Air Astana Is My Newest Airline Obsession

Yesterday I shared 13 airlines I’m hoping to review soon. While I’m largely reviewing new airlines to create interesting content for you guys, studying the premium cabin products on various airlines has become a bit of an obsession.

Like, I think I might have a problem, because when I find an airline I know very little about, I often find myself spending a substantial amount of time studying the airline’s routemap, products, average fleet age, markets with the best pricing, etc. It’s starting to be a problem, because I drop everything I’m doing for it.

While I’ve studied lots of seemingly random airlines pretty extensively, the latest airline I’m intrigued by is Air Astana, based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I had seen the airline mentioned in passing, but never really looked into them very much until a few readers suggest I try them out.

For reference, here’s their routemap:

Air-Astana-Routemap

As you can see, they operate longhaul flights to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Beijing, etc. The airline has a fleet of three 767s, so I was expecting their product to be super outdated, given that the 767 isn’t exactly a cutting edge plane anymore. However, they actually have the world’s most modern fleet of 767s, as they took delivery of them just a couple of years ago.

Well, as it turns out Air Astana actually has one of the best business class products offered by any airline on a 767, similar to what you’ll find on Austrian and Japan Airlines. Each seat is fully flat with direct aisle access.

Air-Astana-Business-Class

Here’s a video of their business class product:

Unlike many other airlines from the region, Air Astana actually does a pretty job marketing their business class product on their website, and it looks pretty solid.

The best fare I’ve been able to find is from Kuala Lumpur to Istanbul via Almaty. I’d love to actually visit Almaty, though it seems that they don’t allow stopovers on the fare, best I can tell. The hour connection is on the tight side, especially since I’d ideally also like to review their flagship lounge.

Air-Astana

Air Astana also has another interesting product, called Economy Sleeper, where you can pay to have a set of three seats to yourself. This is very similar to the sky couch that Air New Zealand offers on some of their planes.

Air-Astana-Economy-Sleeper

Their YouTube channel is also one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

Like this video:

Uhhh….

Or this video:

Uhhhhhhhh….

I am loving them already!

Bottom line

I’m not sure how soon I’ll be able to fly Air Astana, but suffice to say I’m fascinated by the airline. They actually seem to have a solid product, and also know how to market it. If only I could figure out a way to get a good fare on them with a stopover in Almaty.

Has anyone flown Air Astana, or know of a good fare on them that I haven’t found?

Comments

  1. Am I seeing that the business saver price is almost twice that of the business fare?

    Am I looking at that wrong?

  2. They do operate to Western Europe as well (London Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt) but the route map doesn’t link the cities for some bizarre reason. I think Frankfurt is 767 operated; Heathrow tends to be 757.

  3. Can we credit the miles to other programs? If I were to buy a business class seat, crediting the mileage to Nomad club does not really make sense. From wikipedia, their codeshare partners list include:

    Air France[6] (SkyTeam), Asiana Airlines (Star Alliance), Austrian Airlines (Star Alliance), Air India (Star Alliance), Bangkok Airways, Etihad Airways, KLM (SkyTeam), Turkish Airlines (Star Alliance), Hong Kong Airlines.

    I can see the only FlyingBlue are useful for crediting miles, at least for my personal situation (Amex MR points stash, combined with frequent FlyingBlue award promo).

  4. Looks like the foot space on their biz class configuration may be more comfortable and spacious than those offered by the seats on LX and OS.

  5. @Ben
    How do you find the markets with the best pricing? Playing around with Google Flights or ITA Matrix?

  6. Lucky, not many people will ever get to fly air Astana business. Most people will fly coach. I flew them coach last year between paris and Astana. Then Astana to Almaty. They were actually very good on coach. Highly recommend them. They got cheaper fares from London I think.

  7. Is there no love at all for Uzbekistan Airways?

    Yes, HY’s business class is outdated and the inflight service does take one back to Soviet times. But that’s just part of the fun!

    And besides, Riga is far more worthy of a brief visit.

  8. I like the flair. The contrast on the jacket lapel, the scarf and the kick pleat on the skirts from the video Gerard posted ^, as well as the splashes of blue in the cabin are very appealing.

  9. @ Imperator — Actually I REALLY want to fly them, but I see that they’re just in the process of taking delivery of new 787s, so I want to fly them once they have the new planes.

  10. Hi. I had the chance to fly Air Astana in 2010 and last year. And business class has improved a lot. In the past they used to have an old fashioned business class. Now it is comparable to service in other leading airlines. The business class lounge in Astana in good but it is nothing special.

  11. I flew them on a short segment (Shymkhent – Almaty) a couple of years ago, and I was very satisfied with their service. I would not hesitate to fly them again.

  12. @ El Plauzo — I actually couldn’t find it on ITA, so was searching directly on Air Astana’s website. Just trial and error.

