If you’ve looked into flying with Azal Airlines, you may have come across their ‘between’ first and economy class they offer called “Comfort Club.” (Though it would probably fall into the category of Business Class compared to other airlines.) And, if you’re curious like I am you researched the ends of the internet with any more information about the experience than the photos they share on their site:
Doesn’t paint much of a picture right? Leaves you curious about what all comes with the ~ $265 ticket upgrade (one way)?
Noticing this lack of content written on this experience, I thought it would be helpful to write about it in case anyone is curious or on the fence about it.
To be honest, I’m not one to fly business/first class– in fact I had never paid for an upgrade in my life until this. (Though, have been lucky enough to experience international Delta One while flying standby.) So this review is not written by someone that is swimming in funds, or someone who upgraded because of travel points I had lying around— on the contrary you’re reading from the perspective of someone that went through a spontaneous ‘YOLO/Treat yo’ self’ moment and decided to spend their ‘hard earned’ money on this experience. So whatever situation you’re in, YOU can decide if the experience is worth the price difference.
I actually initially purchased my ticket in economy, then later decided to upgrade. I did this by e-mailing Azal’s customer support. They were helpful in this process and also helped me pick my specific seat ahead of time via e-mail. (Currently you can’t do this on their site).
How much is it?
As you can see below, a one-way nonstop ticket from NYC to Baku (10 hours on their prized Boeing 787 Dreamliner) at its cheapest is $505 and most expensive (VIP Club) is $1445. The middle Comfort Club is a moderate $770, roughly half of the VIP class (read one review of this experience with The Points Guy, here).
TLDR; Was it worth the price tag?
Yes- for this one experience. I don’t have the budget to always fly it- but accounting for the money saved with the access to lounges before and after the flight, the plethora of quality meals and an exciting gift bag (including pajamas), it definitely is a great way to experience a ‘Business Class’ level of service and overall comfort with a relatively moderate price difference. Especially accounting for the fact I was traveling alone, missing my love after being in different continents for 2 months, the level of relaxation and comfort was really wonderful. True story: waiting in line to board in front of my at JFK, two couples ahead of me were raving about the value of Comfort Club- how it was affordable but at Business Class level. From what I gained listening, they had a stopover in Azerbaijan before also traveling to Dubai (which is a popular route for Azal Airlines).
What do you get?
This is a list from the website:
- More space to work and relax, seating with extra legroom and a wide angle of inclination
- Priority at check-in counters, at airports and priority boarding
- Fast Track service and personal assistance at Heydar Aliyev International Airport for departure procedures.
- Access to the Business Class room at the airports
- More benefits in the baggage allowance
- 3 pieces of baggage weight up to 32 kg each and 2 hand luggage weighing up to 10 kg are included in the Comfort club ticket.
- Complete meals in the Comfort club and drinks that are served on very fine porcelain. Special meals to meet your dietary needs are also available for early booking at least 20 hours before flight departure.
- Personal entertainment in the seating area using a 10.6-inch display with B-787 touch-screen with a wide variety of classic and recent films, audio, TV shows, games, podcasts and much more to make your trip more enjoyable
- A high quality wellness kit with toiletries and accessories is provided on long-haul flights (over 7 hours of flight time).
- Special gifts are provided for children (children aged 2 to 10).
- Travel cushions
- Soft toys on flights of over 7 hours (not sure what this means to be honest!)
Before the flight + check in
Because I had no shame in hiding my excitement over the complementary lounge access (to chow down on as much breakfast I wanted while working on freelance in a calm atmosphere), I showed up early to check in on my 11:30am flight so I had time to relax in ‘luxury’ beforehand. There wasn’t a way to check in online earlier than that unfortunately, but part of me was glad so that I would have the opportunity to ask any questions in person. The earliest you can check in to an Azal Airline flight at JFK is 4 hours before takeoff. I was one of the first in line, and didn’t have any bags to check, so I was quickly on my way after confirming where the lounge was. (Terminal 1, after security) Even though I was one of the first in line, I still saved a significant amount of time having the ‘Comfort Club’ status, being about to bypass a couple families with lots of luggage by waiting in the Business Class line.
At JFK, Azal Airlines partners with the Air France lounge (open 6am to 1am), so you have all the wonderfulness they provide. They had quite a variety of breakfast snack foods (toast, meats, cheeses, fruits, yogurt, granola, etc) as well as any kind of espresso drink you can think of and many different bottles of liquor, champagne, beer, wine, sparkling water, and sodas.
