Bees Airline has officially been an airline since March 12, 2021, because on that day the AOC and operating license were issued by the Aviation Authority of Ukraine. Since then, the new player has been gradually expanding its route network.
Bees Airline's business model is based on a mix of charter and scheduled flights. So one travels for numerous tour operators from Ukrainian airports and connects them with Rhodes, for example. The line is based on a mix of tourist destinations and niche routes that previously did not exist from Kiev-Shulyany, Kherson, Lviv, Mykolaiv and Odessa.
Bees Airline also clearly shows the limits to its competitor Wizz Air, because it offers routes that do not lead to the European Union. Of course, the new establishment also has EU targets on offer and recently announced Helsinki from Kiev-Schuljany, but for example, the competitor is not allowed to serve Batumi, Smarkand, Tbilisi and Yerevan due to the lack of a Ukrainian AOC.
In the past, Wizz Air had a local subsidiary in Kiev-Shujany, with which non-EU destinations were also offered. This was triggered at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. Again and again there are considerations to be more reactive, but Bees Airline was faster, at least at the inner-city airport Kiev-Schujany.
Currently no on-board sales, but free water bottles
The question of whether Bees Airline is a low-cost airline or a classic scheduled carrier is currently difficult to answer. The average price level is higher than that of the ultra-low-cost competition, however, similar to Wizz Air, Ryanair or Austrian Airlines, you ask for almost every extra item. After all: You can use the IATA standard size for hand luggage at no extra charge. The plan is to offer paid catering on board scheduled flights in the future. At least in theory, it is also possible to book warm meals in advance, but this was not offered on the test flight.
The carrier could not conclusively answer whether it is a restriction due to the corona pandemic or whether the on-board sale has not yet been rolled out. In any case, every passenger currently receives a bottle of water (0,5 liters) free of charge. If you are very thirsty, the flight attendants can give you a second, but there is currently no purchase offer and no further catering services.
The outfit of the cabin crew depends on the gender, because the male flight attendants appear in gray suits with ties. The design of the suits doesn't seem particularly creative, more like standard off-the-shelf goods. It is completely different with women, who wear a very elegant combination of gray and yellow. The clothes of the female flight attendants look professional and at the same time you can see that the designer and / or tailor has thought about how to remotely remind of a bee and at the same time make the wearer appear trustworthy. Bees Airline has succeeded in doing this balancing act.
Crew implements corona measures
During on-board service, flight attendants of both sexes wear rubber gloves due to the corona pandemic, which are obviously changed regularly. To protect the uniforms, aprons are also put on. When handing out water bottles, this should rather be dispensable. Disinfectant wipes were given out on boarding during the test flight and the cabin crew went through a basket again and proactively offered it.
The crew on the test flight from Yerevan to Odessa were able to communicate perfectly with the passengers in Ukrainian, English and Russian. The announcements could also be clearly understood in English at all times, which is not always a matter of course for western airlines.
Identical seats as installed at Lauda Europe
The cabin of the Boeing 737-800 fleet is no longer reminiscent of the previous operators. Before being used by Bees Airlines, they got new seats from Zodiac. These are identical to those used by Lauda Europe in the A320 fleet. Only the color is different, because the Ukrainian carrier uses dark blue, which looks a bit like Ryanair. The Irish lowcoster also has seats from Zodiac in the latest machines, but they have no seat pockets and on top of that have unnecessary plastic covers. The latter are not available from Lauda or Bees, but seat pockets do. The seats are perfectly fine.
Basically, there is also the option of dividing the cabin into business class and economy with the help of curtains. Only one class is offered on the line. The presence of the curtains is easy to explain: the tour operators have booked a two-class configuration on some charter routes. The catering is also completely different when flying on behalf of a tour operator.
Four Boeing 737-800s are currently in use
The Bees Airlines fleet currently consists of four Boeing 737-800s. These have an average age of 11,8 years and are stationed at Kyiv Shulyany Airport. The so-called decentralized routes from other airports in Ukraine are currently only served in the W pattern. In the case of charter flights, there are sometimes also night stops, whereby a look at the flight plan shows that the carrier endeavors to fly around the clock whenever possible.
And here comes the next peculiarity: The charter business is now given a higher priority than the own line in the summer. That is why the lion's share of self-operated routes are flown at night. This does not seem to have any influence on the occupancy rate, because Bees Airlines enjoys a very good booking situation. The test flight was completely booked.
Almost all extra services are only available at the check-in counter
The product that the new carrier is offering on the line is rock solid and professional. Criticisms are more in the "trappings". There are various tariffs that may or may not include luggage, but currently you can only reserve seats in advance. So if you need an additional suitcase or later find out that you won't be traveling without a piece of luggage, you can only pay the fee at the check-in counter. For passengers who are rather unsure, this is not exactly ideal.
You won't find a web check-in at Bees Airlines, because you don't have one yet. This is also justified with the corona pandemic and the fact that the documents in many countries have to be checked by the ground staff. So all passengers have to go to the counter anyway and that doesn't make the lack of internet check-in half as wild. The costs for extra baggage or hand baggage are kept within tight limits between seven euros and 15 euros.
When it comes to payment, the Bees Airline website requires a certain degree of caution, because the option of paying in euros or dollars instead of hryvnia has its price. With the help of terrible exchange rates, a basket money is generated that can amount to up to ten euros. Hence the general tip: Use a credit or debit card that has no foreign transaction fee and always pays in the local currency.
Anyone expecting lobster and champagne is completely wrong with Bees Airline. But if you want to fly from A to B at an affordable, if not dirt cheap, price, then this carrier is the right choice. The tariff system and the prices for extra services such as additional cases are simple and easy to understand. You are also characterized by fees that are felt to be fair, which, unlike other airlines, are fixed and therefore do not depend on any purchase time.
Bees Airline can be an interesting option for people who arrange transfer flights themselves at their own risk (e.g. in the event of delays). The route network from Ukraine offers interesting destinations in the direction of the former Soviet states, which are difficult or expensive to reach from Germany or Austria. The combination with a low-cost airline, which is used at the feeder, is an option worth considering in order to save the travel budget. However, this always depends on the individual case and the actual offer on the day of booking.
Not much can be said about the “quality” of the flight, because the crew brought all passengers safely and punctually from Yerevan to Odessa and always seemed friendly, hard-working and motivated despite the nighttime time. Perhaps Bees Airline would do well with it if the male flight attendants were given a uniform that is as elegant as their female colleagues.
Note: The airline Bees Airline had no influence on this product test. The cost of the business trip was borne by Aviation Direct Operations, San Pawl. Neither discounts nor free tickets are accepted.