  13. Lucky, I don’t think you have an obsession disorder. You’re just extremely, well, lucky, that your passion happens to be your job! Enjoy!

  14. @Martin – For whatever reason, it appears Lucky excluded flights out of Astana (the city), from which Air Astana’s flights to Western Europe depart.

  15. I saw a cheap(ish) fare from LHR to BKK with 20 hour stopovers at both of Air Astana’s hubs. The BKK-Tse and tse-ala flights are on 767s and the tse-lhr flight is on a 757

  16. When you flying Baltia? Heard they are putting in all reverse herringbone biz class on the upstairs of their new a380

  17. Just in regards to them having one of the best 767 business class cabins… Air Canada had herringbone seats in their 767’s, though they are quickly being transferred to AC Rouge where they get recliners.

  18. @lucky don’t try the Beijing flight, it is 737 and in the middle of the night! I did Beijing-Astana-Beijing flights! It was good but nothing outstanding! Lounge in Astana is pretty average as well! I loved Astana, a truly Eurasian city! Make sure you stay at Marriott if you are visiting Astana!

  19. Lucky, why not try a Seoul to Baku which is offered for $1027 and includes an overnight stay in Almaty? 767 on the ICN-ALA, and an E190 on the ALA-GYD (gulp). Could try and tag the KE 747 in F and J2 GYD-JFK to either end.

    Have heard so many good things about KC; would really love to see your review

  20. @janyyc they’re based in Almaty (despite the name) and offer more routes from ALA than from TSE (especially international).

  21. I have been to Almaty but it was on Etihad. The lounge could be reviewed in five minutes as it is a dump. Almaty is beautiful but small, you should hire a guide and explore the outskirts.

  22. Lucky how about flying Seoul to Baku which allows an overnight in Almaty for $1027. They operate a 767 on the ICN-ALA leg, and a E190 (gulp) on the ALA-GYD. Could use these cities to tag on your proposed KE 747 F and J2 GYD-JFK flights.

  23. used to fly them a lot from Hing Kong to Astana via Almaty. At that time ( about four years ago) nothing special. Reclining business class seats and poor on time performance. Then again Astana does get to minus 45 degrees in the winter. If you have never been to Astana you will be shocked. It has element of being blingy and glitzy amidst the snow. Note the main meat in Kazakhstan is horse meat!

  24. @Lucky, dude lets fly JFK-BAKU on Azerbaijan, then hit Almaty in May 2017. You can hang out with my group. Its gonna be our 30th birthday bash, so come party with us!

    I flew them in Y between Almaty and Astana on their 767. The J product looked great. I was in Y and I was impressed with their product, however I flew the A320 on the way back and I was not impressed. Im still trying to figure out their “flagship” lounge…Apparently from what I gather, their flagship lounge is NOT in Kazakhstan, but rather in Kuala Lumpur I think? WTF? Almaty airport is a complete dump! The “lounge” is outside of security and looks terrible for them. I was in the “lounge” for international departures when I flew Etihad to AUH and it was probably the worst that I have ever experienced.

    Almaty is a pretty cool city. I am glad that I went.

    Check out my review for Y.

    http://www.panamarayan.com/air-astana-flight-review-almaty-astana-boeing-767-300er/

  25. I spent 4 years working for the Kazakh government & flew KC a number of times. I usually flew LH to KZ and would fly the new Embraer 190s domestically. These are very nice A/C. I did fly from IST a few times on older Airbus A/C. They are kind of dumpy. The service is fairly good. The food comes & the hootch flows both of which are reflective of Kazakh hospitality.

    Most of the pilots are former Soviet airforce and they fly the A/C like they are chasing down Goose & Maverick. Make sure you’re strapped in tight when you depart TSE, as much of KZ is a flat steppe. Once you get about 10-12,000 feet above the weather, the pilots will do about a 90 degree putting the tip of one wing on the ground. Why take 10 mins to turn the A/C when I can do it in 30 secs?!?!?! This style of flight is consistent w/ the BAE South African pilot employed with KC who sat beside me on a LH flight out. Even with flight benies & having a long personal history of dropping 747s in the African bush, he had no interest in dying & absolutely REFUSED to fly KC.

    Should you ever fly them, the first thing you will notice is the incessant repetition of a muzac version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” especially since you enjoy boarding the A/C early as this song is the “unofficial” KC theme song. Expect at least 45 mins of non-stop. Also, people from the former Soviet Union are deathly afraid of any temperature under 20 so KC keeps their A/C quite toasty; expect at least 27, so make sure you can shed clothing.

    If you have anything specific, just leave a message.

