AZAL – FROM FIRE TO LOVE
Azərbaycan Hava Yolları or Azerbaijan Airlines also known as “AZAL”, was established in April 1992 in Azerbaijan by the decision of the Republic’s government as the first national airline as the country gained its independence and soon spread its wings into the world outside the Soviet Union, which had been Aeroflot’s exclusive domain. Indeed, in the beginning, AZAL inherited a huge fleet from Aeroflot, including more than 20 Soviet-made Tupolev airliners, some regional airliners and freighters, 90 light aircraft, and 50 helicopters. Azerbaijan Airlines’ first scheduled route was between the country’s capital and Istanbul in partnership with Turkish Airlines. The airline was based in Baku at an airport built in 1933 and renamed “Heydar Aliyev International Airport” in 2004.
In 2015 the airline was awarded a prestigious “4 Star” rating by the famous and most influential in the field of the airlines’ service quality evaluation British consulting company Skytrax.
Nowadays, Azerbaijan Airlines operates a fleet of 23 aircraft (its subsidiary Buta Airways not included) from the Airbus A319 to the brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and flies to Europe, Asia and North America.
The today’s trip will embark you onboard the A320 between Baku and Paris Charles de Gaulle in the Azerbaijan Airline’s Economy Class. This flight is operated every Sunday and Tuesday as “J273” and departs the Azerbaijani capital at 06:30 to land in France at 09:20.
At Heydar Aliyev Airport, AZAL passengers traveling to Paris are welcomed at Terminal 1 which is exclusively dedicated to International flights. The latter is indeed beautiful as it is made of very warm clear colors and original architectures giving it a sensation of space and modernity. This airport is without a contest one of the most beautiful of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). Moreover, the Terminal 1 is composed of three floors where only the last one is equipped with a very well furnished Duty-Free area, highlighted with an agreeable room lighting. The negative point, however, is the lack of opened restaurant and food service at this time of the day even if many Azerbaijan Airlines’ flights are departing to Europe in the early morning.
Our today’s bird is a 12.4 years old Airbus A320 registered 4K-AZ77 named “Lerik” in reference to a region located south of Azerbaijan, equipped with two CFM56-5B4 engines. This plane has flown for Air Berlin before joining AZAL’s fleet in December 2010.
This Azerbaijan Airlines single-aisle plane is able to carry up to 146 passengers with 126 people in Economy Class in a 3-3 configuration. The seats are rather comfortable, indeed, the latter offers a seat width of 18 inches and an awesome pitch of 30 inches which is very appreciable for an Airbus A320.
Moreover, a small amenity kit is offered just after take-off. The latter is composed of earphones, earplugs as well as a night mask.
On this more than 5 hours and 30 minutes flight, the meal service begins as the airplane reached its cruising altitude with a small Oshibori. On this route, AZAL proposes one and unique type of breakfast which is rather copious and composed of sausages, mashed potatoes, a yogurt, jam, some fruits and a large selection of hot and cold beverages. The whole was correct even though the sausages didn’t taste really good and could have been way better. Of course, the airline also offers the opportunity for its customers to choose their meal before the flight on the company’s website.
The service then continued with a little snack.
Finally, a sandwich, snickers and a small drink were offered before the descent into Paris.
Entertainment-wise, Azerbaijan Airlines doesn’t offer much on its Airbus A320s. Indeed, apart from the overhead IFEs continuously displaying a film in English and which is rare enough to be reported, which wasn’t showing any flight tracker, there were only the airline’s as well as the “Beauty” magazine coupled with some music available from the armrest available for the passengers during the flight.
The flight attendants were very professional and friendly. Indeed, they regularly passed through the cabin during the flight to propose drink to the passengers.
On this route, Azerbaijan Airlines is without direct competition as no other airline offers a direct route from Baku to Paris. The price-quality ratio is very interesting regarding the fact that the service proposed by AZAL is rather correct for a very competitive price. Indeed, the cabin was comfortable, clean, the catering service was correct and the crew professional.
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~ Airliners Explorers ~