Is This The Ideal Air Astana Business Class Itinerary?

On Monday I wrote about my new obsession with Air Astana. It’s an airline I didn’t know much about before Monday, though they actually seem to run a pretty cool, quirky operation. I mean, if this isn’t, um, quirky, I don’t know what is:

As I explained, when I find an airline that fascinates me I sort of drop everything I’m doing and spend a couple of hours researching. While the immediate distraction probably isn’t a good thing, I can’t get over how lucky I am that this is sorta kinda my job. In the case of Air Astana, I was intrigued by their 767 business class product, which looks really solid. They also have the newest fleet of 767s in the world.

Air-Astana-Business-Class

I presented a possible itinerary I was considering on Air Astana from Kuala Lumpur to Istanbul.

Air-Astana

Half of the reason I post about trips I’m considering is so I can bounce ideas off you guys and see if you guys can improve them. And boy, you guys sure didn’t let me down.

The above itinerary was a good fare, though didn’t get me on their 767, and also only left me with an hour connection in Almaty. Ideally I’d like to actually visit the city, but at a minimum I’d like a long enough connection to actually review the lounge during my layover.

Well, after reading the ideas you guys provided and playing around a bit further on Air Astana’s website, I think I have the perfect itinerary:

ICN-LHR-Air-Astana

Air Astana has an interesting split hub system, where flights to Western Europe depart primarily out of Astana, while flights to Asia depart primarily from Almaty.

After looking at several itineraries, I think this may just be the best option I’ve seen, and it prices out at ~$1,300:

  • It allows me to try both their 767 and 757 business class
  • It gives me lengthy overnights in both Almaty and Astana, and plenty of time to review the lounges
  • It gets me to London, which I’d rather have as my destination over Istanbul

Air-Astana

I’m really tempted to book this for travel in a few weeks. It’s a great fare, allows me to (briefly) explore two new cities, and ultimately I’d like to do this before it’s winter, as I imagine this trip will be significantly more enjoyable in summer.

What do you guys think? Has anyone been to Almaty or Astana? If so, what were they like?

Comments

  1. The lounge at Almaty Airport is nothing but a disappointment, but worth the time to see how horrible things can be in the country. Better maximize the time at Ritz Carlton (which I assume you’ll be spending your night at) inside the town, and don’t leave early for the airport.

  2. Almaty has some good skiing, and depending on weather, could be available till early June. There’s also Kok Tobe that is about 12 miles out of the city centre. I’d suggest spring over summer.

  3. In Astana, you should def go and try the Hilton Garden Inn. Pretty solid with some really nice staff.

  4. Perfect itinerary maybe you could work it out so that you could fly KE 748 F to get to ICN and take advantage of Air India’s cheap fares from LHR-EWR on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (not as good from November onward) to get from LHR back to the US

  5. Spent 2.5h on the tarmac at ALA due to a (terrible) medical emergency this Spring. If you want to go plane watching it’s an ideal airport, as it’s full of all those funky ex-Soviet gas guzzlers. The airport itself appears to be pretty dead, and I’m surprised to read it’s one of Astana’s hubs! The mountains seem nice, but you get a better view from the air than the tarmac.

    Full disclosure – I did not (get to nor, under the special circumstances really want to) visit the airport terminal.

  6. Make sure you look into the Kazakhstan visa situation if you plan on leaving the airport – spent a few weeks in KZ three summers back (as an American), and getting the visa sorted out was quite an ordeal. It’s possible things have loosened up, but just a heads up.

    Almaty is a fascinating and extremely hospitable place, and a really interesting case study in de-Sovietization. Highly recommend a guide for the day though, as the tourist infrastructure is minimal and what does exist is really only accessible to Russian speakers.

  7. The 757 flight sounds like it is some weird modified space bed seat — boring. Any other connections you can do? Or perhaps check out their economy sleeper seats which sounds like you get a whole row to yourself.

  8. I feel like I should be back at Uni chanting “Do it! Do it!” But seriously, do it. I will send you an email about the ground part for you/Ford to look into. 😉

  9. @ MFS — Hmmm, looks like for US citizens it’s waived for stays of 15 days or less? Does that match your experience, or can anyone else chime in?

  10. As of 2014, Americans no longer need a visa for KZ. Astana is possibly the weirdest place I’ve ever visited, and I loved it. It’s so strange and futuristic.

    Almaty is not unlike any other ex-soviet city, though quite green and tree lined for Kazakhstan.

