Azerbaijan Airlines’ Intriguing New York To Baku Flight

I’d like to think I’m fairly well versed in premium cabin airline products. šŸ˜‰

However, reader Onfo44 left a comment in the Ask Lucky forum which sure has me intrigued. Specifically he pointed to the cheap first class fares Azerbaijan Airlines offers between New York and Dubai — for ~$1,600 you can fly Azerbaijan Airlines first class one-way from New York to Baku to Dubai. In theory that sounds really cheap for international first class.

Azerbaijan-Fare

Azerbaijan

While I’m familiar with Azerbaijan’s unmistakableĀ livery and have always been intrigued by the prospect of visiting Baku, that’s the extent of the thoughts I’ve had about the airline.

Azerbaijan-A340

Within minutes I learned three things about the airline:

  • Azerbaijan Airlines flies to New York JFK (I had no clue!)
  • Azerbaijan Airlines has 787s (again, I had no clue)
  • I learned what the cabins look like, which I hadn’t previously seen before

Azerbaijan-787

As it turns out, Azerbaijan Airlines flies between New York and Baku 3x weekly, and since November the flight is operated by a 787.

So what are Azerbaijan’s 787s like? And more specifically, what’s their first class product like?

Unfortunately the cabins themselves look quite disappointing. Here’s Azerbaijan’s 787 first class:

Baku dec 2014

Yes, those are their first class seats, which look like business class seats on just about any other airline.

Heck, that looks remarkably similar to LOT Polish’s 787 business class, no?

LOT-Business-Class-787-05

LOT-Business-Class-787-02

Meanwhile here are Azerbaijan’sĀ 787 business class seats, which look like a hybrid between business class and premium economy:

Baku dec 2014

And then here’s Azerbaijan’s 787 economy cabin, which looks perfectly fine:

Baku dec 2014

In terms of things I find utterly puzzling, best I can tell Azerbaijan’s A340s don’t feature a first class product, though do feature the following business class product:

Azerbaijan-A340-1

The A340 also has an onboard bar:

Baku airport 2013

Is it just me, or is Azerbaijan’s A340 business class product considerably nicer than their brand new 787 first class product?

Bottom line

What an intriguing airline. I’m very tempted to book this fare, even if their first class is quite sub-bar. I’m in the process of planning trips to review several new products for early next year, and this is certainly a contender.

I guess what I wonder is whether a review of Azerbaijan Airlines would be worthwhile. Obviously it’s not something many people will fly, but is it something mysterious/intriguing enough to warrant a trip report, or is it just too farfetched?

Has anyone flown with AZAL, and can anyone explain why their brand new 787 cabins look so bad?

Comments

  1. That A340 is a former Kingfisher Airlines aircraft which hasn’t been updated (same business class seat and bar)

  2. I know it doesn’t fit into the hotel programs you usually target but Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel is worth a stay if you are going to have a couple of day in Baku. Maybe a night or two there and then in the city for a night.

    I love the Jumeirah properties in Dubai so went for this one in Baku and wasn’t disappointed.

  3. The one issue that I know with flying jfk- gyd- dxb, is that a transit visa is required for going though the airport, and you also need a visa for entering Azerbaijan. I too have had an interest in going to Azerbaijan, so if someone really wants to go there, then it may be worth it to send out for a visa.

  4. Would like to see a review of them as well. And to echo Jason’s request, would like you to also catch up on the unposted trip reports from 2K15. Aeroflot or Saudia on the return from Dubai, please!

  5. The Azerbaijani Manat lost one third (!) of its value against the US Dollar on December 21… maybe the low fare has something to do with this…

  6. I’m biased because, like many others, I am a longtime reader and would love to read an Azerbaijan trip report instead of your usual. Which I in no way begrudge, mind you, but at the same time I feel like I know every nook and cranny of Cathay F and I’ve never flown it šŸ˜€

  7. Obviously, I think you should review it – thanks for posting it! One thing to note, after I posted in the forum, I attempted to go through booking, and I couldn’t get it to work on the carrier’s website. I tried the OTA, and it keeps booking into Biz, so perhaps there isn’t really a FC on the 787? In any event, I still think it’d be worthwhile for a review. You don’t want it to be another white whale (i.e., Transaero), do you?? šŸ™‚

  8. Go for it! After Changsha you can visit Baku! It would sure make for interesting material, and how many blogs have an Azerbaijan airlines trip report? Not many! That would definitely be an exclusive!

