Hello from Dubai! After an interesting week in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, we took the three hour flight from Dushanbe to Dubai yesterday on Somon Air. Tajikistan has two main airlines — Tajik Air, the state owned airline, and Somon Air, the private airline. While I’ll have a full trip report soon, I’ll share my initial thoughts on the experience in this post.
The interesting experience started at Dushanbe Airport. I’m used to airports where most people don’t speak much English, but nobody at this airport spoke more than a few words of English, which made communicating a struggle. I’ve also never been through as many security, passport, and immigration checks as here. There was security to get into the terminal, then another check to get to check-in, then another baggage check, then immigration, then another security check. What a rigamarole.
The airport has a lounge, though business class passengers don’t get access to it. It doesn’t belong to Priority Pass, but rather can only be accessed by paying $40. It’s strange to me that Somon Air doesn’t have a lounge at the airport for their business class passengers. Instead the lounge was just empty. It’s a long story, we didn’t pay for access, but due to a language barrier we at least got to see the lounge briefly.
On the plus side, the airport has a new terminal which is a nice enough place to sit.
As far as Somon Air goes, we flew on their “flagship” 737-900 (the airline has six 737s, and two 737-900s with the signature Boeing interiors).
The business class cabin had a total of 16 seats, spread across four rows in a 2-2 configuration. I loved the bright colors of the cabin, though the seats were showing their age.
The flight attendants working business class were friendly, and they had no issues with us taking photos (unlike on Uzbekistan Airways). Service began with drinks and mixed nuts with raisins. I found it to be a fairly nice setup for a regional business class product.
For dinner there was the choice between chicken and fish. I had the fish, which was… not great. It was served with cheese, chicken, and ham as a side, two pieces of bread, and a muffin for dessert.
On the plus side, the (powdered) coffee was at least served in a nice cup.
Overall the crew was friendly and attentive, and constantly offered drink refills.
Somon Air has both power ports and personal televisions in business class. However, apparently “the license is finished,” so neither works. I can see them not wanting to pay for in-flight entertainment, but not even having functioning power ports? Really?
Fortunately the inflight magazine was a goldmine for entertainment. I had to read it cover-to-cover, it was that interesting. Somon Air’s CEO is a former Air Force pilot and Delta pilot. Oddly he has only ever worked in flight operations, yet somehow ended up as CEO of the airline, which is an interesting career progression.
In terms of the magazine’s entertainment value, check out the interview with Somon’s head of inflight service, especially the last part:
The one other noteworthy part of the flight was that the pilots were very clearly smoking. We counted at least four times where they did so. When we confronted the flight attendants about this, their response was “our pilots don’t smoke at all.” Mhm…
Overall Somon Air struck me as a well intentioned airline. The flight attendants were friendly, cabin fairly nice, food edible, etc.
This is by no means a world class airline, but then again, it doesn’t have to be given that Dushanbe isn’t a terribly competitive market. I do wish they had a lounge in Dushanbe and that the power ports worked, but otherwise I can live with the lack of entertainment and not so great food.