The long-awaited arrival of Transaero Airlines to Tyumen happened in summer 2012. As part of its summer charter program, Transaero opened up flights to a whole three new destinations: Barcelona, Bangkok, and Paphos (Cyprys). The first two of these are served by Boeing 767-200s. The Paphos flight, which was the one I took, was conducted aboard a Boeing 737-800. The Cyprus trip was booked a little over a month in advance. By that time all of the economy class seats had been taken, so I had to pony up and book business class. The total additional cost for the round trip was about $320 (240 Euro).
I arrived at Roshchino Airport 2.5 hours before the scheduled departure. The airport is dates back to Soviet days and is rather shabby, but this year it's supposed to undergo a major reconstruction. On paper, the plans are pretty grand, so we'll see how it turns out.
Check in and various other pre-flight procedures went surprisingly fast. I got seat 2A, my first pick. Naively, I decided to go and find the so-called "Business Lounge". I discovered no such thing, everyone waited in the same area.
There was still a lot of time left, so I decided to take a couple of photos. Sorry about the quality, I was using my phone.
Passengers joyously awaiting their flight.
Passengers boarding a flight to Moscow. The plane is an Airbus A319:
This beauty, on the other hand, is ours. Tail number EI-EDZ, built in 1998.
Boarding for our flight was announced around 3:20 PM, which was about half an hour later than scheduled. The displays in the airport stubbornly refused to acknowledge this and continued to show that our flight was on time, even after the scheduled departure time had come and gone.
I didn't want to risk taking any pictures on the runway, since I wasn't sure how the security personnel would feel about it. I was among the last to board the plane. After the standard "Welcome" fr om an attractive flight attendant, I got to my seat.
The seat had all sorts of adjustments, though one of the buttons was obviously broken.
There was plenty of leg room. What was most surprising, however, was that the second row had even more leg room than the first.
In the pocket on the back of the seat were Transaero's flight magazine and a set of travel accessories, which included socks, a sleep mask, and stickers with "do not disturb" and "wake for meals" messages. We weren't told wh ere we were meant to stick these stickers, however. Probably on our foreheads. We were also provided with a pillow and blanket.
Business class had only 8 seats, arranged in two rows with a 2-2 configuration. It was separated from economy class by a curtain. Economy class was arranged in the standard 3-3 configuration. So as not to seem like a clueless first-time traveler to my fellow passengers, I decided not to take any pictures of the business class cabin. I can only provide a photo of the economy class, which wasn't even taken by me.
At this point, we were given candy (not in Transaero-branded packaging, for some reason), and offered drinks, which came pre-poured in cups, and, of course, the summer-time standard for business class travelers - cool moist towels. They didn't offer us newspapers, however. A short demo on safety procedures later, and we were off. We parted company with the ground around 3:40 PM.
After reaching cruising altitude, we were again offered refreshments, this time together with a snack (nuts). In the background you can see the appetizer for our upcoming meal (late lunch or early dinner or whatever it was).
The appetizer consisted of a small salad, lightly-salted salmon and beef tongue.
For a hot meal I ordered macaroni with meat and green beans. The macaroni turned out to be a bit overcooked, but still edible. On the other hand, the meat was quite tasty.
A simple dessert:
Of course, I couldn't leave out pictures of the restrooms.
The restrooms were clean and tidy. I had one major complaint, which was that the levers for the hot and cold water did not stay pressed, so I had to use one hand to hold them down while I washed the other. Very inconvenient.
The flight itself went by without incident. In-flight service was more than satisfactory. They didn't even try to extort me when I asked for a DVD player.
That's Antalya, Turkey, down below. In five minutes we would start our descent.
In the distance, I saw this scenic valley with wind turbines. A few seconds hence the plane would do a 180-degree turn and come in for a smooth landing.
Arrival was exactly on schedule. The trip lasted about 5 hours. Our plane had to turn itself around right on the airstrip, which was an impressive maneuver for a plane this size. Can't say I see that every day. We were taken to the terminal building by shuttle as the airport didn't have extendable ramps.
Paphos welcomed us with insane humidity and an empty waiting area. The airport itself wasn't particularly interesting. I'm not sure why it was awarded the title of "best resort airport in Europe". In my opinion, the Larnaca airport was a lot more impressive in this regard. Perhaps the jury had been dazzled by the museum of dangerous items that had been confiscated at this airport, which I tried but failed to find.
I spent 10 days in Paphos. It's a nice, quiet town for a low-key vacation.
On the night of July 22, I was scheduled to return home.
Part 2. Flight UN9884, 4:35 AM on 7/22/2012, Paphos-Tyumen
I arrived at the airport 2 hours ahead of the scheduled departure. By that time, most of the passengers had already checked in. Unlike Roshchino, which had only one, this airport had a whole three check-in stands, one of which was supposed to be reserved for business class passengers. Check-in went quickly, despite the fact that the business class stand was also serving economy class passengers. I guess the lady at the desk decided that it wasn't worth it to only process 8 people. This time the seat I got was 1F. Together with my boarding pass I also got an invitation to the business lounge.
Despite the fact that the airport was small, and everything seemed easy enough to find, my search for the business lounge was longer than I anticipated. It was situated in the most remote area of the airport. That's probably why I was the only person there.
It wasn't a bad business lounge. It had all the essentials, like snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, comfy couches, and free wifi. Food included sandwiches, chips, cucumbers and tomatoes. Nothing fancy, of course, but better than nothing.
All in all, judging by what I saw, the business lounge doesn't really see much use, since the majority of flights at this airport are operated by low-cost airlines, like Ryanair, Thomas Cook and easyJet.
At 4:10 AM, boarding was announced. This went as quickly as last time, even though the plane was completely booked. We started taxied onto the runway at around 4:25, and took off at 4:30. A rare example of supreme punctuality on a Transaero charter flight.
This time the kit of travel accessories was more formidable, and included a hair comb, a shoehorn, a shoe brush, earplugs, slippers, and a sleep mask.
Here is the flight magazine "Imperial" for business class passengers. There wasn't much of interest inside, the magazine from the previous flight had a lot more to offer.
The food consisted of a choice between an omelet and pancakes with fruit. For dessert, we had diced fruit with cheese. I picked the pancakes, which I regretted afterwards because they turned out to be far too sweet for my taste.
Unfortunately, my phone died a little while after boarding, so I couldn't take any photos of the cabin or the meal. However, everything was pretty much the same; we were flying on the same plane, the restroom was well-kept, and the staff friendly. In-flight service, like the on previous flight, was quite satisfactory.
Four and a half hours after takeoff we began a slow descent. We arrived at Tyumen exactly on time. Home sweet home!
Before my flight to Cyprus, I had read a lot of negative reviews about Transaero, and so I was naturally expecting the worst. I was warned about terrible food, boorish service and staff, and constant delays. Thus, what I saw on these two flights exceeded my expectations. I wonder now if the difference was due to those extra $320 that I paid for business class. In that case, it was well worth it.
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