Flight review Air Astana A321 & A320 Economy Class
Flight #: KC875
From: Almaty (ALA)
To: Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO)
Flight time: 4h 30min
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Flight #: KC132
From: Dushanbe (DYU)
To: Almaty (ALA)
Flight time: 1h 45min approx.
Aircraft: Airbus A320
A recent business trip to Tajikistan, in Central Asia, gave me the opportunity to try out the Air Astana experience for the very first time.
Air Astana is the largest airline in Kazakhstan and it provides a full service product out of hubs in Almaty and, recently renamed, Nur-Sultan.
I had to consecutive flights on Air Astana, with a stopover in Almaty (ALA) in between, on an A320 and an A321 respectively. The experience differed a bit between the two flights because of obvious differences in cabin size, length of the flight and the time of the day, but overall I think it was consistent enough across the two flights to mash them up here in one single flight report.
Air Astana operates its A320s with a two-class cabin (business and economy).
In addition to this, some seats are designated as “MySeat” and you can pay extra to secure them (the fee ranges from $US10 to $US45 depending on the seat and length of the flight).
Above is an example of business class seats, below economy class seats of the “MySeat type (in this case because of the extra space afforded by the emergency exit).
The seats, both in business and economy, were of the old-style, sturdy type, which is not necessarily bad news for the passenger, and covered in dark blue-grey leather.
I did have a standard economy seat, but you can see below how the seat pitch is rather generous (there is even some space left between my legs and the magazine pocket in front!).
This is one of the best points of the Air Astana experience in my opinion.
On the first, and relatively short, flight we were served a complimentary (like all other Air Astana’s onboard services so far as I could see) light lunch. As you can see below: a sandwich (tasted quite natural and without the sauces and other additives-that-you-know-nothing-about that you come across often on other flights), plus a couple of sweet cookies and drinks.
Next a round of tea or coffee or drink refills. I liked the design of Air Astana’s coffee cup (that doubles as a careers recruiting channel)!
Air Astana offers free wireless streaming IFE on its narrow-body fleet BUT before the flight you need to download a dedicated app (branded as KCTV) , that is not the acronym of “Kansas City TV”, but a reference to Air Astana’s code “KC”
There are over 60 movies and about half that number of series and tv programmes to choose from, plus several hundred music tracks.
Air Astana has also a rather thick (and reasonably good) inflight magazine as well as a content guide for IFE printed in thick high quality paper.
Air Astana provides also free newspapers when boarding. On the first flight it was only local press, on the flight out of Almaty it was also possible to pick up the Financial Times.
IFE is offered in English, Kazakh and Russian and it includes a moving map too, although this feature seemed not to be working on neither of the two flights.
Below is the cabin of the second aircraft I flew in, an A321.
I first thought it may be a brand new aircraft because of the “newish” atmosphere that LED lighting creates in the cabin and also its overall well kept aspect. It turned out it was not that new, it was a 6.8yr old aircraft, but looked the part, so kudos to Air Astana on this.
Below the business class seats, same as in the A320, just with the LED lighting glow.
And the economy class seats.
As you can see, each seat was provided with a pillow and an amenity kit, which is a nice detail when you are travelling economy. But there is more to it…
In addition to the amenity kit, each economy class passenger gets a complimentary bottle of water and a pair of ear-plus (that, btw, are compatible with portable electronic devices).
And what’s in the amenity kit? Well, this was really a surprise!
I don’t think I have ever seen so many freebies handed out on economy class (or even on some business classes!): socks, sleeping mask, earplugs, toothbrush and paste and an inflatable neck pillow!
I liked the hotel-like design of the sleeping masks!
And the inflatable neck cervical pillow is also a nice touch, not that the seats are uncomfortable (they are actually quite comfy for economy class, and seat pitch is good, as we have seen earlier), but it is still a 4.5h flight and, you can keep it for the next flights too.
A curious thing is that, in addition to the bring-your-own-device wireless IFE, Air Astana also projects content to the cabin through these overhead screens. The seats are also equipped with sockets for the earplugs. I am not sure if what they show there is a subset of what is available through the KCTV app or is something else, but they kept it on during much of the flight (alternating with the moving map at times).
And, finally, the food!
If in the previous flight I had tasted the lunch menu, on the second flight it was dinner time.
There was a choice of two hot dishes. I picked up this chicken curry with salad, which was quite tasty and, again, without complications (that for me is always a plus). In addition to this, a piece of bread, some cream cheese and a sweet fruit paste as dessert. And also complimentary drinks, tea and coffee.
Great economy class product!
It is rare these days to find such “old-school” (in a nice way) type of product in economy class. Spacious seats, free IFE, free newspapers, free tasty food, and amazing amenity kit.
I am wondering what are the economics that make it possible (not a coincidence that this year Air Astana launched its own low cost carrier, FlyArystan), but let’s hope it stays this way!