Azerbaijan Airlines operates two daily flights between Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) and Dubai International Airport (DXB).
My flight, J2 16, operated by the Airbus A320 aircraft, departs Dubai at 4am, and arrives in Baku at 7am (with a 3 hour flight time). When boarding started, there was just a few passengers sitting near the gate. Business Class passengers were called to board first, and when no one responded, the handful of Economy Class passengers proceeded for boarding. Packing up my laptop (I had been working on it whilst waiting for boarding), I thought I was going to be one of the last passengers to board but I was wrong!
As it turned out, the flight turned out to be completely full and boarding was a painfully slow process! Unlike the usual boarding process whereby the aisle is jammed with passengers trudging their way towards their seats, passengers trickled in randomly on this flight, resulting in a relatively clear aisle access during the boarding process. It seemed there's a good proportion of Azerbaijani passengers heading home after a shopping trip in Dubai (their mountain of shopping bags gave them away too quickly) as well as Arab tourists heading to Azerbaijan for a holiday (strangely, most of them are young men travelling as friends).
There was a dispute between two passengers on their seat arrangements, which the cabin crew had to step in to resolve.
On the seat was placed a earset to enjoy the channels offered on the audio port at the armrest.
In the seat pocket was a copy of Azerbaijan Airlines magazine, which was very interesting and offered detail information on Azerbaijan Airlines aircraft fleet. There was also a fashion magazine (strange to find that instead of a duty-free sales catalogue), air sickness bag, and safety instructions card.
Even though the seats had earsets on them, the cabin crew offered earsets after boarding was completed, and after the cartoon safety video was screened, candy was offered from a basket.
The take off offered a dazzling view of Dubai's night lights which faded off into darkness as the aircraft cruised towards Baku.
Immediately after the seatbelt sign was switched off, the cabin crew passed through the cabin, offering thick hot towels to passengers.
I was surprised that a full meal was offered on this red-eye flight, and even more surprised at the amount of food piled on the tray. There was a choice of chicken or beef, and I was glad to have picked the beef choice, which was a traditional Azeri dish of beef plov (pilaf rice). It didn't looked impressive, but picking at the casserole with my spoon revealed juicy pieces of beef nestled within the pilaf rice and raisins.
The other components of the meal were: a chopped vegetable salad, cheese, bread, bun, and a cake! Even without finishing the meal, I was completely stuffed. I had some iced tea (well, it was served at room temperature from a pet bottle) to quench my thirst.
Coffee and tea were offered before the trays were collected.
The meal service was conducted in the darkened cabin to allow those who wish to skip the meal service to rest.
"Just for Laughs" programmes were screened overhead entertainment screens, so chuckles could be heard in the cabin time to time. Music videos were also screened.
The sun slowly peeked from the horizon, revealing a majestic mountain towering through the clouds, as the aircraft cruised over Iranian territory.
Later on, immigration forms for Azerbaijan were handed out. The cabin crew could be seen assisting passengers with filling out the forms.
Even though it was a rather foggy morning, landing in Baku was smooth, and the aircraft taxied to its parking position at the terminal building. Actual flight time was 2 hours and 45 minutes.
The Airbus 320-214 aircraft (4K-AZ77, named "Lerik") at the gate.
Even though Azerbaijan Airlines provided a decent inflight service and a very generous meal, the full flight on this narrowbody A320 aircraft made it less comfortable and the short flight time was not conducive for rest. The boarding process itself was long and tiresome. I will be avoiding short flights with such red-eye departure timings in the future.
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For the full video experience of my Azerbaijan Airlines J2 16 flight experience, please see below: