Belavia are the national airline of Belarus. They operate a network of flights from the Belarusian capital Minsk, to destinations in Europe and the CIS. Today, I was flying with Belavia on their shuttle flight from Minsk to Moscow. It’s the biggest air route out of Belarus, and is also operated by Aeroflot, Ural Airlines and UTair.
Belavia fly to Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport to the south of Moscow. I opted to fly with them today as I had a connecting flight out of Domodedovo the following morning, and transport between airports in Moscow is pretty poor.
I’d arrived inbound on a flight from Ukraine. There are no direct flights from Ukraine to Russia due to the current tensions between the two countries, so all flights between Kiev and Moscow have to transit a third country.
Minsk Airport has undergone a huge transformation since the last time I was there. It’s been modernised and even has a Burger King these days.
Before I could board my flight to Russia, I had to go through passport control. Flights between Belarus and Russia are classed as domestic flights, much like the Schengen area in Europe.
Passport control was a complicated affair, and I had to complete several copies of the same tiny form (I guess the the photocopier hasn’t made it as far as Minsk yet). Eventually I was allowed through, and the flight was called for boarding.
The gate agent made no attempt to look at me as I boarded, but flicked quickly through my passport and said ‘da’ before giving me my passport back and letting me through.
My ride to Moscow was one of the oldest Boeing 737-300s in Belavia’s fleet. This was her last flight on the Moscow run, as she was retired the following day.
Inside, the cabin was still pretty comfortable and in a decent condition. Belavia have a business class cabin at the front much like other adjustable cabins on European airlines.
Back in economy, the seats were still comfortable with soft leather upholstering, and a decent amount of legroom.
Boarding complete, we pushed back and taxied out to the runway for our short flight to Moscow.
Minsk is a haven for avgeeks, with dozens of old Soviet aircraft lined up on the aprons. Most of these are used as cargo aircraft.
Takeoff was brisk and we shot up into the skies over Belarus.
Meal service was hastily started, and the crew came through the cabin handing out a sandwich and cup of coffee.
Overhead the seats was a blast from the past, with the classic Boeing 737 overhead console.
After a flight of around an hour, we commenced our descent towards a snowy Moscow Domodedovo airport.
We touched down right on time, and taxied into the terminal here at Moscow.
Immigration at Moscow was predictably difficult. Even though I’d been through passport control in Minsk, I was pulled aside and had my passport checked, as well as being questioned as to what I’d been doing in Ukraine (specifically Zaporozhye, which is close to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine). Thankfully the passport guy accepted my answer of ‘Flying on old Soviet planes’ with a bemused look (either that, or he couldn’t be bothered to question me further) and let me in!
Belavia are a decent airline, and still maintain a good standard of service on their short haul flights. For flights between Europe and Moscow they are often the cheapest choice too – direct flights are notoriously expensive between the two. With new aircraft on the way and a growing fleet of Embraer E190s, they are a solid choice.