Introduction: Transatlantic Insanity
Review: Aeroflot Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To Moscow
Review: Aeroflot Lounge Moscow Airport
Review: Aeroflot Business Class 737 Moscow To Belgrade
Review: Metropol Palace Hotel Belgrade
Review: Belgrade Food Tour
Review: Air Serbia Lounge Belgrade Airport
Review: Air Serbia Business Class A330 Belgrade To New York
Review: Air France Lounge New York JFK
Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class 787 New York To Baku
Review: Hyatt Regency Baku
Review: Baku Airport Lounge
Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 737 Baku To Kiev
Review: Kiev Airport Lounge
Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 767 Kiev To New York
Azerbaijan Airlines 102
New York (JFK) – Baku (GYD)
Monday, October 31
Arrive: 7:30AM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 3G (Business Class)
We boarded through door L2, where we were greeted by two flight attendants and pointed left. Azerbaijan’s business class cabin consists of just 18 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.
The seat finishes themselves were rather bland, though the blankets and headrest covers added a touch of color to the cabin.
We had assigned ourselves the aisle and window seat on the right side in row three.
My preference is always to sit in the back corner of the cabin, though in the case of Azerbaijan’s 787s, unfortunately there’s a misaligned window in row three, so you’ll have to lean way forward in order to look out.
Each seat had an ottoman in front of it, which became part of the bed when the seat was fully reclined.
The seat controls were located on the center armrest, and were easy to use.
Underneath the center armrest was a cupholder as well as the entertainment control, USB outlet, and power outlet.
The center armrest had a button you could push to raise it, which is intended to be a privacy partition if you recline the seat into bed mode. While it doesn’t add all that much privacy, it’s better than nothing, especially if you happen to be seated next to a stranger.
Those who tend to overheat on planes will be happy to know that Azerbaijan has individual air nozzles on their 787, which far too many airlines don’t have.
Already waiting at our seats on boarding were beautiful packages with bows around them. The package at my seat had a pillow, a light blanket, a mattress sheet, and pajamas.
The blanket was made of a fleece-like material, and had the Azerbaijan Airlines logo prominently displayed on it.
Then there was a mattress sheet for when you’re ready to sleep. I also loved how big the pillow was.
It’s always a nice treat to get pajamas in business class, and I quite liked the style of Azerbaijan’s pajamas.
Within a few minutes of settling in, one of the flight attendants came by our seats to offer us pre-departure beverages. The choice was between lemonade, apple juice, cherry juice, and water. I chose the cherry juice, while Tiffany chose the lemonade. I mainly ordered the cherry juice because I was intrigued, though it ended up being too sweet for me, which I should have seen coming.
Moments later we were offered the drink list for the flight. We asked about the menu, and the flight attendant apologized that they didn’t have menus loaded for this flight.
About 10 minutes later the crew came through the cabin with a cart containing newspapers, magazines, and amenity kits. The amenity kit was a nice leather pouch, and was well stocked. It had things like socks, eyeshades, a shoehorn, a razor and shaving cream, a comb, lip palm, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
The coolest part of the amenity kit was the hand cream and face mist from Azerbaijan. I was also impressed by how big the bottles were — the hand cream was a three ounce tube.
Observing the boarding process was interesting. While economy seemed to be pretty full, there were only five other people in business class (for a total of seven passengers).
Seated in front of us was a couple that I believe was from Azerbaijan. The lady had a Park Hyatt New York garment bag, and was so rude to the crew. She barked commands at them, forcefully handed the flight attendant the garment bag when she had a drink tray in the other hand, etc.
Then there were three other middle aged men all traveling separately spread out in rows one and two.
The boarding process was pretty efficient, and by 12:15PM it was announced that boarding was complete.
The crew made so many announcements throughout the boarding process, the most common of which was that passengers should take the seats assigned on their boarding passes. That specifically was announced six times. I’m not sure if that’s something they have a lot of issues with, or what, but I found that a bit odd.
While it was announced that boarding was complete at 12:15PM, the door didn’t actually close. We waited and waited and waited, with no announcements from the pilots or flight attendants.
Finally at 12:55PM the door closed, and five minutes later we began our pushback.
At that point the purser made her welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 10hr35min. Moments later the safety video was screened. The audio and video weren’t synced, so it was strange to watch, since the audio track was a few seconds off from what was being shown on the screen.
After the safety video the crew came through the cabin to distribute candy. Funny enough I experienced the same thing on Air Astana recently, but it’s not something you otherwise often see.
At 1:10PM we began our taxi to the runway.
Fortunately the taxi was pretty quick, and about 10 minutes later we were holding short of runway 31L waiting for a few other planes to take off, including an EL AL 747.
Finally at 1:25PM we were cleared to taxi into position on the runway, with a Korean Air A380 immediately behind us.
Within moments of taxiing into position we were cleared for takeoff.
Our climb out was smooth, and I especially enjoyed the view of all the terminals shortly after takeoff.