  9. I just flew AZAL first class JFK to Baku to Dubai last week. On the 787, the first class is really business class on other airlines. However, the food and wine selections are excellent, and the seat quite comfy. However, the inflight PTV has limited offerings (nothing that new), though mostly in English. The FAs are efficient, but they rarely smile and it looks like they are struggling providing such superior service. This was startling, considering only 10 of 18 first class seats were occupied.

    They do offer reasonable upgrades from economy to business, and economy to first at the counter at JFK. For my flight, there were about 8 people in business and coach looked at least half empty. The Baku airport itself is gorgeous, though staff is inefficeint, so please have patience in droves. The flight from Baku to Dubai was on an old 757 that has seen better days, but the giant seats wer comfy, though only overhead monitors throughout the plane.

  10. Wow, wow and wow! Lucky, you should go for it!

    I visited Baku in Sept 2014 and it was a very pleasant experience. There is a lot to see in the city (the seashore boulevard, the famous flaming towers, the world’s largest carpet museum etc.) and the cuisine is just incredible. Also, you can take a one-day trip to check out the mud volcanoes and Gobustan.

    We took the direct Budapest-Baku flight, which is (i) a red-eye (ii) blocks around 3 hrs (iii) and Wizzair is an LCC with very strict legroom and no recline. Would love to see your review on that flight! šŸ™‚

  11. You know which other weird airline from that region you should look at? Turkmenistan Airlines. I was looking for an inexpensive way to BKK over the new year…. TA was always the least expensive by a 1000 GBP so I spent a good bit of time looking into it. They often pop up as the cheapest option from London in Google Flights for mess of destinations but they’re on-line presence is like a ghost. They took delivery of two new 777s last year but there are no pictures of the business class anywhere to be (easily) found. They also have 3 websites, none of which you can book on. http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/255196

  12. Can’t buy on their website. When choosing JFK there are only about 5 destinations you can choose from and DXB is not one of them.

  13. Oh, yes! What a titillating idea! I know it would be a considerable out-of-pocket expense but I strongly feel the cost would be justified. I can only imagine the the number of people who would flock to OMAAT just to read a review of Azerbaijan Airlines’ first class. And I think such an adventure would be wonderfully exciting for you, Ben.

    I have twice been to Baku. It certainly is a very interesting and underrated city that is in a rapid state of change. I loved wondering the old Jewish quarter and hope it survives Baku’s zeal to modernize.

    Have you ever considered taking Uzbekistan Airways’ flight from JFK to Tashkent via Riga? I certainly wouldn’t bother with Tashkent (though Bukhara is fascinating); but, I can wholeheartedly tout the joys of a long-weekend in beautiful Riga!

  14. I didn’t know AZAL has first class! I think it’s more like Business/prem Econ/econ.
    I flew AZAL earlier this year and yes they fly from jfk! If you fly on their jfk flight, youre eligible for visa on arrival. From what I recall though they don’t oartner with any U.S. airline in terms of miles/points. The manat took a nosedive recently so the USD is pretty strong right now over there.

  15. You seem to have already answered your own question with your comments about your impression of the product.

  16. Glad to see you’ll be mixing up the flight reviews in 2016 (not that I dont love reading about Cathay from NYC to HKG), i’ve flown AZAL from Baku to Tbilisi and it was fine. No idea what its like on a long haul in first.

    That said, both Azerbaijan and Georgia were INCREDIBLE. Fly into Baku, travel overland to Batumi then fly home on Turkish or KLM.

  17. How many more times can you review Cathay, Etihad, Emirates, Singapore, or Lufthansa?! Start taking some lesser known airlines to out of the way cities. You may not be able to book with points, but this is your full time job. Use some of that credit card referral money.

