passport control, where you have to surrender your passport (those Kazakhs aren’t about to let you back into the country, ‘officially’), and tells you to pay $100 US dollars to put a 2cm by 5mm sticker on your ticket.
But! No one knows where you have to pay the money. They finally find you a KASA (cashier) in the remotest corner of the airport who will indeed accept your money, but despite very prominent signage to the contrary, she won’t take any credit cards, or US dollars (oh that was one funny screaming match).
Then your flight is delayed by four hours, and for some reason your flight path to Kyiv from Astana, which are on practically the same latitudinal position, diverts south over Georgia, the Caucasus and the Black Sea and takes seven hours instead of four.
At least they gave us beer for breakfast.
(Oh… another characteristic of travel in this part of the world is that most planes don’t have inflight entertainment. So the 7 hour flight was painful. Beer was a welcome diversion from watching the air hostesses text messaging).
Do you have any scary flying experiences to share?