It had been pretty uneventful, the flight from London to Kiev. The plane arrived early, immigration in Kiev’s Borispyl Airport were unusually efficient and my bag popped onto the carousel fairly quickly. I had been a little stressed, my turn around in Kiev was only 90 minutes and this being the former Soviet Union, nothing was ever easy. And so it proved.
I left Terminal B on a hot and humid evening and headed for the Domestic Terminal a short walk away. On entering, the thing that struck me the most, apart from the huge queue, was the air conditioning. There wasn’t any. A closer inspection of the queue revealed the vast majority of the passenger’s clothes were manufactured from a mixture of fabric and sweat, with associated smells.
I joined the line that seemed most associated with my destination, Odessa and spent the next 30 minutes slowly creeping towards the check-in desks, the boredom only briefly alleviated by the occasional trickle of sweat down my back. With all the charm of a female prison warden on her period, I was checked in and some 15 minutes later on a bus out to the plane.
The Kiev – Odessa route is normally a fairly quiet business commuter route but this being a busy summer’s Sunday evening, it was packed and inevitably, we left a little late. After a long taxi we eventually lined up on the runway, and waited. And waited. After about three minutes the captain announced there was a technical problem, we would have to return. This was done in Russian but you don’t need to be a cunning linguist the work out what he had said, the reaction of the captive audience told the whole story.
And so we taxied back. The problem it seemed, was minor and could be fixed whilst we waited on the plane, which of course, now that the AC was switched off, made the domestic terminal seem like an eskimo’s pantry. We sat there for about an hour, the blue leather seats getting slipperier by the minute before the captain announced we were almost ready to go. Followed shortly by a further announcement that we were ready to go but had to wait for permission from the Ukrainian department of transport. Assuming they could find someone working at 10.30 in the evening on a Sunday.
Eventually they did and off we set, with a certain amount of trepidation concerning our newly repaired aircraft.
We arrived in Odessa about 2 hours late. The workers in the Odessa domestic terminal had given up waiting for us and gone home. We were bussed from the plane to the main gates of this “international airport” where a huge crowd of friends, family and lovers pressed against the wrought iron fence. Our baggage arrived a few minutes later, the entire contents of a Boeing’s belly on the top of a tractor driven cart, cueing a mad bun fight the find your own suitcase.
So it was an inglorious, and odd arrival to the country that will be my home. My wife was amongst those pressed up against the fence awaiting us eagerly. Fortunately unlike many westerners joining their Ukrainian wives, I had met her before. Quite a few times in fact.