  18. I am guessing that you (Lucky) are surprised to see not only that there are subscribers who have been to Baku (myself twice with a third trip expected in March) but have even taken the flight you are considering taking.

    I flew in on Turkish once and on Austrian once (although let me clearly say that Austrian’s transatlantic service is terrible compared to their European/Caucuses/North African flights which are solidly good flights. And for those who disagree, I guess you are shorter than 6′ 2″ because their transatlantic seats in all classes are not designed for people of my height).

    This was the second major devaluation of the manat this year. The first was around February.

    Yes, please try it..and while you are at it…convince AZAL to become a partner of someone’s program.

  19. I did get two business trips to Baku and was quite surprised! The drive from the airport to the Four Seasons made me think I had landed in Rome! The monuments and modernity was quite surprising as well as the enormous dual flame towers. Encourage you for a visit.

  20. In response to Imperator’s comment “Have you ever considered taking Uzbekistan Airwaysā€™ flight from JFK to Tashkent via Riga? I certainly wouldnā€™t bother with Tashkent (though Bukhara is fascinating); but, I can wholeheartedly tout the joys of a long-weekend in beautiful Riga!”

    I have taken Uzbek Air’s flight from JFK to Tashkent (albeit in 2007). My seat was missing a seat belt…in response, the stewardess said “Oh! Not a problem. Find new seat!” (Granted, the flight was 90% empty, so I had my pick of seats). Uzbekistan was fascinating, as was my onward journey to Tajikistan. Tajik Air “boarding” protocol was…interesting.

  21. Those Airbus A340-500s feature the interior of its former owner, Arik Air. If you look for Arik Air’s A340-500s, you will see the bar setup. Hi-Fly has also taken two of Arik Air’s A340-500s and indeed AY will use Hi-Fly A340-500s for a few days in January before A350 taking over the route for a week or so.

    Carfield

  22. I live in Baku. I fly Azal quite often though I have never taken trip to NY on 787. Even for me it would interesting to know how Azal’s first class compares to other carriers.
    I would like to think you are going to like it here. If you decide to come and wouldn’t mind my two cents of opinion as for where to go to, a must see sights, and, most importantly, where to eat just let me know.

  23. The First class seating looks a lot like Air India 787 Business Class – except that AI has red/orange seating vs. this blue one.

    Personally, these Central Asian airlines look a bit dodgy…

  24. Baku is a cool place, although neighbouring Tbilisi is even better. Go!

    As for Tashkent, I actually enjoyed it, although as I moved westwards, Uzbekistan got more and more beautiful: Samarkand is incredible, as are Bukhara and Khiva.

  25. Tbilisi is indeed a truly wonderful and very special city! I am quite surprised that it has not garnered more attention on the world travelers’ radar. Tbilisi’s British House remains one of my all-time favorite hotels.

  26. Both A340 and B787 are brand new. B787 was delivered on a November 2014. Baku is a different place come and see it. Also passengers of JFK-Baku flight can apply for upon arrival visa for entering Azerbaijan.

  27. Definitely review it! I was actually reading about this flight myself last week and am very curious about it.

  28. Jonathan,

    Did you need a transit Visa for Baku? I am thinking of doing TLV-BAKU-JFK. But not if I need a transit visa.

  29. Ryan, no transit visa needed! And if you want to visit Baku, they issue visa on the spot at a desk right next to immigration.

  30. @Jonathan – i have been in contact with their consular via email…they say you need a transit visa prior which is good for 5 days. have you experienced otherwise? costs at the airport?

  31. @Ryan – I visited a year ago and I had to get a visa from the embassy here in India.. It was quite a strange process as they required a hospital certificate to ensure you don’t have AIDS! Moreover, visas where only issued after multiple calls to the Embassy. Make sure you get a list of all the documents that they need before you book your ticket.

  32. Their A340 business class is exactly the same as Arik Air’s, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they share the same planes right down to the onboard bar

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