The flight described below, number OM-135, took place on 22 December 2011.
Departure from Moscow
Mongolian Airlines flights leave Moscow from Terminal F in Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Though tickets from Moscow to Berlin are widely available from travel agents, it was impossible to buy a ticket for this route directly from Mongolian Airlines online. The flight is simply not listed, though the company’s website does sell tickets.
Likewise, it turned out that you couldn’t check in online, on either the company’s official website or that of Sheremetyevo Airport. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that it’s technically one leg of a 2-stage flight.
The airplane was about an hour late arriving in Moscow. The weather conditions that day were pretty bad (heavy snow) so it's impossible to say whether this was the exception or the rule for the airline.
Either way, the plane eventually taxied up to the gate. It was a Boeing-737-800 with N-number EI-CXV and the proud name "Khubelai Khaan" stenciled on the side (Kublai Khan, the way the name is usually spelt, was a grandson of Genghis Khan, and ruler of the Mongol Empire after his grandfather's death).
The Boeing 737-800 used by Mongolian Airlines is equipped with two classes of seats – business and economy. The plane was in good condition, but obviously not new. It’s been in use for several years, judging by the condition of the seats, baggage shelves and plastic paneling. The state of the plane reminded me of the Boeings in service with UTair and NordStar airlines, whose flights I had to take several years ago.
Seats in the business class have gray leather upholstery, while the economy class has blue-and-gray fabric.
Business class seats
Overhead are the luggage storage bins, along with air conditioning vents and reading lights.
The business and economy class are separated by a curtain.
The plane is equipped with an entertainment system, which includes overhead TV screens and a radio in the elbow rests.
During the 2-hour flight we were shown a 1.5-hour movie with English subtitles.
During the remaining time, the screens showed our flight’s progress.
It was rather interesting to see the flight information displayed in Mongolian.
In the pocket of every seat there were a whole 3 magazines: 2 versions of the flight magazine and a Mongolian business catalog. Almost everything in these was written in two languages, Mongolian and English.
Thanks to the magazines I found out that Mongolian Airlines is scheduled to receive 3 brand-new Boeing jets in 2012 (two 737-800s and one 767-300). Up until now the company has had to rely only on used airliners. With the help of the new planes, they plan to expand their service area, which is currently really small; aside from Moscow and Berlin, the only other flight destinations offered by MIAT are Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.
A feature I found interesting was the location of the card with emergency safety procedures. Instead of the seat pocket, it was glued to the underside of the folding table and so was always in front of you when the table was up.
Mongolian Airlines, as befitting a full-service, flag-carrying airline, offers meals during the flight despite the short travel time.
At first we were offered some appetizers: salted nuts and drinks.
Afterwards we were distributed cold cuts: bread and butter, tea or coffee, some meat and vegetables.
The selection of drinks available during the flight included water, Coca-Cola, Fanta, juices, and red and white wine.
I wanted to make a separate note on the professionalism of the flight attendants. Almost all of them could speak Russian and were friendly and welcoming.
It was very pleasing to know that taking photographs in the plane wasn’t prohibited, as is often the case with Russian and European airlines.
Thus I had no problem taking all the pictures of the plane I needed, even snapping some photos of the flight attendants themselves.
Arrival in Berlin
Flight OM-135 lands at Berlin's Tegel Airport, situated in the western part of the city. It’s one of two operating airports in Berlin.
Upon arrival the plane was quickly serviced and took off for Moscow, and from there to Ulan Bator.
The crew for the return flight was waiting at the ramp, ready for the trip back.
As for the terminal in Tegel Airport, it looks to have been made in the 1980s, reminiscent of Sheremetyevo-2 (now known as Terminal F) in Moscow. By modern standards it’s not very comfortable: the corridors are long and narrow, it’s divided into needlessly long sections, and there are lots of confusing turns and nooks.
Below are several photos to illustrate.
The baggage claim area for arriving flights:
The check-in area for departing flights:
Walkways in the terminal:
The main terminal as seen from the forecourt:
All in all, MIAT Mongolian Airlines left a decent, but not outstanding impression, exactly what one would expect from the national flag-carrier of a modest country.
Cons include aging aircraft and a lack of technological innovations. Pros are the friendly staff, the effort to uphold a good image and the warm treatment of the passengers.