Flying in Central Asia is almost impossible without Air Astana. The company operates two hubs in Kazakhstan in Astana and Almaty. The airline’s management is headed by Peter Foster (formerly of Cathay Pacific and Royal Brunei Airlines).
As I outlined in my last Air Astana review last year, the company is surprisingly modern and punctual. Air Astana works like clockwork; boarding is always 40 minutes before departure, flights take off on time and are never late. I can imagine the airline easily beats S7, so far named as the world’s most punctual airline.
I had another three segments this time from Almaty to Dushanbe in Tajikistan round-trip and then to Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
Air Astana operates new Embraer, Airbus A320 and refurbished Boeing 757 aircraft on their routes. Equipment is frequently switched as demand for routes goes up and down.
Almaty and Astana airports have no lounges but are incredibly efficient – there are never any lines at security, immigration or check-in. The food and drink options are better at Almaty Airport before you go through security and I had no problem getting breakfast and a good espresso for under $3.
I like how easy flying is with Air Astana – there are no bossy flight attendants telling you when to use your headphones or your laptop. Indeed nobody ever worried about my phone being off or on (although I always put it to flight mode well before take-off anyways). In general, I was left alone and the flight attendants showed up during the meal service.
Every flight featured a complimentary snack box and refreshment. The flight attendants never showed any attitude, unlike the norm with most airlines now, especially in the US. There was no IFE on any of the planes I flew, although some planes have an overhead screen showing movies.
Air Astana covers a great number of destinations for connecting more people between east and west, but hasn’t made the most of it yet. It’s trying to establish itself as more of a player but still largely serves O&D markets in Central Asia (which it does well).
Each leg was $100 for a 500-mile flight – not cheap, but there isn’t any decent competition in the region that has a good safety record and a modern fleet.
Air Astana delivers a quality product on the ground and in-flight and while it should be more luxurious I doubt the local crowds would be ready to pay for it. I’d be happy to fly with this airline again.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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