AeroSvit…A Terrible Flying Experience!

I love free plane tickets. They encourage me to spend time in places I wouldn’t make it to so easily otherwise. I don’t love not being able to decide any details about my travel plans though, which was exactly the case with my latest trip to the Middle East. See, I came over with a group, which meant that the group booked my flights. New York JFK to Tel Aviv via…Kiev? That could only mean one thing…we were flying AeroSvit Ukranian Airlines

Aerosvit Boeing 767

AeroSvit? I’d never heard of AeroSvit before. So I took to the internet to read reviews. And that’s where I saw the horror stories. “Great…,” I thought. Well maybe I’ll have an interesting story to tell about it. And boy, do I ever.

It began at JFK Airport, where I was excited to have arbitrarily been assigned a window seat. My favorite! The Boeing 767 aircraft had a nice 2-3-2 seating arrangement, but I wouldn’t find this out till after we were supposed to have left. Why? Delays. Once on the plane? More delays. In fact, we were delayed for 2 hours before leaving JFK with no explanation. My seatmate fell asleep when they closed the plane door and woke up only to ask, “Are we in the air yet?” Nope.

And remember that window seat I was excited about? Well the window shade was glued shut with a sign that read “Do Not Open.” Of course, I’d get a window that doesn’t open. Of course!

Window Shade

It was 9 hours of flying time from JFK to Kiev, during which there was no movie. Or music. Or entertainment of any kind. I mean, it’s painful enough to not have Audio-Video On-Demand (AVOD) at your seat these days but to have nothing at all? Well at least I could wander the plane with my seat mate. And try and sleep (unsuccessfully).

Speaking of seat mate, my reading light was aimed at her lap. And her reading lap was aimed at the armrest, which means I had to lean over her to read anything!

And then, there was the meal service…

As I was traveling as part of group of young Jews, Kosher meals had been requested on our behalf. (which was totally unexpected at the time). Here’s the thing. The flight attendants didn’t bother to heat them properly. In fact, it came with two sections. The hot portion that was still wrapped in foil and then cool portion that was shrink wrapped. The hot portion was, of course, hot (sometimes excessively so) and the cool portion was, at times, completely frozen!

Fully Wrapped Breakfast Omelette

This implies that they were even worth eating. Dinner was flavorless “Asian chicken,” with pureed eggplant and still-frozen mystery red sauce, bread and water. Breakfast was a plain omelet with some potatoes that seem to have exploded in the oven. The flight attendants literally flung the meals at us (and were quite rude in general).

Kosher Dinner

On the second flight from Kiev to Tel Aviv, while everyone else received hot meals, we received…3 pieces of shrink wrapped fruit. It was absurd!

All the while, the drink selection consisted of water, apple juice, tomato juice, Coke and coffee. That’s it. No other sodas. No booze. All served out of cups that were roughly the size of those tiny Dixie cups you remember from school. What’s more? On that 9 hour flight, they came by with drinks ONCE between meals.

Tiny Cups

And the drink service was done in the most illogical way. They came around with drinks. Then came around to collect the cups. And then they came around with the meals, once you no longer have anything to drink! Then after the meal, they come around offering water or coffee.

We collectively came up with a new nickname for AeroSvit…AeroShit! I think that sums it up pretty well…

NOTE: My return flight was a considerably better experience, perhaps because I expected it to be just as bad. But we had movies and the food was edible, but we received the same Kosher meal twice! It also seems that AeroSvit has since suspended operations in January 2013 due to bankruptcy. 

What’s your worst flight experience? 

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56 Responses to AeroSvit…A Terrible Flying Experience!

  1. Marsha January 16, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    I know I shouldn’t be laughing at this but dear gawd this is so bad it’s funny. As for your new moniker for Aerosvit? Classic.Thank goodness you made it out of the experience in one piece.

    • Aaron January 16, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      Haha yeah it was a hilariously bad experience. Compared to the flight out, I really was pleasantly surprised about the return flight the other day (though I’ll always remember when they came around filling up the plastic mugs on the dinner trays and I put mine on their tray with kettles and ask for tea. The response? A VERY stern, “Coffee or water!”

      Sheesh!

  2. Katrina January 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Oof, and I thought Ryanair was bad!

    • Aaron January 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      I’ve never flown them. Thinking that might be for the best…

  3. Cathy Sweeney January 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Bummer about those flights, Aaron, but you sure did get an interesting story to tell! Why would the window shade be glued shut? Was there something they didn’t want you to see? :) Making a mental note about Aerosvit….