Further into our climb I could even see Manhattan in the distance.
The seatbelt sign was turned off about five minutes after takeoff.
After takeoff I quickly checked out the business class lavatory, located behind the cabin. The lavatory was pretty standard for a 787.
The one cool feature was that it was a bidet toilet, which I’ve otherwise only ever seen on Japanese airlines.
I also briefly checked out the premium economy cabin, located behind the business class cabin.
Azerbaijan’s 787 premium economy cabin consists of a total of 35 seats, spread across five rows in a 2-3-2 configuration.
The product looked fantastic, with tons of legroom. This is easily the most spacious premium economy product I’ve seen. Back in the day Azerbaijan used to sell business class as first class and premium economy as business class, though fortunately they’ve come to their senses on that. Still, this must be one of the most impressive premium economy products out there. The craziest part? There were only two people in the entire premium economy cabin.
Back at our seats, the two business class flight attendants, Aysel and Leyla, came through the cabin to take meal orders. There were no printed menus, and on top of that there was a communication barrier, which is a rough combination. Aysel explained that we could choose between chicken, beef, lamb, lobster, and pasta. That’s a lot of main course choices! They also asked whether we wanted to eat now or later, so it’s nice that they give you the option.
After that they distributed headphones, and then also warm towels.
At that point the lunch service began. While I don’t have the food menu, the drink list read as follows:
Just 25 minutes after takeoff the crew came through the cabin with a drink trolley. I was impressed that they got the service started so quickly, given that on many other airlines it’s often an hour into the flight before you get your first drink.
After all the amazing Serbian wines we tried on Air Serbia, we figured we would try an Azerbaijani wine on Azerbaijan Airlines. That ended up being a mistake, as it wasn’t good at all, and on top of that, was served at room temperature. The drink was served with mixed nuts.
After that the crew came through the cabin with a trolley containing all the tableware.
The table setup was impressive, including a breadbasket, olives, and flower-looking butter.
I loved the fact that the crew displayed all the food choices on the trolley, so you could just point at whatever you wanted. Throughout the meal they also encouraged overindulging, always asking if anyone wanted anything else.
For the starter I had the shrimp appetizer, as well as a potato salad with pineapple.
The shrimp appetizer was great, and it had a nice kick to it thanks to the cocktail sauce and the salsa, which even made the asparagus tasty.
I ordered the potato salad with pineapple because it sounded interesting, and it didn’t disappoint.
Tiffany had the chicken and roast beef starter and a garden salad.
The crew separately brought out garlic bread after the starter, which wasn’t otherwise in the breadbasket.
After that we were offered a soup course. It’s funny how the crew offered this.
“We have a soup, do you want?”
The soup was a cream of mushroom soup, though it was very watery. I don’t necessarily mind that, though without a proper soup spoon it can be tough to eat (and as you can see, good presentation is tough, especially with a shallow bowl).
Next we were served the main course. I took a risk and ordered the lobster, and it was very good, surprisingly. I just wish they hadn’t doused it in a cream sauce, which seemed unnecessary.
Tiffany had the lamb, which she said wasn’t as good as the one she had on the Aeroflot a few days prior.
Next the dessert trolley was rolled through the cabin. They did a great job with the display, given that they plated the cheesecake and fruit on the trolley in front of you.
The portions were ridiculous, as the crew basically insisted on us trying everything. In the end I ordered a cheese plate, the cheesecake, and the mixed berries (meaning I skipped the petit fours).
After the meal we were offered coffee. I asked about a cappuccino, though the flight attendant warned me that the cappuccino would be powdered. I appreciated the warning, so stuck with coffee.
Overall the meal was good. The quantities were huge, while the quality was decent, though not amazing.
I’m still a little bit conflicted about the service. The crew was well intentioned and mostly friendly, though also distant (which is likely just due to a cultural barrier). They were efficient in the sense that drinks were out quickly after takeoff, and the entire meal was done less than two hours into the flight.
However, at the same time the entire production felt amateur, as they seemed especially disorganized. There were only seven passengers, but despite that they were constantly running from one galley to the other, passing stuff between aisles, etc. It’s tough to explain, but it all just felt a bit off. Perhaps that’s not the crew’s fault, but rather the overall organization of the galleys and carts, as dictated by the company.
After lunch I tried to use the entertainment system, though unfortunately my system was broken. As it turned out, three of the six systems in row three were broken. Not only that, but the power ports were broken at four of the seats as well. I don’t get how you can maintain a brand new 787 so poorly. What a shame.
So I decided to go to seat 3A in hopes of sleeping. I would have moved seats anyway, since we had the entire row to ourselves.
Once the flight attendants saw that I was going to sleep they brought me a bottle of water.
By the time I was settled in we were just over St John’s, leaving the east coast of Canada, with about eight hours to go to Baku.
I briefly browsed the entertainment selection given that I finally had a working system. Even when it worked, the system was frustrating. I couldn’t figure out how to preview the selection on my TV, but rather could only do so on the handset, which I found annoying. I far prefer browsing the selection on a larger screen. The entertainment selection itself seemed fine, though.
I knew Azerbaijan Airlines didn’t have wifi, though for whatever reason decided to check, as sometimes airlines surprise us. Well, after turning on my phone I discovered there was an “AZAL_OnAir” network. Unfortunately my phone couldn’t connect. When I asked the crew about this I got a blank stare.
Anyone who is better at tech have an idea how that could be? Are they in the process of installing it and just haven’t activated it yet, or…?
After lunch I tried to sleep, and ended up staying reclined for about three hours. I didn’t sleep especially well, not because of the seat, but I think rather because it was still early in the day, and I just wasn’t naturally tired.
Everyone else in the cabin seemed to be sound asleep, though. So I was a bit surprised when at the halfway point of the flight the crew turned the lights all the way up. I figured a crewmember accidentally pushed the wrong button, but nope, the lights stayed on.
I was confused at first, though about 30 minutes later the crew came through the cabin with a snack service. That makes no sense since most passengers didn’t seem hungry or awake. I can understand offering people a snack on demand, but specifically waking people halfway through a 10 hour redeye for a snack is beyond bizarre, especially when you turn the lights all the way on 30 minutes before it’s served.
Below is a picture of the selection that was available on the cart.
I’m not sure what exactly everything was, but I ended up just pointing at a few things, including an empanada and a spring roll.
After that snack service the lights were turned off again, and most passengers went back to sleep.
At this point I was awake and couldn’t sleep, so I worked for a few hours. I managed to fall asleep about 2.5 hours before landing, but go figure 30 minutes later the cabin lights were turned all the way up again for the breakfast service.
Service began with hot towels being distributed.
At that point tables were set, and then a trolley was rolled through the cabin with starters, including fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc. I selected some plain yogurt, which tasted great with honey. I also selected a fruit plate, which had kiwi, pineapple, berries, and melon.
After that another trolley was rolled down the aisle with all kinds of things. The choices were described as cheese rolls, cold cuts, or foie gras. Hmmm…
I went with the cheese rolls, since I figured they’d be sweet and maybe taste like blintzes. Well, I was a bit disappointed to find that they were sour. I guess I should have known that based on the accompaniments.
I figured that was the entire meal, but then yet another trolley was rolled down the aisle with main courses. Goodness, the food never ends on this airline. The choice this time was between an omelet and chicken. I ordered the omelet, which was reasonably good though way too cheesy, as I find to often be the case on airplanes.
After breakfast the lights were once again dimmed all the way, and we had about an hour to go till our arrival.
About 30 minutes out we began our descent, at which point I tuned into the airshow.
There were no announcements from the pilots the entire flight, though they turned on the seatbelt sign about 20 minutes before landing. The views on the initial descent above the clouds were quite nice, though below the clouds it was a rainy day with limited visibility.
As is the norm when visiting a new city, my eyes were glued out the window on the descent, tough as it was with the misaligned window.
We had a smooth landing in Baku at 7:50AM, and from there about a 10 minute taxi to the gate.
We arrived at 8AM, about 30 minutes behind schedule. The windows were fogged up once we touched down, so unfortunately I couldn’t get any good pictures on our taxi in.
Upon deplaning we found ourselves in the gorgeous Baku Airport terminal, which greatly exceeded my expectations.
We headed to the visa on arrival counter, where we figured we’d have to argue, given that there’s a special visa exception for people on the New York flight, and I figured they didn’t know about it. Well, that wasn’t an issue at all, and they didn’t even mention it. We each had to pay $20, and our visa on arrival was processed within a few minutes. As the guy handed us back our passports he said “welcome to Baku” with a big smile.
We took the escalator down towards baggage claim.
Then we found ourselves in the arrivals hall, where we were followed by a creepy taxi driver.
Azerbaijan Airlines business class bottom line
I’m rather conflicted about Azerbaijan Airlines, as there are things they do really well, and things they fail miserably at.
Azerbaijan’s hard product is pretty standard for a 787, and perfectly acceptable. My major complaint about the hard product is how poorly it’s maintained, given the number of entertainment screens and power ports that weren’t working. I’m not sure if we were just really unlucky, or if that’s normal for AZAL.
In terms of the food, the quantity of food and the presentation on trolleys was impressive. I loved the way they displayed it. At the same time, the food quality varied quite a bit, and there was an unnecessary amount of food. Waking everyone who was sleeping halfway through what’s ultimately a redeye flight is silly.
Along similar lines, the crew was generally friendly, though the whole service process seemed a bit amateur.
To sum it up, I’d fly Azerbaijan again in a heartbeat if I was going to Baku or if they had a great business class fare. At the same time, they’re not an airline I’d go out of my way to fly, at least based on this experience.