BACKGROUND With its sheer geographical size and a road network that could use improvement, Kazakhstan has a healthy and rising demand for domestic air travel. This route between the country’s young capital and its former capital and largest commercial hub is one of the most popular.
CHECK-IN I arrived at the airport shortly after 1500 for my 1600 flight, KC953. The business class lounge offers a dedicated check-in counter, but otherwise it’s just a room with chairs and a TV. The process was smooth and we were at the gate shortly before departure time.
BOARDING The queue was not long and very quickly I was settled in my seat. The plane didn’t start taxiing to the apron until 1624, though, and 10 minutes later it finally took off.
THE SEAT This is an angled lie-flat product that the airline still uses on many international routes, and I had already experienced it on my way to Almaty from Hong Kong. It’s roomy enough but when lying down it’s not particularly comfortable as you do slide down from time to time. Fortunately, we understand that the airline will be introducing a horizontal lie-flat business product on B767s by November, and it will also slowly be rolled out on B757s in the first quarter next year. For a short-haul route such as this one, however, the existing business class product is quite adequate.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I was seated in 1C, the left-hand-side aisle seat on the first row. There were several things I didn’t like about it: the centralised IFE controller is in the compartment right above this seat, and the flight attendant had to lean over me now and again in order to adjust it. As both the galley and lavatories are at the front of the plane, there is also a lot of traffic passing by, so the first row feels very exposed. As the lie-flat position also means you’re lowered towards the floor, it can make you feel as if you are sleeping in a public area.
THE FLIGHT Drinks were served at around 1700, followed by the meal service. This was the part that I was particularly impressed by. For a relatively short flight the menu was more than adequate. After a garden salad with olive oil and balsamic dressing, we had a choice of chicken breast with sun-dried tomato and mozzarella cheese, tagliatelle Alfredo with stir-fried peppers; roasted fillet of beef with potato croquette, broccoli florets and baked cherry tomato with thyme; and baked trout with herbs, pesto sauce, couscous pilaf, fried marrow and roasted carrots. There was also an option for a light meal of hot and cold mezze. I went for the beef, and although the food wasn’t anything like one would get in a restaurant, it went down well with a couple of glasses of Bordeaux red by Chateau Tour Prignac.
It was a little bit of an issue to serve this rather sumptuous meal on this flight, however – at 1725 I was politely asked if I had finished, even though I had only just dived into my chocolate mousse and coffee. There was no personal IFE on this flight, so other than working on my laptop, the only distraction was a communal TV featuring hidden camera gags.
ARRIVAL We touched down at 1755, and disembarking at the much newer and more modern Astana airport was smooth. Luggage was ready for collection without a long wait.
VERDICT A pleasant enough experience, and the stand-out feature was the food. But the airline could use a better business class lounge.