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Flight Review: Air Astana – From the heart of Eurasia

 
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ameya
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Joined: 09 May 2007
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Location: Pune,Maharashtra

PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:58 am    Post subject: Flight Review: Air Astana – From the heart of Eurasia Reply with quote

Flight Review: Air Astana – From the heart of Eurasia

Please click the link for pictures. The experience you can read here.


Air Astana was another airline in my bucket list for a while. I was mighty impressed with their efforts to grow their hub traffic and how they have effectively used multiple aircraft in their fleet to start, expand and sustain a route. The airline recently started flights from Astana to Delhi and has upgraded the Almaty Delhi route to A321.
The bookings were done by our Travel Agent friends with two PNRs, one each for onward and return journey since we wanted to avail the stopover holidays package of Air Astana
Airport
Armed with printouts of tickets, boarding card and stopover holidays confirmation, we entered Terminal 3 at Delhi at 0845 hours. The Flight Information Display System (FIDS) listed Air Astana at row L and a sizable crowd was already there in front of 4 check-in counters, 1 each for Business class and baggage drop and two for economy. It took 20 minutes for us to reach the counter and placing our bags on the conveyer belt; I handed over the whole bunch of confirmations and asked for the procedure to get the 72-hour transit visa. The friendly staff clicked a picture of our confirmation and passport details to send it to their counterparts in Almaty. I was interested to know the passenger mix and it mainly comprised transit traffic and groups.
I have always been impressed with Immigration officers in Delhi. Unmistakably they search for a page which has three stamps and then put the fourth one there instead of using up a fresh page. Security was a nightmare. It took exceptionally long with limited staff and extra security on account of Independence Day. This left us with little time for breakfast and we rushed through to gate 11B where boarding was to start at 1040 for an 1135 departure.
The A321neo (first for me) was docked to the aerobridge. The airline has a modest but growing fleet of 33 aircraft with 25 more on order. The airline carried 4.2 million passengers last year and has been ranked SKYTRAX 4-star airline since 2010.
Boarding was announced at 1050 and row wise orderly boarding commenced. The aircraft was less than a month old and had a refreshing feel. Newspapers and magazines on the aerobridge before boarding, pleasant mood lighting in the aircraft, water bottle, pillow, earphones and amenity kit on the seat along with comfortable seats and seat-back IFE. The first impression was impressive! The crew soon came with toffees as all the passengers settled in and it looked a full flight in Economy without a few seats empty in Business.
Flight
We were well past scheduled departure time, when we pushed back at 1230 – a delay of 55 minutes. A long taxi to runway two eight and we were off on our way to Almaty. We crossed over in the Pakistani air space near waypoint SULOM. Service had started by then and I was exploring the IFE. Sadly, the map view did not work but the IFE had a fair selection of music, movies, documentaries and TV shows.
Service comprised drinks run (Wine/Juices/water/cold drinks) and meal options included a vegetarian one or lamb. The meal comprised Plain Yogurt, a tasty salad, dry bread, cheese cube, rice/pulov, daal (Lenthil preparation) and paneer (Cottage cheese). This was followed by another drinks run and when passengers asked for more alcohol, they were told its over! For the duration of the flight, this was the last service run. The staff for this flight was curt and dismissive and bordered on being rude.
The views outside were breathtaking. The path took us south west of Lahore, North east of Sargodha crossing over into Afghan airspace near waypoint LAJAK and overflying Jalalabad, entering Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan – flying just west of Bishkek and entering Kazakhstan. And we had some beautiful landscape on the right side with mountains and lakes along with snow-capped peaks.
We landed on runway zero-five R and parked at one of the remote bays. Almaty airport looked like a mini junkyard of soviet era aircraft, none of them in flying condition. There was ambiguity on clicking pictures on the tarmac with police personal around and trying to tell something in local language. I did click a few pictures. We were quickly bussed to the terminal and that was the last “quick” thing which happened.
Arrival Experience
There were boards for quick-transfers and Air Astana staff guided them to Transfers desk. The passengers were connecting to Tbilisi, Bishkek, Kiev, Moscow, Dushanbe, St. Petersburg and surprisingly Kuala Lumpur!
The Air Astana staff then gave us a printout of list of Indians availing transit visa on that day. Data privacy hasn’t reached Almaty yet. The list contained names, passport number, Inbound and Outbound flight details of all Indians! We were handed with two copies, one to show while entering and another on the way out.
The four counters saw immigration move at snail’s pace and it took over two hours for 150+ passengers to clear immigration. By the time we were out with the bags, our transport was missing and had to struggle to get to the hotel. The city is very nice and I would write about it later. But the road to the hotel started with dense foliage on both sides with smell of forest.
Other flights
We had to Uber our way on the day of departure after some great time in Almaty. The Stopover holidays assigned driver did not show up at the designated time.
Check-in, followed by Immigration and security was a breeze. The Security Hold Area (SHA) is very small with 4 gates and has limited view of the apron. It also has only two cafeterias, one toilet block and one duty free. It was sustainable for few hours and we enjoyed the coffee at one of the cafeterias.
Boarding was on-time but the wait was as long as the first flight. 20 minutes past departure time, it was announced that the delay is on account of loading of cargo. We took two more flights, from Tashkent to Astana on the Embraer E-190 and Astana to Delhi on Airbus A320. All flights except the first were without seatback IFE and the flights to and from Tashkent did not have amenity kits.
Overall Experience
I was impressed with Air Astana. A relatively newer airline, operating in an environment where getting feeder traffic is a challenge and expanding steadily. I particularly liked their safety demonstration video and the product overall. All four flights were on-time, two despite the delay in departure. Not the best of alcohol on offer or duty free on sale on-board but that did not affect my experience.
I flew the A321neo, A320 and E-190 and they had comparable product experience. A repeat flight? If they are competitive, then why not! No reason to say no!
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

