This year I flew Belavia–Belarus’s flag carrier–from Nice, France to Minsk, Belarus, and from Minsk to Prague, Czechia.
(I spent five days in Belarus visa-free under the new policy that allows such visits. Here is my experience with the five-day visa free program.)
Flying Belavia was mostly like flying a normal airline with a few exceptions.
Check in in Nice started two hours before departure and was handled by non-Belavia employees. This was nice for me because they didn’t bat an eye that my checked bag was several kilograms above the 20 kg maximum for Belavia economy passengers. The check in agent didn’t ask for a visa, proof of health insurance, a return ticket, or anything else. He just handed me a boarding card.
In Minsk, Belavia employees checked me in, and the employee immediately mentioned that my bag was 4 kg overweight (9 pounds.) She offered to let me transfer some to my carry on, but I had already put most of my heavy stuff in there, so I knew I couldn’t really transfer much weight. I didn’t want her to weigh my carry on, which was over the 8 kg weight limit, so I just went to a separate desk to pay the overweight fee of 6 euros per kilo. I thought 24 euros ($27) was a small price to pay since this was the first time in five flights I’d had to pay for my excess baggage.
With a receipt for my overweight bag, I went back to the check in desk and got my boarding card.
Belavia has too many employees. My flight from Nice was a 50 seat aircraft that American airlines would staff with one flight attendant. We had two for 17 passengers.
My overstuffed carry on didn’t fit in the mini-overhead bins, so flight attendants put it on the floor in the unused first row. I occupied myself with the unintentionally humorous inflight magazine, which advises in Hong Kong: “Smile: depression and whining are forbidden here.” We were served an underwhelming ham-based meal and given a few Belarus post cards. The flight passed uneventfully, and we landed in Minsk. I don’t think Minsk has any gates, so we were driven on a bus to immigration. I noticed as we were being taken away that a van of cleaning ladies arrived, and several got out to clean the mini-plane. Again, Belavia has too many employees.
From Minsk to Prague, I flew a fuller Boeing 737. Again, we took a bus to the plane.
Onboard service was similar on the second flight. I’d say the flight attendants are somewhere between United and Singapore Airlines. They are better than United flight attendants because they are very grateful to have their jobs: it’s a great one for a Belarusian. They are worse than Singapore flight attendants because they don’t have the training and refinement.
Obviously I’m not qualified to judge the safety of flying Belavia. For me, it’s enough that France and Czechia allow Belavia to fly to their countries. Anecdotally though, flying Belavia felt as safe as flying any other airline.
Belavia has the most flights to Minsk, so you may have to fly them. If you do, don’t hesitate. You’ll have an average flying experience.