Air Astana Business Class Review

Old May 15, 19, 4:21 am
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Air Astana Business Class Review

Since Air Astana doesnít often feature on Flyertalk, I thought I'd do a quick review of a recent trip with them as well as a trip I did last year.

I recently flew the following itinerary in Business Class:

LHR-TSE-ALA (757 / 757)
ALA-TAS (767)
TAS-TSE-LHR (757 / 757)

Iíll also include a trip I made with them last year too:

LHR-TSE-ALA (757 / 757)
ALA-FRU (321)
FRU-TSE-LHR (E90 / 757)

The aircraft:

I have found that all Air Astana aircraft are immaculately maintained and cleaned and despite some of them being quite old, they all look new on the inside. The 757s look fabulous for such an old aircraft. The cabins look modern, spacious and have tasteful mood lighting.

757 Ė There are 16 angled lie flat seats. Iím not a fan of this type of seat, but in reality the flights to and from London are in the 6 hours range and arenít true night flights (on the outbound sector you arrive at Almaty at about 00:30 London time, 05:30 local time). IFE is an iPad and the selection is pretty poor. In fairness, before I fly nowadays (with any airline) I tend to download stuff onto my iPhone and watch that instead so the poor IFE isn't such a problem. There is in-seat power but you need a US / Japan type plug. You get a big plush pillow and a decent blanket. The amenity kit is well stocked and includes slippers. The storage space around the seat is good for phones / books / glasses...etc however there wasn't space to store a laptop. Iíve also found that on all of the sectors to and from London Iíve always had a free seat next to me which is nice. Overall the seats are quite comfortable for eating, working and relaxing but not so good for sleeping. For the 6 hour day flights that they're used for they're fine though.

767 Ė Staggered lie flat seats with a large entertainment screen and all-aisle access. Very comfortable seats but a shame it was such a short flight! One thing I especially like about these seats is the amount of storage space around the seat.

321 Ė Armchair recliner seats about 38Ē pitch. These are well padded ones, so quite comfortable.

E90 Ė Similar seats to the 321 in a 1-2 layout. Very comfortable.


The service:

This is the high-point of Air Astana. Air Astana crews are some of the friendliest and most welcoming that Iíve come across. As soon as you board you are warmly welcomed on board with smiles and kindness. They are also remarkably consistent - on the 10 flights I have flown with them, they have all been of the highest standard. On the most recent trip one of the stewardess on the return flight to London remembered me from the outbound flight and said ďwelcome backĒ. I think part of what adds to the warm welcome is the boarding music Ė very exotic!

When you board the purser comes and introduces their self. A choice of champagne, cherry juice, orange juice or water is offered upon boarding as well as a choice of newspapers and magazines in various languages. Sweets are offered before take off and landing and throughout the flight the crew walk through the cabin and if they see you are awake ask if you want a tea / coffee or anything else. The tea and coffee is served on a large saucer with a cookie and chocolate or Kazakh sweet snacks. Hot towels are offered before dinner and were good quality and served on a small tray.

Throughout the flight Iíve found the crew to be unfailingly polite, welcoming and accommodating. Iím struggling to think of an airline that has crew that are as consistently good.


The food:

Of the airlines Iíve flown I would put Air Astana's food just behind Turkish Airlines.

On the long sectors to and from London there is an appetiser, salad, soup, a choice of 4 mains, two desserts or cheese. There is also a canape before dinner (on all flights one of the options was tomato and mozzarella and the other fish or chicken based). The salads are typical Central Asian ones (tomato and cucumber), the appetiser varies. On the outbound flight it was very nice Duck pate, but on the return it was fish (It looked nice but I don't eat fish!). The soups were delicious (mushroom outbound and chicken and leek on the return). The main courses were large portions and good quality. As the flights are only 6 hours there is only one meal service, with tea and coffee served before landing.

On the shorter sectors breakfast was an omelette (standard Business Class fare Ė good but nothing special). For lunch on one flight I had lamb and the others chicken (canít remember what the other options were). As these were shorter sectors this was served on a tray with a salad, bread and dessert. Again, the quality was very good. Note that on the ALA-FRU sector there was no meal service - this was probably due to the inflight time being about 30 minutes.