Tip: WIFI passport is stamped on the back of your ticket. I asked a stranger for his and realized later I had it. Doh!
Boarding + Getting Settled
The boarding process was pretty painless. Our particular flight was randomly selected to go through a full security check, so there was a 25 min delay to board- but people were pretty understanding (if not mildly happy) about the situation. There was a long line for economy class boarding. I don’t normally care about ‘boarding first’ because that just means there’s more time sitting on a plane I’ll be on for a while- but in this case I was particularly happy because a) I was excited to see what was in this supposed ‘wellness gift‘ and b) by the time I spend some necessary time charging my phone, the line was way down the hall- so I was happy to not have to test my patience and board in the much shorter line where I was maybe the 12th person.
When I was seated I was surprised by how much SPACE I had. From the photos, it seemed like I had just slightly more room than in economy (such as in Delta’s Comfort Plus) but that definitely wasn’t the case. It seemed like a whole other seat could have fit in the space. Because of this, the TV screens had to flip up from the arm rest rather than be located in the back of the seat in front of you. (Also helps with how far back the seats can recline).
I sat down and got settled, and soon was greeted by a stewardess with a tray of drinks. I was really hoping for some champagne, but the available drinks were lemonade or orange juice, plus there were some small snacks I could grab but didn’t realize in time.
The flight attendant didn’t really speak English, but the guy next to me was able to translate which I was thankful of. The English thing was kind of surprising to me to be honest, since I thought it was policy of airlines flying between two countries to have flight attendants that can at least minimally speak both the languages, but I never want to be ‘that person’ complaining. (The world already makes it very unfairly easy for native English speakers to get around, it’s fair to have a little challenge sometimes, right?) And to be fair, she did list the dinner menu options in English and asked for red or white and dry or sweet wine. From what I remember, the menu options were Chicken, Duck, Fish, Beef (but don’t quote me).
The free gifts
As mentioned earlier, I was particularly excited to see what was in this supposed ‘high quality wellness kit’ mentioned in the perks of the ticket.
The kit was stuffed with quite a bit of things (to the point where it would have been hard to take a photo of it all in my lap) but from what I remember, it contained at least:
- Rose water face mist (This was actually awesome, I sprayed it every few hours an it was so calming and hydrating. It’s about all used up now after a few months of using it often )
- Socks (with cushions on the bottom)
- Ear plugs (in a cute branded plastic container)
- Eye mask
Take-off was incredibly smooth. The high-end feeling Baky (Baku) Magazine was perfect reading material as we reached altitude. Once we did, flight attendants passed around comfortable headphones with protective covers to put on the ears. Then we had white table cloths placed over our ‘tables’, warm towels to clean our hands and were given white wine + salted roasted nuts to snack on. At this time they also took our orders for dinner. I picked the chicken when it came down to deciding, though was tempted to try the duck.
I found dinner to be delicious and surprisingly filling. The main dish I choose, chicken, was quite basic/bland on its own though- I was hoping it might be a little more Azerbaijani. But at the same time I understand the desire for the airline to serve a simple, main dish to ensure most people will like it. Adding the olive chutney to the chicken was delicious and a way to add a unique flavor. I tried to get a glimpse of the other dishes- I’m not sure if the other meat selections were also served with bowtie pasta or something else. The seafood was good, especially after adding a fresh squeeze of lemon. I also enjoyed the creamy apple-walnut salad, though was getting a little full at that point and it was on the sweeter side so I didn’t eat all of it.
I will say the presentation of the food on porcelain and white cloth table cloth made the food taste better too I imagine. There’s something about using real silverware and quality dishware that adds to the overall dining experience.
Not long after the dinner plates were taken, dessert was served. From what I remember there was an option between a chocolate torte and fruit cake, and either tea or coffee. Below you’ll see the chocolate torte I choose- along with a variety of dried fruits (which is very Azerbaijani to be served with hot tea!) and presentation of the tea. It was all very delicious, and a lot of food. I saved my dried fruit and leftover wine to snack on throughout the rest of the flight.
Time to sleep
After all this food, you bet all you can think to do is to sleep! We’re probably at hour 3 of the 10 hour flight at this point, and the lights go off ‘overnight’ until it’s time for breakfast.
