Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s national carrier, introduced its first Airbus A321LR at the Nursultan Airport on October 9. These narrow-body planes are expected to replace the airline’s fleet of ageing Boeing 757 jets, which it has flown since 2003.
The airline, which operates a network of 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty and Nur-Sultan (a city that used to be called Astana), plans to fly the new planes on long-haul services to destinations including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul. Air Astana’s CEO Peter Foster said in an interview that Shanghai and Singapore are possible new destinations in the Asia-Pacific region for the A321LRs. Other potential routes include Prague, Mumbai and either Jeddah and/or Medinah in Saudi Arabia.
The A321LR, which entered service in 2008, has the longest range of any single aisle jetliner, according to Airbus. Air Astana is scheduled to take a further six Airbus A321LR aircraft over the next three months. The airline says the time frame will be determined by Airbus’ pace of production in Hamburg.
The long-range aircraft has been experiencing production delays. Last month, Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus had to postpone the introduction of up to two new routes between Dublin and the United States until 2021 due to continuing delivery delays with the Airbus A321LR aircraft, according to the The Irish Independent.
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to explore the Almaty-based airline’s latest Airbus plane in Nursultan. Below is a rundown of the airline’s business class cabin.
Air Astana Airbus A321LR presentation – October 9 2019
What’s it like?
The aircraft is configured with 166 seats, with 16 in business class and 150 in economy class. This is the same number of seats as the airline’s 757s.
Business class seats:
There are five rows in the business class cabin. Rows one, three and five are arranged in a 2-2 pattern. These seats are arranged in pairs but there’s a divider going down the middle for privacy:
Rows two and four are arranged in a 1-1 configuration. These rows have the cabin’s throne seats for those looking for a seat with no seat mate, as well as direct aisle access and extra privacy:
The addition of throne seats is one of the main improvements in the new business class cabin. While the legroom space is a mere inch less than the other business class seats in the cabin, these individual seats, which were not a part of the business class cabin in the B757s, definitely offer a more private flying experience. These four individual seats also offer direct aisle access. For those looking for slightly more space, the regular seats on the 2-2 configured rows might be a better option as the pitch is greater and they don’t have consoles along the sides of the seats which might make these throne seats feel a little closed off for some. It really depends on your preference.
The grey seats, provided by Thompson Aero Seating, feature Air Astana’s signature purple-and-white pattern on the pillows. The purple in the interior design of the cabin and the lighting has a very calming effect.
The seats in the upgraded cabin are fully-flat seats, unlike those on the airline’s B757 which were an angle lie-flat with a recline close to 170 degrees. There is ample leg room, enough to extend your legs even when you’re in the upright position, but also to keep a handbag/backpack in the footwell.
Air Astana has also changed the seat control mechanism in an effort to make it simpler and easier to use for passengers travelling in the new cabin. The airline has upgraded this feature to touchscreen, replacing its former system that used push buttons. There is one feature missing in the new version, however. The airline decided to forgo the massage option. A spokesperson from Air Astana told Business Traveller Asia-Pacific that this is decision was driven by a number of complaints from passengers about the massage option in the airline’s B767 business class seats. There is, however, a new feature on the Thomson Vantage seats. Just by pressing one button, the seat will configure itself in the upright position in preparation for take-off and landing.
Here is a rundown of all the seat features:
- Moodlight: A system to adjust lighting.
- TTL (take-off-and-landing): Pressing this button will position the seat upright into the take-off-and-landing position.
- Relax: This will move the seat slightly back and the leg rest slightly up. When the seat reaches this position, the movement will automatically stop. (Japan Airlines also has this feature on some of its business class seats.)
- Lounge: When the ‘Lounge’ button is pressed for more than 0.6 seconds, the seat will move to a slightly reclined position. The seat will continue to move to the ‘Lounge’ position even after the button has been released.
- Bed Position: The seat will reach a fully lie-flat position when this is pressed. The lighting will also automatically adjust.
- Legrest Up/Down: When the ‘Legrest’ button is pressed the leg rest will move in an upward or downward direction until it reaches the end stop.
Passengers travelling in the new business class cabin will no longer have to jut out the tray from below the seat. Now it is a lot easier to access:
The seats are equipped with individual 16-inch screens, with Zodiac RAVE inflight entertainment, the same system on the rest of Air Astana’s planes. However, the screens are much larger than the 9.7-inch ones in the business class cabins on the 757s.
The content on the plane is quite wide-ranging, from travel documentaries on Kazakhstan, to latest Hollywood movies and a selection of TV shows.
Here is the seat in the upright position:
The view of the business class cabin from the rear:
Quick facts about Air Astana's business class seats:
Seat / Bed width: min. 20.6” / min. 22.3”
Pitch for the regular business seats: 45 inches
Pitch for thrones seats: 44 inches
Kazakhstan’s national carrier’s new upgraded cabin has a number of qualities that makes it a great business class product: ample legroom, elegant design, and a comfortable seat that reclines to a fully flat position – an important feature in planes flying long-haul routes for travellers who want to sleep peacefully. The throne seats are a nice addition for those looking for extra privacy in this narrow-body aircraft. Overall, passengers can look forward to a slew of new features in the upgraded business class cabin.