  26. Lucky, Air Astana also flies to Amsterdam and other Western European cities as mentioned above. However, they fly there from Atyrau, a secondary city in KZ. I”ve seen their 767 plenty of times in the morning while getting in from NA. Just some more info 🙂

  27. I’ve lived in Astana for almost 5 years and flown them a lot. Over this time I have seen significant improvements as they took delivery of new 767, Embraer and A320 series. 767 business is excellent although the 757 leaves a bit to be desired. They were recently refurbished but the old 757s despite a updated cabin still had a very old design seat in biz. Soft product is one of the best out there. Service and food is exceptional for Biz, including a soup course on the mid/long haul to Europe and Asia. One of the best features I like is the opportunity to bid an upgrade for reasonable price. Very good airline and certainly deserves its skystrax awards multiple years running (for what they are worth).

  28. The last time I flew them was in 2009. Looks like they’ve upgraded things quite a bit since then.

  29. Wow Lucky, thanks for this find!

    I did not know much about them, though Kazakhstan and Astana sounds very interesting and exotic.

    I think Astana is as central as the ME3’s in terms of locality, so perhaps there could be real potential for growth as well in air traffic?

    Thanks for the info, I really hope to read Air Astana’s review now as well! Hope you can find a way to do it!

  30. Really enjoying these reviews of some of the odder, lesser known airlines of the world. I did a bit of research (as an avgeek does) and thought some of these airlines may be interesting to try;

    In no particular order of weirdness…
    Air Niugini (Pretty sure the only airline with a 2-1-2 J layout)
    Nauru Airlines/Our Airline
    Buffalo Airways (Douglas DC3??)
    Norwegian (787 “J”)
    Kenya Airways
    Air Koryo (Not sure what their picture taking policy is like)
    Air Madagascar
    Mahan Air
    Iran Air (Perhaps a 747SP?)
    Azerbaijan Airlines
    Kuwait Airways
    MIAT Mongolian Airlines
    Nepal Airlines (Recently recieved A320 aircraft)
    TAAG Angola
    Yemenia (Might be purchasing A359’s one day)
    Albaniawings (One aircraft and no website)
    Belavia
    Air Marshall Islands
    Aruba Airlines
    Solomon Airlines

    Enjoy 🙂

  31. Are you really itching to review that A320 flight? Why not ditch the ticket in ALA, review the lounge, and proceed onward on another airline?

  32. Hey Ben, I have seen that a lot of people have given you some really good suggestions. I was also playing around with Google flights and I saw relatively cheap fares from LHR-ICN via Astana and Almaty. The good thing is that the LHR-TSE flight is operated by a 757, whereas the ALA-ICN is by the 767, which would allow you to review both products. The price was 1392€ (~1550 USD), which is slightly more expensive than the options above, though it is of longer duration. Despite the option you choose, this Air Astana trip report would be really interesting 🙂

    Link to the flight
    https://www.google.de/flights/#search;f=LHR,LGW,LCY,STN,LTN,QQS;t=ICN,GMP;d=2016-10-11;r=2016-10-27;tt=o;sel=LHRTSE0KC942-TSEALA1KC672-ALAICN2KC909;sc=b;a=KC;q=kul-ist

  33. While in the neighborhood you should fly Uzbek Air. They just took on a bunch of brand new Boeing planes (that they spend half the in-flight magazine telling you all about :-p). I found their fleet much more modern than the Air Astana flights I flew on.

  34. Hey Ben a lot of people have suggested a wide range of great routes with Air Astana. I was also playing around with Google Flights and I found some relatively cheap fares from LHR-ICN via TSE and ALA. The good thing is that the LHR-TSE is operated by a 757, whereas the ALA-ICN is operated by a 767, which would allow you to review both products. The prices are at ~1550USD, which is slightly more expensive than some options mentioned above, but then again, you would be reviewing two/three different products. Nonetheless despite which option you choose (if you were to choose one), this Air Astana trip report overall would be really interesting. Keep up with the great work 🙂

    P.S. You could maybe get back to the US on Korean Air’s b747-8 First Class. 🙂

  35. Air Astana was quite nice, actually. Cabins were comfortable, crew service was good, and their schedules were pretty punctual. In part, I think because they selected their management (CEO is a Westerner from a reputable airline that I cannot remember) and plot their strategy well.

  36. Air Astana has a very good hard and soft product in air. Their management is ex-Cathay and you can feel that (in a positive way). I flew several IST-ALA/TSE, as well as ALA-KUL and a number of domestic – all excellent.

    The donwside is their airports at ALA (and to a lesser degree TSE). The facilties clearly do not live up to international standards and the lounges are really poor – however, they are operated by the government, not KC (which would love to upgrade them, bit is not allowed to).

    Just as a word of caution: Kazakhstan has no visa on arrival, so if you want to enter the country (which is worthwhile), you need a pre-arranged visa (which can be difficult due to the rather limited embassy network of the RoK).

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