TRIP REPORT: SCAT Airlines, Nur-Sultan - Almaty

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Written by Luke Fisher

During our vacation in Kazakhstan we wanted to go out of Astana and see something a bit more real in the old capital of Almaty. Options for this are a train for 24 hours, or a flight. We didn’t have so much time for the former, so checked out plane tickets - Air Astana fly modern planes but were expensive, almost €200 for the return trip, so it came to some of the more unknown local airlines: SCAT, Qazaq, and Bek Air. When I’m in this part of the world, my main go to is ‘Is this airline on the EU approved to land list?’. Only SCAT was, so we went with them for €86 return.

SCAT only got on the EU’s approved list about 18 months ago. I was a little apprehensive before and did some more research, also watching some YouTube videos from other passengers - basically, the downside with SCAT is they fly very old planes. Our one was a 25-year-old or so Boeing 737-300 (UP-B3722). Clearly, at that age, the plane’s interior was quite dated - there was one arm rest that seemed to be attached with tin foil to keep it in place! But otherwise the flight was absolutely fine. During boarding the crew noticed we weren’t locals and told us to ask if we needed anything during the journey. They all spoke relatively good English, which surprised me considering some crew on internal Russian flights I’d been on struggled a bit.

Check-in for domestic flights only starts an hour before, so we were a bit early. As the first to check in, our group of three were put on the over-wing exit. For domestic flights at Nur-Sultan International, you go straight past security (with less strict rules about liquids), and then into a small terminal with a case and a few gift shops. The flight to Almaty was during the morning, and we departed about five minutes late after boarding via an airbridge.



The views show you just how barren and rugged Kazakhstan is, flying over long patches of mountains or open plains. After the seatbelt sign had gone off, the service started.

SCAT serve their on-board snacks in this pretty box, which I thought was a nice touch. The sandwich was fine, and they also came around with a drinks service of both hot and cold choices. The food & drink, as well as a 20KG checked case, is included in the ticket price. What I did notice though was how much more comfortable the new planes are with things like turns - this old Boeing didn’t half jolt as we made turns into the descent!



Landing in Almaty was pretty spectacular as you can see in the photo! We were bussed to the domestic arrivals terminal, which was basically a room with two baggage belts.


Our return journey that same evening was delayed by some 90 minutes. SCAT don’t have so many planes, and fly a variety of routes across the country each day, so it was just a knock-on effect. The terminal in Almaty is one for both domestic and international, but with separate check-in and thereafter airside zones. The domestic one was really designed for you to only go through security when the flight was showing ‘Go To Gate’, as seating was very limited airside, and only had one or two places to buy snacks. We were taken back to the same plane (after it had gone to various other places that day!) by bus, and had an uneventful flight back to Astana.






Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with SCAT. For the price of the ticket, I was impressed with the added extras. Certainly I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again, although not sure I’d fancy anything more than a two hour journey on such an old plane.


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Comments

  1. Very nice report. SCAT Airlines doesn't look bad actually. Quite generous to get free baggage and meals. Becoming unheard of in Europe.

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  2. I absolutely LOVE the airline name, I'm thrilled whenever I see it, very exciting. One of my favorites, wish I could fly it often!

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  3. Those B737s are still younger than Air Serbia's or the one being wet leased by Montenegro Airlines or the Carpatair dinosaur often wetleased by Adria.

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    Replies
    1. I saw that even OU is leasong Trade Air F100

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  4. How is Almaty?

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  5. Just yesterday, 9th of July, a SCAT B737 landed at OMO surprised to see it in my hometown

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