The lounges:

LHR - Skyteam lounge. A good lounge with lots of food choices. When Air Astana flights depart it seems to be off-peak for the terminal so the lounge was not busy. There are showers as well. Overall a good lounge, better than BA's but not quite as good as United's in T2.

TSE - The domestic lounge is run by Air Astana. It is clean, modern and has a variety of cold snacks. Suitable for a quick stop (given it is only for domestic flights it is unlikely you'd be in the lounge long). The lounge in the international terminal is large, lots of seats and nicely decorated. It looks very good. The food options were good but not great. There were lots of fried snacks when I was there (chicken sticks, fried cheese, lasagne) and soup. In short it does the job and is a nice place to wait for a flight but isn't of the same standard of the lounge used at LHR. The domestic part of the airport is ok (typical of a smaller European airport). The international terminal is newer and very nice. It was modern, light, airy with plenty of seating and a selection of shops - a very nice place to wait for a flight.

TAS - No lounge. The departures area of Tashkent airport was quite a nice place to wait anyway.

ALA / FRU - Contract lounges - and not a very good ones. The food options were very poor and a lot of things had to be paid for. These were the only lounges in their respective airports and therefore all airlines are in the same boat.

Ground Service / TSE Transfer:

Check in agents were polite and friendly. Check in was quick as I had already checked in online in all cases.

On the LHR-TSE-ALA legs, your bags are checked through to ALA, although you have to pass through immigration and customs (with just your hand luggage) in TSE. You then collect your luggage at the domestic arrivals section of Almaty Airport. As a Business Class traveller you get a fast-track card for immigration at TSE. Fast Track is on the left hand side of the immigration hall. On my most recent trip the inbound flight from London arrived at the gate at 06:00 and boarding for my connecting flight from the domestic terminal started at 06:20. I managed to clear immigration and customs, have a leisurely walk to the domestic terminal, go through security in the domestic terminal and arrive at the domestic gate at 06:15. A very good transfer process!

On the most recent flight my bag (and three other customer's bags) did not arrive at the domestic luggage reclaim in Almaty. There was a very friendly Air Astana agent there, who after a quick call on the radio found out that the bags were in the international part. She said that they would arrive in 5 minutes, and they did! She was very apologetic, although there was no real inconvenience.

On the TAS/FRU - TSE - LHR legs, the transfer process in TSE is quick and easy, and in both cases I was airside again in less than 5 minutes.

When boarding at the gate I found that the staff would always be polite and say "have a nice flight" and it came across as genuine.

Overall thoughts:

Air Astana is one of the few airlines I get excited to fly with and look forward to my flights with them. This is primarily due to the consistently excellent crews. To me, Air Astana prove that good flights are not just about the seat or the IFE system, they are about the whole service, and this is something that Air Astana excels in.
uanj, littlevoices, bosskh and 3 others like this.
B7474U3 is offline  
Old Jul 16, 19, 2:35 am
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Loved reading this. I flew one way Frankfurt-TSE-ALA-PKG in 2017, paid for economy but took the upgrade offer of $300? $500? to upgrade to business. None of the flights were long enough to really enjoy, but it was a very pleasant airline to fly on. Very pleasantly surprised.

The lounge in Almaty on departure was strange, I remember being shocked at how much they wanted for a small bottle of bad wine. Really not worth it.

But overall, a very pleasant trip, with daytime stopovers in both Astana and Almaty for nice long walking tours.
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Old Jul 16, 19, 7:01 am
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Thanks for the write-up - I've been tempted to try Air Astana a few times between London and China, but the scheduling is a real killer when time is precious, with that ALA-TSE connection in both directions, and lengthy layovers in each city. If I had plenty of time, I'd love to give it a go and get a day trip to both cities on the way, but it hasn't worked for me yet. Pricing looks competitive though.
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Old Jul 16, 19, 8:08 am
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
Thanks for the write-up - I've been tempted to try Air Astana a few times between London and China, but the scheduling is a real killer when time is precious, with that ALA-TSE connection in both directions, and lengthy layovers in each city. If I had plenty of time, I'd love to give it a go and get a day trip to both cities on the way, but it hasn't worked for me yet. Pricing looks competitive though.
I did it on a weekend. Friday flight out of FRA, early Saturday arrival to Astana (just found out the name of the city is now Nur-Sultan), Saturday evening flight to Almaty, so overnight and all day Sunday in Almaty before flight to Beijing.

Worked out perfect. During a work week that would have been a little inefficient.

Astana (oops, Nur-Sultan) is not so interesting. Typical new capital city that a dictator forced the people to build, big buildings with no people.

Almaty, though, was really cool. Nice city to walk. Nice restaurants, nice churches, markets, etc.

Somehow I keep checking for my flight to Europe to see if the price makes the hassle worth it again. Being Skyteam, Aeroflot in Comfort (similar to Delta's Premium Select) is usually only $1000 US, RT China to Europe.. hard to beat, even with the hassles of SVO and rigid mentality.
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Old Oct 6, 19, 8:29 pm
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Thought I'd add my thoughts onto this thread since I recently took a multi-city trip with Air Astana when I realised that a flight to Uzbekistan was ~20% cheaper than a direct flight to Kazakhstan from Hong Kong, and that it was a fairly interesting country to visit too on a personal trip. As such I flew HKG-ALA-TSE//TSE-TAS//TAS-ALA//ALA-HKG in business over a week long period. This gave me three 767s (the HKG legs, plus ALA-TSE, which was a one hour transit onto the same flight) and the E90 for the Tashkent trips.

Good things I liked - in general, things in the air
  • Food quality - good choices for an airline, even on the shorter legs there was a meal service and proper menu card given on all the legs. Though it wasn't immediately obvious you can clearly do dine-on-demand and eat when you wish, the crew just wasn't clear on this on my HKG-ALA leg, but was on the return ALA-HKG. The food was, from what I could see, four choices on long haul (chicken, beef, fish, vegetarian), and then two on the short hauls (chicken or veg).
  • They handed out sweets on takeoff and landing, was just different and made a difference from towels (which came anyway)
  • Crew quality, service, patrolling the cabin - certainly very attentive, even in the middle of the ~6 hour flights from HKG the crew were still around regularly. I liked that the crew just seemed friendly, doing introductions and taking orders prior to takeoff. No problems speaking English or Russian.
  • 767 seat, like Swiss airlines in the 1-2-1 set-up, with massage feature and a fully lie flat bed. I slept well enough on the ALA-HKG leg, which is unfortunately a night flight leaving at midnight and arriving at 8am. The E90 seats were nothing special and you may as well be in economy on these legs and save your money in my own view.
  • Similarly, the table worked well for working /eating, though it had a strange mechanism to get it in/out (basically lifting up) that I needed to have shown to me
  • My journey started really well in HKG as Air Astana paid for the 'Priority plaza first' lounge, which I didn't even know existed, way better than the standard priority plaza lounge, and on a par with the Cathay First class lounge I felt (probably worse champagne, but better cooked to order food). It was my first time in the lounge (I've been in the CX one probably over a hundred times now), but what I liked is that they'd paid for a high quality lounge to start the flight off well. This was however the only good lounge experience, see below..
  • Pillow quality - strange how you notice that the pillow was large, clean and comfy, not an after-thought
  • Classic movie selection - whilst the movie selection on the 767s was short of brand new hits there was a good selection of around 50 classics that I found a few things to watch/re-watch and enjoyed, it seemed to be a fairly well curated list. However there were no movies at all on the E90, not even an ipad
  • Champagne was Tattinger on the long-haul HKG legs, and seemed to have some good quality Georgian wine too. The short-hauls included prosecco, but overall felt the drinks choice was solid.

