Azerbaijan Airlines Review
I've always intrigued by Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), they have a handful of interesting long haul aircraft (2 A340-500, 2 B767-300, 2 B787) flying to a handful of places few times a week. Their crown jewel of the fleet, A340-500 has became a largely standby aircraft since they received B787 Dreamliner. She no longer fly regularly to New York or Beijing.
In early January, by accident I saw their A340-500 on the flightradar24 in Dubai. Further research revealed that they indeed deploy this much bigger plane to Dubai during peak January season until January 12.
After much thoughts, I decided to buy a ticket to fly them to London via Baku. There is a decent Business Class ticket cost 1250USD one way from Dubai to London. I bought my ticket on their website which is simple and functional. However I cannot choose seats after booking and was told only at check-in.
8 January 2016
Dubai to Baku
Flight: J2 11
AZAL use terminal one at Dubai. There was a rather long queue for check in with most passengers with families and lot of luggage going to Baku.
I arrived 2.5 hours early and able to choose seat 4K which is arguably the best seat for engine view.
AZAL business class passengers use DCA Business Class lounge in T1 which offer good variety and quality F&B.
Boarding was conducted using dual aerobridges which is impressive. The striking blue colour on the A340-500 made me feel very special walking down the bridge to board.
Wow! i was blown away with it. Although this retain the former Kingfisher Airlines seating design, but it was really nice and welcoming with the red. This plane was never delivered to Kingfisher but eventually to AZAL.
Even better, there's a bar!
I think it is this bar set this aircraft apart and gave a much premium feel! It is so gorgeous! I think I prefer this setting to the Emirates A380 bar!
After i settle down in my seat, an AZAL flight attendant came with a tray of cocktail juices and champagne to welcome me onboard. I took a strawberry juice as my welcome drink.
Newspaper, noise cancelling headset and food/drink menu were handed out.
5 Main courses to select on a 2.5 hrs flight!
What an awesome amenity kit! (How many crocodile it consumed? LOL)
We've pushed back ontime at 14:10 local time, all set for the journey up North to Baku.
The only 2 four engines airbus together!
Oh no, something went wrong
As our plane taxi towards the active runway 30R, we made a sharp U-turn. I knew something doesn't seem right. We taxied all around Dubai Airport and stopped at a hard stand. The announcement was made in Azerbaijan language so I have to ask the crew. It turned out we have a medical case onboard that require paramedic's urgent attention.
We waited a further 20 minutes for the paramedics to board and examine the ill passenger.
While we're waiting onboard, I went up to the front door 1L to snap the impressive A340-500 in AZAL blue paint.
The F/O was kind enough to help me take this photo as a souvenir. Although I was smiling in this picture, I was worried about the flight connection.
The ill passenger and her family was eventually offloaded with their bags. The whole process took 1h45mins. I started to be very concern of my short connection in London, which I only have 2 hours in Baku. At one point, it seems I am going to miss the connection. I was worried but it is out of my control. I can only keep waiting and read through their in-flight magazine.
Below is the seatmap of the AZAL A340-500
Very generous leg room and ottoman.
Finally we were airborne at 16:30 (2h20mins after departure time), I was relieved to know there are 17 more passengers connecting to London and they will wait for us. Our estimated arrival time in Baku is 7:05pm which is actually the London departure time.
We flew out of Runway 30L (Rwy30R was closed for routine maintenance that afternoon).
Please see the video footage of the beautiful climb.
City of Sharjah in the background.
What a beautiful wing, I can never get tired of this view!
Business Class is about 60% full while it is full in economy. The service started right after the plane reach cruising altitude. Table cloth were laid and interesting they serve the meal first before beverages.
I have the cold meat as starter which is very tasty.
I was offered 2 kind of champagne, Moet and a German one. You can guess which one I chose 😉
I was also offered to try 2 different Azerbaijan red wine with my main course.
Seeing I enjoy the wine, the purser left me with the whole bottle! And what a bottle!
Main course: Roast Beef, very well done.
Dry fruit, honey cake and black tea, all gone down very well.
Well, I can't believe this much catering for 2.5 hrs flight! Food and Beverage was excellent on AZAL.
I also enjoy using the in-flight entertainment system, which it seems quite generic feature lot of Russian and Azerbaijan movies along the usual Hollywood hits. I just keep watching the in-flight map to see if we able to fly faster and catch up some lost time.
Where is Baku situated? It is on a peninsula in Caspian Sea and it is above Iran!
Earlier we flew over Iran, the desert just before sunset.
With a belly full of wine and food, I was given this children's pillow to sleep which I obliged and found it comfortable as a pillow.
Arrival into Heydar Aliyev Int'l
The light were turned on during approach into Baku. Please refer to the video to see the landing scene.
Due to the 2 hrs delay, we arrived in Baku after dark.
I was very pleased that my first flight with AZAL is a memorable and extraordinary one on their flagship A340-500. The flight was short but the enjoyment was huge. Great aircraft, great food and beverage and good service makes the 2.5 hrs flight gone probably even faster.
Short Transit in Baku
There are quite a lot of passengers are on transit onto London, Moscow and other CIS destinations. Many were rushed running towards the transit desk to re-checkin and going through security check. It didn't take very long time to pass through the formality. However I didn't have time to visit the AZAL lounge in Baku.
The impressive terminal at Baku
Boarding AZAL B767-300 to London
8 January 2016
Baku to London
Flight: J2 7
AZAL's london flight is usually operated by B787 but on that day it is scheduled for a B767, no complaint from me.
Our flight departure is delayed about 50 minutes due to the late arrival from Dubai and baggage loading.
Business Class is 2-1-2 configured with Boeing's signature cabin (overhead bin)
I was the only customer sitting in the center seat. Later on I moved to the first row which is far more private. The solo seat lack of privacy but it is great for solo traveler. The seat recline into a angle flat position that you feel like sleeping downwards.
Row 1 has better recline and leg room.
Flight time to London was 6hrs + with very strong head wind.
First Course: Smoke Fish and Russian Salad
Nice flower to enhance the onboard dining
Pasta with Prawns, it was yummy
Finally dessert is Panna Cota, fruit and black tea
Economy Class of the AZAL B767
The crew was cold at the beginning but after seeing me being so enthusiastically taking photo of everything, they finally broke the ice. They're interested in what I think of AZAL and whether I have visited their country. The crew consist of Russian and Azerbaijan origin.
Landing into London
With the strong head wind and delayed departure, our arrival into Heathrow is delayed by more than an hour. We arrived in T4 at 22:30pm. The B767 have to turn around with less than an hour to beat the curfew at Heathrow. It eventually departed at 23:32 back to Baku that evening; the last one out of Heathrow. Well done to the London team.
Below is a photo over London city around 10:30pm from above.
I really enjoyed both of my flights with AZAL. For me, It is a rare airline to fly with. They are 4 star Skytrax Airline which I think they offer solid product and well deserve such rating. I look forward to visit the country, Azerbaijan one day.