...as I wrote to you Sir on a personal email, lovely! This focuses on the airline in particular. Thank you for putting in planning-related details, as I had requested you (over email), and indirectly Samir-da (in a reply to his TR). I really wish we had the enthusiasm and sheer tenacity of the Joshis to do these exotic places and routings.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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ameya
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Location: Pune,Maharashtra

PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the kind words. I still think that Lao airline was rarer than this !
But there are very few trip reports for Air Astana online
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PAL@YWG
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ameya, nice TR really enjoyed.

Sad to hear that your included taxi ride (part of stopover holidays) didn't work out well. In our case it was seamless.
You mentioned in your other forum that there is nothing much to see/do in Kyrgyzstan. I would say Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful amongst all Stans. In fact it was known as Switzerland of the USSR (other Switzerland being Lebanon pre-war). I would recommend you include Kyrzyzstan in your next visit of the region.

Waiting for your Tashkent part of the TR.
Thanks
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stealthpilot
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great TR with the ups and downs. Thanks for sharing.

PAL@YWG wrote:
I would say Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful amongst all Stans.
It's on my list as well, but it's not an easy visa to get IIRC.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2018 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
Ameya, nice TR really enjoyed.

Sad to hear that your included taxi ride (part of stopover holidays) didn't work out well. In our case it was seamless.
You mentioned in your other forum that there is nothing much to see/do in Kyrgyzstan. I would say Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful amongst all Stans. In fact it was known as Switzerland of the USSR (other Switzerland being Lebanon pre-war). I would recommend you include Kyrzyzstan in your next visit of the region.

Waiting for your Tashkent part of the TR.
Thanks


Thanks and would have it on my list next time around. Looks like Turkmenistan will be off radar for a while. Not sure if Dushanbe - Bishkek can be clubbed with something else. Need to research more !
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sabya99
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2018 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A nice trip report. I did not know the names of the way points between India and AFPAK area although I have flown many times. My 2016 flight was south of Kabul, Faisalabad and again south of Lahore.
Passenger manifest with details of visa and passport number is a top secret in airlines business. I think this airline is still in 6th century. I remember AI did not disclose its manifest even after Kaniska crashed in north Atlantic.
Food seems to interesting and central Asian origin. Usually most airlines opted for mass produced airlines caterer’s food.
Good job!
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PAL@YWG
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
PAL@YWG wrote:
Ameya, nice TR really enjoyed.

Sad to hear that your included taxi ride (part of stopover holidays) didn't work out well. In our case it was seamless.
You mentioned in your other forum that there is nothing much to see/do in Kyrgyzstan. I would say Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful amongst all Stans. In fact it was known as Switzerland of the USSR (other Switzerland being Lebanon pre-war). I would recommend you include Kyrzyzstan in your next visit of the region.

Waiting for your Tashkent part of the TR.
Thanks


Thanks and would have it on my list next time around. Looks like Turkmenistan will be off radar for a while. Not sure if Dushanbe - Bishkek can be clubbed with something else. Need to research more !


Turkmenistan visa is a tough one. I heard that even after a visa is issued sometimes tourists were followed by govt minders during previous president's tenure. Things might have changed since then.

Bishkek- Dushanbe routing is a difficult one since you might not find an airline (doing that route) whom you can trust about your safety Smile If you go to Bishkek, definitely go to Issyk Kul, a serene lake. I wrote a TR here about that journey.

http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12234.html

If you go to Dushanbe, head out to the mountainous (Pamir mountain range) road leading to Afghanistan border. I think Khorg is the name of the place where you can cross the border. View is breathtaking but it's not for faint hearted though.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
ameya wrote:
PAL@YWG wrote:
Ameya, nice TR really enjoyed.

Sad to hear that your included taxi ride (part of stopover holidays) didn't work out well. In our case it was seamless.
You mentioned in your other forum that there is nothing much to see/do in Kyrgyzstan. I would say Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful amongst all Stans. In fact it was known as Switzerland of the USSR (other Switzerland being Lebanon pre-war). I would recommend you include Kyrzyzstan in your next visit of the region.

Waiting for your Tashkent part of the TR.
Thanks


Thanks and would have it on my list next time around. Looks like Turkmenistan will be off radar for a while. Not sure if Dushanbe - Bishkek can be clubbed with something else. Need to research more !


Turkmenistan visa is a tough one. I heard that even after a visa is issued sometimes tourists were followed by govt minders during previous president's tenure. Things might have changed since then.

Bishkek- Dushanbe routing is a difficult one since you might not find an airline (doing that route) whom you can trust about your safety Smile If you go to Bishkek, definitely go to Issyk Kul, a serene lake. I wrote a TR here about that journey.

http://airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic12234.html

If you go to Dushanbe, head out to the mountainous (Pamir mountain range) road leading to Afghanistan border. I think Khorg is the name of the place where you can cross the border. View is breathtaking but it's not for faint hearted though.


Thanks. Making a note of each of this for future. Turkmenistan is still the same. Though last I heard is that govt lets you roam around in the capital on your own but requires an official guide if you have to venture out.

Someday when they open up, it will be good to do Kryghyz, Tajik and Turkmenistan in one go.
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