    Kazakhstan is a surprisingly nice country. You’ll enjoy your time on the ground.

  11. @lucky – Yes for U.S. citizens no visa is required for a stay of 15 days or less. Agree with the others about the Ritz in Almaty – a little out of the way but a fantastic hotel. Take the cable car up the mountain (you can go all the way up to a beautiful mountain pass even outside of ski season). In Astana, the hotel choices aren’t as good – the Marriott is probably the best choice – and a much better deal on points (10,000/night) than the Hilton Garden Inn.

  12. Also, the 767 is indeed very nice in business class. Even the 757 is surprisingly decent – it’s old (I believe Air Astana got them second-hand), but they’ve done what they can with mood lighting and whatnot, so that they feel fresher than just about any other carrier’s 757.

  13. Visas no longer needed….and honestly were not (in my experience) hard to get in the first place. One fine morning I swung by the consulate in NYC, had a very pleasant conversation about what I was most excited to do in Kazakhstan and badabing badaboom the visa was ready to go.

  14. you defenatly should spend time in Almaty. it is a great city. it was one of the contenders for winter olympics but did not win. it is former capital of kazakhstan. sort if old city with it old harm. almaty means apple in kazakh. there is planty to see there. every one sugests riz but get out of rotten path go somewhere local.
    astana( the new capital) is a complitly different: new rebuild city with highrises. sort of boring, like anyother moder capital.

  15. I +1 Hugh B’s comment, as an 748 from SFO into ICN would knock off another thing on your to do list, as will LHR-EWR, thus creating SFO-ICN-ALA-TSE-LHR-EWR round the world-ish itinerary.

  16. I was born in what is now Kazakhstan and have been there a few times since moving to the States in 2002. You do not need a visa for stays of 15 days or fewer (can confirm, I went last year with an American passport). The airline is really nice. I flew domestic routes in economy and was pleasantly surprised. Almaty is a great city! Beautiful mountains and nature. Never been to Astana.

  17. Nice trip. Glad you will get time in Almaty and Astana. Been living in Astana for 4.5 years so can provide some ideas (from expat perspective). Firstly you will like the 767 and lucky for you the 757 is a daytime flight. Beds on those air craft are rubbish as you lie angled 3inches off the floor. Almaty you will experience the domestic lounge which is worse than the worst EU or US lounges out there but you can see for yourself. The TSE international lounge is new and quaint. Better place to spend your pre-boarding time than the main (small) terminal.

    No trip to Almaty will be complete without going to the mountains (chymbalak) and locals would not forgive you if you didn’t . Easy to do in an afternoon. A nice hotel is World Saltanat where you can get air miles or there is the usual high end chains (ritz Carlton, Intercon etc). Some really nice restaurants (suggest Olivier).

    Astana is great for looking at futuristic buildings designed by international architects. Contrast the right bank with left bank of river for soviet vs new age design. Marriott (great rooftop bar) or Hilton garden inn are a couple of the newer and better hotels. Try some horse shaslick or if les adventurous go to NaKryshe, Olivier or Pane e Vino restaurants.

    As I said, I live in Astana so let me know if you want any more ideas or assistance.

  18. That’s awesome! I flew Air Astana in 2013 from Frankfurt to Astana. It was a new plane but with an outdated business class cabin.

    Astana is very interesting. There are some weird and quirky sights and nice places to eat. They actually have good wine in Kazakhtstan too. If I could sum it up, Astana looks like a city Mao Zedong and Dali would design if they dropped acid together once…or twice.

    Welcome to London!

  19. I know a while ago you mentioned you would like to try Garuda Indonasia , how about the following itinerary:

    1.1SCHLAPPIG/BENMR
    1. DY 7096 I 12FEB LAXLGW HK1 1820 #1250 O* E SU
    2. GA 87 I 14FEB LHRCGK HK1 2110 #1700 O* E TU 1
    3. GA 412 J 15FEB CGKDPS HK1 2010 2305 O* E WE 1
    4. KL 836 Z 18FEB DPSSIN HK1 2130 2359 O E SA
    5. GA 86 I 21FEB SINLHR HK1 1200 1855 O* E TU
    6. DY 7015 I 22FEB LGWJFK HK1 1710 2030 O* E WE

    You would be able to fly Norwegian Airlines Business, Garuda Business and KLM 5th Freedom flight from DPS-SIN Business!

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