    • Aaron January 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

      That’s EXACTLY what I wanted to know! Trust me, I tried to open it but no luck! And of course, these images of holes in the plane on the other side started flashing through my head… :-P

  4. Harrison January 17, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Lmao, they put a sticker saying Do Not Open and actually glued it shut? Seems like a prison plane to me? And the food must be a joke! The packaging is horrible. What is wrong with this airline haha.

    • Aaron January 17, 2012 at 12:21 am #

      Prison plane…I like it! The worst is that we had no idea what time it was since we couldn’t have seen any daylight if we’d wanted to!

  5. Tom January 17, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    That sucks about Aerosvit…I was looking for flights and they came up as an option, and I remember just thinking “who the hell are these guys?”…I think they stopped in Tiravspol?! Luckily I didn’t fly with them…

    The service sounds awful. National carriers that offer cheaper seats and bad service still need to remember they’re not budget airlines – you always have to shell out a few hundred bucks for trans-continental flights, rather than the maybe 60 pounds or so for a budget airine. You should have force fed the flight attendants that meal haha ;)

    To date though, the worst airline I’ve flown with are Alitalia (WAY worse than Easyjet, who were actually really good), but they still weren’t terrible.

    • Aaron January 17, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      It was probably a stop at Borispol (Kyiv), as that’s their hub. And trust me had I had some choice in the matter I would have shelled out extra cash for a better airline but I guess I shouldn’t complain because it was a free trip.

      Good to know about Alitalia! I’ve seen them pop up in flight searches before as being pretty cheap… Though this experience taught me that cheap is not necessarily a good thing!

  6. Culture-ist Magazine January 17, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Oh that sounds awful! It is pretty funny that they give you something to drink then something to eat. Btw- the packaging for the food is absolutely classic

    • Aaron January 17, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Yeah it was pretty terrible. And the drink service was totally and completely illogical. I guess it makes sense from a staffing standpoint but it’s a terrible move customer service-wise!

  7. Lisa @chickybus January 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Sounds horrid…jeez. At least you’re laughing about it now, right?

    • Aaron January 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      Haha well, like most crazy and crappy travel experiences, I sure got a good story out of it… The first of many from this trip…

  8. Rease January 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    That meal looks like a bio hazard. I am so sorry.

    • Aaron January 18, 2012 at 1:45 am #

      LOL! Haha tasted like one too!

  9. nicole is the new black January 20, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    The meal looks as if it would be dangerous. That wrapping is hilarious! But I love that you cant open the window…haha. At the end of the day you got their safe and you an interesting story. thanks for sharing!

    • Aaron January 20, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      Hahaha, right?? Funny cuz I often find that the most miserable experiences when they’re happening make the greatest stories! Glad you liked it!

  10. Andy January 24, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Believe me this was luxury compared to some of the experiences I had (and you probably still can have) in Africa. First up, it was a well-known fact that a lot of European pilots who had their licences revoked often for drinking problems could start afresh in West Africa. I know this from downing way too many beers with pilots a few times – who were flying out at dawn the next day…despite all this I took a few flights there. A prop plane from Sierra Leone to Liberia in 1992 was particularly hair-raising, not least for the crashed airliner on the tarmac as we landed. Air Burkina was also fun. Not a single seat back stayed up and the rear half of the plane was used for luggage. I mean everything was piled up back there…and service? Bring your own supplies, there were no cabin crew on either…

    • Aaron January 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      Hahaha that does not surprise me at all! Did not know about the European pilots with revoked licenses… Not even remotely scary, no, not at all! Sounds like a FUN experience!

      Though I do remember as a child flying on the Ecuadorean carrier Tame, which was affiliated with the Air Force, so some of their planes were actually old Air Force prop planes! I distinctly remember literally bouncing down the runway in Cuenca once it was such a terrible landing! Guess I should count my blessings then…

  11. Ali February 1, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    Aaron, this is ridiculous! I can’t believe they can still operate on such a large international level. I’m glad you made it through!

    • Aaron February 2, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Hahaha well I think safety is the only thing that bars an airline from operating to and from North America. Customer service doesn’t have anything to do with it!

  12. Andy February 29, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    There may be some competition from good old Ryanair…I mean get this, they wanted to introduce standing-only flight tickets! Thankfully the regulators threw it out though, check the story here: http://bit.ly/yRSAqT
    Cheers, Andy

    • Aaron March 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      Oh wow. I’d heard about that plan but had no idea it had been denied! And, to be fair, does anyone fly Ryanair expecting a good experience?

