Day 89: 21 Hours of Flight

The horror of passport check in Kiev

My travel itinerary for today is Lviv to Kiev, Kiev to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Minneapolis, and Minneapolis to Salt Lake City. Total travel time will be approximately 21 hours. To transition myself to US Mountain Time, I should sleep from Lviv to Kiev and Kiev to Amsterdam, but stay awake for most of the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis and further.

At the Lviv airport I check my giant duffel bag of souvenirs and then the lady asks to weigh my carry-ons. No problem, I’ve been able to use these carry-ons for all of my flights throughout the world so far, and I’ve even packed less in both bags because I needed padding ( clothes ) for the souvenirs in my duffel bag. Well, apparently, for Ukrainian International Airlines, 14.4 kg is too heavy for a carry-on ( most airlines allow up to 15 kg, UIA only allows 8 unless you buy their preferred flyer program, which gives you 12 ). I tell the girl that I used the exact same bag with more stuff in it on a UIA flight out here to Ukraine and they allowed it as a carry-on, but she’s hearing none of it. In fact, she’s rather pointedly ignoring me. I let it go and pay my $160 for a second checked bag. I just hope none of my luggage gets lost on the way back.

“First Class” in a UIA airplane is just your standard ( really bad ) seat, but the middle seat in the row is replaced with a mini-table. And no, I did not fly first class.

The flight from Lviv to Kiev is only about an hour long, but even an hour can seem like an eternity in the seats UIA has for passengers. They’re super narrow, have very little cushioning, and my knees are by default pressed into the chair in front of me because there is almost zero leg room. Upon arriving in Kiev I take a short walk from the domestic terminal to the international terminal where I have to wait in line for about ten minutes to go through the scanners and then find myself at passport control.

Passport control is super fun today. The line is moving at a rate of one person every 2 minutes and it’s long. Very long. Further, apparently, there are certain people who are important enough to be shown to the checkpoint by a guard and cut in front of the rest of us. I sit in the passport control line for an hour, which means that by the time I reach my transfer gate they’re already boarding. Time for a 3 hour flight on a skinny seat with no leg room to Amsterdam.

I’ve been in Amsterdam three times, with the above view pretty much all I’ve seen each of those three times. One of these days I’ll have to actually get out of the airport and into the city.

We either get in to Amsterdam late or they have not yet gone through the Daylight Savings change, because when I arrive I have only about thirty minutes in total to transition through several security lines and get on the airplane before it takes off. To make things super helpful, I’m even targeted for a random extra-thorough security check. But hey, at least I won something in a random drawing? Compared to Kiev, however, Amsterdam is a breeze and a pleasure. The extra security check even takes only 2–3 minutes. Compared to the security check I went through as part of routine procedure in Israel, Amsterdam was nothing.

My flight to Minneapolis from Amsterdam is Delta, and what a relief that is. The seats are extremely comfortable. We are served meals and snacks and drinks. There are screens on the back of the seat in front of us with options for movies, games, and more. Adding to all of these bonuses, the airplane is nowhere near full, so I get to fly with no one sitting next to me. I’ll readily volunteer for four hours in a UIA-type flight if I can make the 9+ hour leg this comfortable every time.

Thank you, Delta, for having large seats that make a 9 hour flight bearable.

Passport control in Minneapolis is fast and easy with a plethora of fully automated stations available. However, after processing through, we have to pick up all of our checked bags and re-check them for continuing domestic flights. Neither of my bags made it to Minneapolis. If I had to guess, I’d say my bags did not make the transition from UIA to Delta in Amsterdam due to the extremely short layover. Maybe they were able to catch the next flight.

Back in the USA. Also, I soon find out that we weren’t supposed to have our phones on in this area. Whoops.

The final flight to SLC is uneventful, though the majority of people on the airplane are noticeably … larger. Including the two other people in my row. At the end of it, I’m picked up by a couple of friends ( thanks guys ) and driven down to my house … where I crash immediately.

Tomorrow I’ll head into work at 7:30 just like I last did on August 6th, as if nothing has changed in the past three months.