Air Astana is one of the most underrated airlines
I had the pleasure to fly in business class with Air Astana for the first time ever from Almaty to Nur-Sultan or Astana as it used to be called. Air Astana is the national carrier of Kazakhstan. Being an aviation lover myself, I heard great things about Air Astana and watched many youtube videos about how wonderful this airline is so I was looking forward to trying Air Astana. My flight with them was relatively short (1 hour 20 minutes) and I was debating whether it is worth it to fly such a short flight on business but in the end, I decided to go ahead and try it, especially since the price of the ticket was affordable (around $120 USD for the one-way ticket). In fact, Air Astana sells this ticket on Embraer 190 planes as “premium economy” just because the seat isn’t a proper business class seat. The funny thing is, when you buy the ticket, you buy a “premium economy” ticket. However, everything else in this flight belongs to the business class category starting with check-in to service onboard finishing with priority with the baggage carousel. Even the boarding pass says “business class”
After a few beautiful days in Almaty, it was time to say goodbye to this beautiful city. I was excited to see Nur-Sultan for the first time but I was even more excited about the experience I’m going to have with Air Astana. I arrived at the airport about 1.5 hours before the flight. I approached the business class check-in counter and I was done with check-in in less than a minute. Sadly, there’s no business lounge on the domestic side of Almaty airport, which is a very small airport by the way so it can get really crowded there. Instead, I had to find a cafe to sit at to kill the time before boarding. When they started boarding, business class passengers were not given the priority to board the plane but to say the truth, I was able to board the plane smoothly and I finally arrived at my seat, 3K.
This business class seat (or premium economy seat as the airline calls it) on this Embraer 190 was a bit similar to seats in the economy class but with greater legroom and with some large pillows provided (They’re very comfortable). The business class section consists of 12 seats in a 2-2 configuration so there were only 3 rows in this section. The seat was comfortable and I wouldn’t ask for more on such a short domestic flight.
This is the most exciting part of this trip and this is the reason why Air Astana is one of the most underrated airlines in the whole world. This is a short domestic flight and the level of service I received in this flight was so pleasurable that I had to write a blog about it.
There was one flight attendant serving the 12 passengers in the business class section and I must say that she was one of the most professional and the most polite flight attendants I’ve ever seen. The service started a few minutes after boarding the plane with a selection of welcome drinks to choose from; it reminded me of the service on Turkish Airlines as they usually serve welcome drinks before take-off. I chose cherry juice and it tasted so good and fresh that I even had to order another one the flight attendant responded to my request (I asked politely) with a genuine smile. By the way, I can tell who smiles genuinely and who does it fakely, just saying 🙂
A few minutes later, we were given hot towels. I love hot towels as they’re so relaxing. Honestly, this is how every flight should be! Anyhow, we were given menus to choose the lunch meal from. I had 3 options; spiced chicken skewer with Vietnamese sauce, beef stroganoff, or salmon salad in teriyaki sauce. I opted for beef stroganoff.
A few minutes after take-off, my meal arrived in a beautiful fancy tray. On the tray, there was the beef stroganoff with potatoes and mushrooms, greek salad, fresh bread, apple juice, butter, salt and pepper in nice mills, and tiramisu. Everything tasted delicious and fresh. Once again, this was such a great level of service for a short domestic flight. I was in a great mood because of this great meal and wonderful service.
After lunch, I ordered a cup of coffee and a sparkling drink for the purpose of taking a nice photo next to the window. It was also that period of flight when I had time for myself to have deep thoughts about so many things in this world, about everything and everyone, and about my past, my present, and my future.
I must also mention that there was no in-flight entertainment on this flight. Embraer 190 planes are generally small and most of them are not equipped with IFE systems. It was not an issue for me as it was a short flight and I usually download videos and music before flights so I was fine with that.
One nice thing about the flying business is that you can see the engines from the airplane window. I was so busy during this flight tasting the delicious food and the great service I was receiving so I almost forgot to look at the beautiful engines from the window and I remembered to do that only 20 minutes before landing.
I wanted to check the washroom to include it in this review but there was a big guy sitting next to me. He had a laptop on the tray in front of him so I thought that it would be inconvenient to ask him to get out of my seat to the washroom also, there was no time as we started to descend a few minutes after the flight attendant collected lunch trays. So no loo review in this blog 🙂
Landing in Nur-Sultan
We landed in Nur-Sultan on time and it was so quick and easy to collect my suitcase from the luggage claim as my suitcase was among the first ones to be out. I got my suitcase and ordered a Yandex taxi but it was raining and I had to walk in the rain to look for him. In the end, he found me and drove me to my Airbnb apartment in Nur-Sultan. During the drive, I had some nice conversations with the taxi driver in my limited Russian language. The taxi driver was about 50 years old so I asked him the question I usually ask people from former USSR countries “Do you remember the Soviet time?” and “Was it better than now or worse?”. Everyone, I asked this question on this trip answered with yes and this taxi driver wasn’t an exception, he said that it was a perfect time and that they missed it.
I’m so happy that I finally had the chance to fly with Air Astana and now I understand why this airline has such great reviews. Despite being a short domestic flight, this was one of the nicest flights I’ve ever had and that’s due to the excellent level of service and the genuineness and professionality of their staff. Was it worth it to pay a bit extra to fly in business with them despite being a short flight? I think the answer is yes as such an opportunity doesn’t come every day. I live in Toronto now which is very far away from everywhere I like and I don’t get the opportunity to travel as much as I used to when I was living in Kuwait so I thought to take this opportunity, to fly in business, and to write this review about this great experience.
The only downside of this experience was the airport in Almaty. As I said above, it’s a very small and old airport so it can get incredibly crowded and there’s no lounge for domestic passengers, which is another negative point. However, the airport in Nur-Sultan is totally the opposite; it’s modern, spacious, and it’s truly charming.
I hope that Air Astana will maintain this excellent level of service and will not be affected by the cost-cutting policies which are coming from North America and Europe. We need more airlines like Air Astana to keep flying an enjoyable experience.
That’s all I can say about my experience with Air Astana for now. In the next blog, I will be writing about my visit to Nur-Sultan, the beautiful (or weird, depending on your taste) capital of Kazakhstan.