Instead of having a physical partition on the window, it actually tinted dark with the touch of a button- a great way to still be able to enjoy some of the view of the flight above the clouds and rest with lack of light.
To be honest, I rarely sleep well on flights. This is mostly from the excitement of my upcoming trip, and also FOMO of the movies and entertainment right in front of me. The Comfort Club extra legroom though was truly comfy, and the chair is able to recline quite a ways (not 100% flat, but you can be completely sprawled out even if you are tall). It was nice to not have disturbances during this time.
About an hour before we start descending, breakfast is served. I was given 3 options- omelette, pancakes, or sausage. I actually choose the omelette (not a huge meat eater normally) but they had run out. I ended up getting the sausage- it was served with mashed potatoes. To be honest it was quite delicious and healthier than I imagined with the generous portions of roasted veggies. Overall a satisfying meal.
After the plates were cleared we again had the choice of tea or coffee. This time I had the coffee- it was definitely a Nescafe kind of thing, but I kind of expected this since Azerbaijan is such a tea culture and I haven’t seen anyone drinking anything other than instant coffee in my time there.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a nerd and looked up when the sun rises as this time of year in Baku, then specifically picked my seat to be on the right side of the plane so that I would be south facing to see the sunrise! Something about seeing that sun peaking over the clouds while you’re 35,000 feet up is quite breathtaking. If you want to do the same, pick the right side of the plane.
Upon landing, we were given cards that gave us access to a ‘lounge’. Honestly, I was assuming this meant access to another really swanky lounge like at JFK, but that ended up not quite being the case. Actually, after deboarding the plane and heading towards passport control, I didn’t see any way to access their business lounge that is within the security zone. To be sure, I asked some workers by showing them my ‘access card’ and they directed me towards passport control.
So, I went through passport control, thinking that sure enough I missed my chance to experience the lounge. Even thought the flight was as comfy as a flight can be, I still was really hoping to find a nice place to rest and freshen up before meeting up with my partner’s family.
By the way, the Heydar Aliyev International Airport is gorgeous:
Sure enough when I got out of passport control, there was a sort of ‘mini’ lounge in the open area that matched what my access card said. It is fenced off from the rest of baggage claim rather than being an actual room. I showed the woman at the desk my pass and she took note of when I arrived, since Comfort Club guests have a complimentary 1-hour here. There’s WIFI and a few snacks- such as some fruit, chips, tea, and Nescafe.
It was nice to have a space to ‘belong’ while waiting to get picked up, though it wasn’t the most comfortable since there wasn’t any privacy with just a low partition. Plus, after dropping my things off at a table, quite hot after carrying my large backpack, I took off my leather jacket- meaning my tattoos were now showing. The two female workers began staring at me and I felt really uncomfortable to be honest- I was covered with sweat and felt gross on that account- but on top of that I now had 2 sets of eyes judging me. (We mention how tattoos will turn heads in our ‘Social Norms to Know’ article). Maybe I was just tired from lack of sleep and was taking everything personal.
Anyways, I was able to put my prized ‘Wellness Kit’ to use in the public restrooms in baggage claim which were fine, clean and modern.
MEGA TIP for arriving at Heydar Aliyev International Airport: Have your transportation from the airport planned ahead of time, and DON’T walk outside the building if you aren’t ready. I say this because many relentless taxi drivers will try really hard to get your business, to the point you might feel overwhelmed. I personally had a ride on its way, and simply wanted to get some fresh air as I waited. Bad idea- the moment I stepped outside I had men assertively asking me if I needed a ride and following me even after I told them no. (‘Yo’ is no in Azeri, ‘Net’ is no in Russia by the way). I tried returning back in the building but guards are there to make sure no one enters in the exit. They were adamant about not letting me go back inside, but at least they let me wait for my ride right by them until my ride came.
Taxi is the best way to get from the airport (opposed to public transit) but there are ways to arrange your ride officially through an app to ensure you have proper fees as mentioned in our ‘Getting Around’ page.
Despite some of the minor stresses while arriving at the airport, my overall experience riding Comfort Club with Azerbaijan Airlines was very pleasant and I do not regret paying for the upgrade. Between food offered, amenities, and overall comfortable experience on this long flight, the $260 upgrade was worth it to me.
Is there anything I left out? Has anyone else flown this and would like to add something? Let us know!
Thanks for reading,
—Go Travel Azerbaijan