However, there were some things I didn't quite like, in general on the ground:
  • My one hour transit at ALA was very unclear. We arrived and got through customs fairly quickly, but it was not clear that your bags didn't need to be picked up, nor that the "transit" route was essentially to leave the baggage area, go upstairs to the domestic area and then clear security again with everyone else. We had to ask (in Russian) to work this out. It could have been in the in-flight magazine for example..
  • Lounges, excluding HKG, were very poor for a premium airline:
    • ALA domestic, was basically a mixed check-in area/lounge. Quite bizarre, didn't spend any time there due to the short transit. This meant you were in the general small domestic area after security, very crowded
    • ALA international, was shared with all other airlines but made you pay for anything other than water and some fairly poor quality nuts/biscuits. Was the first time I've never had free soft drinks. I was expecting something premium
    • TAS international, they didn't pay for a lounge (there was one). Unfortunately we arrived just as a few big international flights were about to depart so the airport was completely full and we struggled to find any space for the first ten minutes. Not great
    • TSE international, was perfectly reasonable, the Air Astana branded lounge was nice, spacious, well lit and with a choice of food and drinks that I found appropriate to the rest of the brand
  • Boarding was, outside of HKG, a strange mess (the E90s received bus gates anyway). They call all boarding together, basically if you are in business class you should push past everyone as in the gate (where they actually do the final ticket check) they do have two queues, but it is entirely unobvious until after you've queued for perhaps ten minutes to get nearer that check. There was no priority boarding in TAS
  • The entertainment system could do with a bit of thinking about. I had two peeves, first - you are forced to watch 3 minutes of adverts before any entertainment, that cannot be skipped or fast forwarded, even worse they're all in Kazakh with no sub-titles. Then the exact opposite, the safety videos were repeated three times in English, Russian and Kazakh(fairly dull, some acrobats doing shapes) with some subtitles in Chinese too

And one final mention - unusually it seems like Air Astana serves from the back of the plane, so if you like to get your food first sit at the back.

So would I fly them again: Yes, quite happily if I needed to be in the region, they were a huge step up from the Mongolian Airlines flights that I took a year before. I agree with B7474U3 that the service makes the difference, though the 767 hard product was also excellent (originally I was supposed to be on a 757 but luckily they upgraded it at some time between booking and my flight).
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Old Oct 7, 19, 6:23 am
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Quick comments on anyone reading this who gets stuck down back

I flew LHR-TSE-LHR recently in Economy, 757 in both directions.

On the way out I paid £35 for an emergency exit (times are horrible - 18:00 departure, 05:35 arrival for a 6 hour flight), it was on an unrefurbished plane with NO seat back entertainment. Food was excellent, decentish wine, and friendly staff. But the lack of seatback entertainment caught me by surprise. And despite handing out earphones, nothing on the overhead screens.Enjoyed the flight all the same, flight was running 50%.

On the return I hadn't booked an emergency exit assuming i'd get 3 seats to myself like everyone did a few days before on way out. BIG mistake. Had largest guy i'd seen in my life in front of me, was 100% full, and couldn't move anywhere. Worst flight of my life - and my own fault. Because of his weight the seat reclined by 3/4 inches more than normal recline. However food was good, and we had seat back TV's with good range of films / programmes for a seat back TV (I watched Chernobyl which was great!). Great amenity kit that included handy blow up neck pillow.

Felt like an old school airline with lovely staff & service and excellent timekeeping (albeit I know the previous ex-LHR flight had been delayed 16 hours). Would absolutely fly again. Would absolutely book emergency exit in both direction! They did have some rows of Air NZ styled 'economy sleeper' where you get a mattress on row of 3 seats to yourself but didn't check pricing. Astana Airport very new, modern and efficient. They DO check your laptop powers up so get it charged!
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Old Oct 7, 19, 7:05 am
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Originally Posted by Sam Bee View Post
Great amenity kit that included handy blow up neck pillow.
Thanks for sharing those experiences, my flights both seemed to be pretty full in economy, business less so on the return (6 of 16 seats or so taken) but was full on the outbound. You did remind me to comment on the amenity kits, which I only received on the long haul segments. They were both very good quality, different brands, my wife was rather happy and has taken them for friends/family/pets, implying a good brand - one was Radley. Still, impressed if they gave you an amenity kit in economy?
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Old Oct 7, 19, 7:49 am
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Originally Posted by littlevoices View Post
Thanks for sharing those experiences, my flights both seemed to be pretty full in economy, business less so on the return (6 of 16 seats or so taken) but was full on the outbound. You did remind me to comment on the amenity kits, which I only received on the long haul segments. They were both very good quality, different brands, my wife was rather happy and has taken them for friends/family/pets, implying a good brand - one was Radley. Still, impressed if they gave you an amenity kit in economy?
They weren't branded per se as you'd get in Business, just different and old school. Felt pouches with things like pens, shoe horns, toothbrushes and so on. Normally the first thing that gets cut back.

I did try up mock ups of their new A321's which have just gone into service - excellent flat beds in Business for routes that have them.
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