  13. Jodi March 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Wow. Thanks for the heads up! To say that I was actually considering to book a flight with them because their prices seemed decent! That would’ve seriously sucked!

    • Aaron March 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

      Hahah I think Aerosvit is a good example of that old saying… “You get what you pay for…” Might be worth spending slightly more for a better flying experience… And glad this was useful to you!

  14. David July 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    So I still don’t understand how you got this flight for free?
    Just because you booked with a group?
    How do I book with groups from now on to get a free flight?

    • Aaron July 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      I went on a Birthright trip, which brings young Jewish people to Israel for a free 10-day trip. So the Birthright folks paid for the flight, not me.

  15. Angela July 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Hi Aaron,

    I’m currently living in Thailand and will be flying back to the States in September. AeroSvit is offering an incredibly cheap flight ($324!!!) and though I keep reading the horror stories I’m finding it hard to turn down. My biggest concern right now is that I’ll be traveling with my dog and would really like to know he’s in good hands. Would you have felt comfortable putting a pet on your flight? The other thing is that the AeroSvit trip is considerably shorter than many others, which also plays into my dog consideration. But of course with all the delays it might not end up being worth it anyway… (I know of one person who was stuck in Kiev for 16 hours… yikes!).

    I feel like I already know what your answer will be (I’m vegetarian so can only imagine the kind of horrible meal I’ll be given), but like you I’m always down for a good story so maybe it’ll be worth it for the money saved? Thanks so much for your time.

    Angela

    • Aaron July 20, 2012 at 12:38 am #

      Hey Angela,

      Thanks for stopping by! Wow that IS an incredibly cheap flight! Hard to resist when it’s that insanely cheap…

      As for your pet, I really don’t know. The biggest thing about AeroSvit is that their staff, especially flight attendants didn’t really seem to care much (if you though flight attendants in the U.S. didn’t really care much, you ain’t seen nothing yet!). I mean meals were literally shoved in my face. And hey if you’re vegetarian, you might just get 3 pieces of fruit wrapped in saran wrap… Ok probably not for a long haul flight, but still! If you do end up taking the flight, Borispol Airport in Kiev is not a particularly pleasant place to spend hours on end, but you can get fairly descent borscht from the cafe upstairs where you pass through security if you’re transiting. Other than that, it’s a tiny airport.

      If you think you can stomach terrible food, potentially no entertainment and crappy service, then the price is hard to beat. I think it comes down more to where your priorites are. Sometimes, especially on flights that long, comfort can make a big difference, but we all have different levels of expectations, right? I flew Singapore across the Atlantic two months ago and that made Lufthansa look crappy in comparison, so it’s all relative, right?

      Good luck with whatever you choose!

  16. Stacy July 27, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    My daughter is going on a birthright trip in two days via aerosvit. She’s getting nervous after reading horror stories. Any advice to make it bearable? How was the rest of the trip? She is going with outdoor adventures. Other daughter went with chabbad and loved it. Flew air Swiss, I think, and it was great.

    • Aaron July 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

      If your daughter does not keep Kosher, it might be worthwhile to request a different meal, though it may be too late to do that. I think that will make the flight a bit better. And bring something to do! She’ll survive though. It’s just not a particularly pleasant 14 or so hours, but at least she’ll be sharing it with the rest of her group!

      The rest of my trip was fantastic! I went with Israel Outdoors (is that the same as your daughter?) and loved it, which is interesting since I’m not a fan of group travel. I think it also helped that I went with a 22-26 group. I was also there in the winter and the weather was quite pleasant (aside from a freezing night we spent in tents in the Negev), though I imagine it’s insanely hot right now… I’m sure she’ll have a great experience and if the flight doesn’t turn out to well, she’ll quickly forget it!

      • Stacy July 28, 2012 at 9:54 am #

        Thank you for your reply. She’s also going with israel outdoors. I’ll give her your advice. She packed lots of apples and trail mix…

  17. vb August 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    The food is standard Kosher type food. It’s not the airline’s fault. Kosher food when flying from the US usually sucks (not as bad as some French Kosher food I once got when flying through Spain though). I had good Kosher food when flying from the UK and from Russia.

    It has to be served still shrink-wrapped (and the hot stuff double wrapped in foil and heated that way) so that people keeping Kosher know it wasn’t messed with. It says so right on the package: Serve with seal unbroken. This does make it a real pain to open though (and the foil wrapping gets extremely hot when they heat your food).

    • Aaron August 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

      Yes, I’m aware of that, though they also served the non-Kosher meals with the foil still on the hot portions. The point wasn’t that it was still wrapped, it was that the food was awful and heated either way too excessively or not at all (like my still-frozen mystery red sauce). The food was much better on the way home though. Not too surprising as I’d expect Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv to do Kosher catering pretty well. Kiev did alright too.

      Have you found on other flights that they gave you a way to dispose of the wrapping? We had to fend with balancing it on our already crowded tray tables…

      • vb September 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

        No, none that I was ever one did they collect the foil until after the meal was over. I usually just put it under the tray (if I manage to get it completely off without burning my fingers). The really horrible French thing that I got on a flight from Spain (I can’t really call it food) also came with the hot portion inside the cold portion container, so they brought it to me and I had to open the cold portion, take out the hot portion and give it to them to heat up, which they brought back like 15 minutes later. There was a really delicious Danish cookie there though.

        The hot portion is always over-heated, though I’ve never had something that was frozen.

        At least on El Al, everything from Tel Aviv is kosher, even if you do not request special kosher food.

        As for Kiev, I recently read that they started making kosher food locally there instead of importing some canned stuff from Denmark or somewhere that they used to do, so it improved a lot.

        I’m flying to Ukraine for a week (Dnepropetrovsk via Kiev) tomorrow with AeroSvit (I know, horrible, but it was either that or fly Aeroflot via Moscow with a 13 hour layover in the airport with no way to get out due to visa requirements), so I can let you know how it goes and if they improved any over the past half year. I’m bringing my iPad for entertainment and it’s an overnight flight so hopefully I can get some sleep too. Got window seats too (you can request seat type – window or isle – via AeroSvit site, and then they assign you the first available seat of your type starting from the front of the plane, but I couldn’t choose an exact seat).

        • Aaron September 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

          Yeesh that does not sound fun. I like that you take care not to burn yourself! Though in the case of Aerosvit, they even had foil on the non-Kosher meals, so I’ll chock that one up to laziness.

          And wow…take apart your food only to give them the food to heat up? That’s ridiculous! And it doesn’t surprise me that El Al is all Kosher catering and I’d imagine they hopefully do it well too.

          Yes the food on my return flight from Kiev to NYC was considerably better than the food on my inbound flight from NYC. But they did serve us the same meal twice on the same leg, while everyone else got two different things.

          Hope your Aerosvit flight went well and that you survived 13 hours in Borispol Airport. It’s a pretty dull place, though I hear they make a tasty borscht at the cafe upstairs by the transit area. And from what I’ve heard of Aeroflot, you probably made the right decision!

          • vb September 5, 2012 at 4:51 am #

            Here’s my review of the flight:

            I had very low expectations and AeroSvit didn’t disappoint! There was no entertainment, but at least the flight map did work, so you could always see how long you have left.

            They first provided drinks (water or various juices), then took away the cups, and then brought food.
            Good news: Kosher meal comes with a small cup of water so you have something to drink! Bad news: the cold portion of the meal was frozen so that cup of water instead contained one big piece of ice that melted very very slowly!
            During the 2nd meal (breakfast), the kosher meal had a cup of orange juice that wasn’t frozen! Yay!

            Also, since my 2nd flight was domestic to Dnepropetrovsk, they only checked me in from JFK to Kiev. I had to get out in Boryspol airport, collect my luggage, and go check everything in again there.

            As for the flight from Kiev to Dnepropetrovsk, it was much more enjoyable. It’s extremely short, only about 50 minutes, but they did provide complementary drinks and some kind of cheese danish (no kosher option though, so I only had the drinks), which was very nice of them. The plane also had leather (or leathery type) seats with more leg room than the international flight. Obviously no entertainment during such a short flight, and the plane isn’t even equipped with any entertainment options (it’s a pretty small 50-seat Embraer RJ145). Also, the seat combinations are 1 seat on one side of the isle and 2 seats on the other, so if you get the 1-seat side, you have both a window and an isle seat at the same time! It also doen’t fly too high, so you have nice views of Ukraine throughout the flight (as long as there are no clouds). In any case, the flight was more enjoyable than many domestic flights in the US.

          • Aaron September 12, 2012 at 11:56 am #

            Yep, that sounds about right on par with my AeroSvit experience. Glad to see they’re consistently bad on their long-haul international legs. Though fortunately for me, the only frozen thing was that mystery red sauce. And we also had a nicer plane for the KBP-TLV leg, though it was through a subsidiary carrier, Donbassaero. Comfier seats, newer plane, but still no entertainment. You know, since Skytrax officially gives AeroSvit a 2-star rating, I don’t even want to know what a 1-star airline!

          • vb September 5, 2012 at 5:04 am #

            Oh, and the security at Boryspol for the domestic flight was a breeze. No need to take off shoes, no stupid regulations regarding drinks, etc.

          • Aaron September 12, 2012 at 11:57 am #

            I tend to find that to be the case just about everywhere outside the U.S. At least the shoe thing. And most places don’t care about a ziplock bag for your liquids either. Though on flights to the U.S., even at Boryspol, they wouldn’t let me bring on a bottle water that I obtained post-security. So obnoxious!

  18. Kle August 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Oh my! what an experience!
    i “landed” here by accident and got curious about airlines tales…
    im about to buy a one way ticket for Asia and im quite worried about the 20 hours flight…
    Being Italian i guess i’ll ask my mum to provide some food that can last for 1 week :P
    or at least to feed me for the whole trip! wish me luck!!!! ahahhaha

    • Aaron August 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

      Haha are you flying Aerosvit? If so, bring something to keep yourself entertained and bring snacks. And bring very low expectations. It can only get better from there! You’ll survive. And if you end up flying any Asian carrier, you’ll probably be treated to spectacular service! Safe travels!

      • Kle September 1, 2012 at 7:18 am #

        ahahah no i hope not!!! for now we are thinking to book a cheap flight with Kuwait Airlines for the last part of the trip from Italy! My only expectation will be: ARRIVING at destination, possibly alive :)
        I will use air Asia while there, that’s for sure…but for internal flights only i guess, so no big deal!! And i will surely bring my “snacks” (translated in italian means that we could feed the entire Crew! :))))

        • Aaron September 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

          Well, look at it this way. If it sucks, you’ll survive and walk away with a great story to tell people…

          And AirAsia rocks! Yes it’s absolutely no frills and they charge for water, but the fares are so absurdly cheap that you don’t care.

          • Kle September 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

            Well, again…my goal is survival! that would already be great! ahahhaa
            im really easy going, i slept on the floor during my 24hrs boat trips, or outside in the cold, so i dont tend to complain much, i just need to save money, so i will definately go with air asia! :))
            After the initial shock, im starting to get excited at the whole idea…:) yayyy

          • Aaron September 16, 2012 at 12:27 am #

            Ok sleeping on the floor of a boat and outside in the cold is definitely a valuable travel skill! As for me, I’m lucky if I can sleep on anything that moves (like a plane)!

  19. Evgenia P September 4, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    If you don’t want to have your luggage broken into and part with some of your valuables, don’t fly Aerosvit through Kiev. My boyfriend and I recently flew Aerosvit from Athens to Moscow through Kiev. Not only the plane was late by 3 hours in Kiev, but upon receiving our luggage, half the plane found out they had stuff missing (clothes disheveled), locks snapped and luggage zippers broken. The police and lost baggage team over in Moscow suggested to never fly this airline and never fly transit through Kiev. Neither the airline nor Borispol (Kiev’s airport) wanted to take responsibility for the damages. The worst experience ever.

    • Aaron September 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Yikes! I had luggage checked and that was not my experience but sorry to hear you had that experience. Crap like that can happen anywhere (happened to my family at Miami International Airport before). But I’m not surprised that Aerosvit delayed you 3 hours and that they refused to take any responsibility. That’s a terrible business practice.

  20. lana September 15, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    heh, i just flew with AeroSvit from Tbilisi to Kiev and then to NYC. no entertainment whatsoever either. it’s bad enough for an adult but when you traveling with a 5 year old and your ipad battery dies out 2 hours into 10 hour flight … know you are screwed. i’m not even going to mention the food, it’s atrocious.

    • Aaron September 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      Ouch. Yeah…that sounds painful… Sounds like a good time to stock up on as many of those portable external battery packs as possible!

  21. d September 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Oh geez. I fly out next week from JFK to TLV via Kiev. The good news is that I was planning on packing a large screen monitor in my checked bags. Now, maybe not. Thanks for the warnings.

    • Aaron September 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Haha that’s exactly the trip I had. Sounds like packing a screen in your carry on may not be such a bad idea! It’s an awfully long and dull 10 hours without any entertainment! Pack snacks too and know that, though it may well be a miserable experience, you’ll probably walk away with a story to tell your friends for years to come! Enjoy…

  22. Talon December 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Yeah, AeroShit seems like the appropriate name. Good gawd!

    • Aaron December 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Hehe. True that!

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