TRIP REPORT: Baku - Zagreb via Frankfurt

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Written by Erik Tomori

Date: 23.3.2018

Baku to Frankfurt:
Flight number: LH 613
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200 (sharklets) D-AIUL

Frankfurt to Zagreb:
Flight number: OU 417
Aircraft: Bombardier Q400 9A-CQC

After nine lovely days in Baku attending the European youth parliament session it was time to head back home. I will definitely come back some day because Azerbaijan left a really good impression on me, but, unfortunately,, I didn't have enough time to explore it. This is sadly the case for most foreigners comming to Azerbaijan because they are mostly only attending events there (Formula 1, Gymnastics championships...). There are a lot of interesting places within and around Baku such as mud volcanoes in Qubustan and burning mountain (Yanar Dag). The city itself is quite diverse, to me it looked like Trieste with Dubai style high-rises and Russian style metro.


The airport is easily accessible by taxi and bus that goes from 28 May square pass Koroglu metro station (Gymnastic arena) to the airport, it takes around half an hour and cost 1,3 AZN (0,8$). There is also quite reasonably priced (according to European standards) Sheraton hotel at the airport. I spent my last two nights there as my flight was leaving at 4:50 AM. There is actually no need to sleep there in case of an early flight because buses run all night and taxis are very cheap.

Airport as seen from Sheraton hotel

Baku airport looks like it came from the future. It is named after Heydar Aliyev, a former president (1993-2003). Prior to entering the airport, I had to first clear a security check (similar to those in shopping malls), then my passport was checked before the bag drop and I got some kind of sticker on the back side. I was also asked some questions about my stay in Azerbaijan, that didn't seam as a security thing to me but it might have been. Maybe this was only to check my passports validity. I checked in online but I wasn't able to get mobile boarding passes as GYD didn't support them at that time. They were given to me at the bag drop. Then I proceeded to another security check, this one took about 20min despite there being no crowd. All bags and electronic devices were checked manually after screening. Right after security there was immigration, my passport and visa were checked and I was good to go. I then entered the duty free area where everything was open at 3AM despite there being no people at all. Some bars are located in egg shaped pods.


My plane arrived on time from Ashgabat. An A321 was scheduled for this flight but they changed it to an A320 with sharklets. Boarding started quickly and my mysterious sticker was taken by the gate agent. Cabin lights were dimmed during boarding as those from Ashgabat were sleeping, the flight was about half full (maybe even less). I cannot imagine how there used to be an A340-300 serving this route as the load factor is so low. The captain made an announcement that we might be late because we are taking a longer route due to weather. Takeoff was very turbulent, the plane was shaking also during boarding due to strong winds. The ;onger route meant flying towards Moscow and then over Belarus and Poland.



Breakfast was served half an hour after departure. Options were pancakes or eggs. I went for the latter and it was just what I needed at that time. It tasted great and it was more than sufficient. Cabin crew were very thoughtfull, they have made this flight very easy to sleep on. Food trays were collected very quickly and the lights were kept off through the whole flight (even during meal service). As the flight was not full at all, they've made sure that everyone had more than one pillow. Before I fell asleep I was able to catch some pretty nice views of the sunrise above snowy Russia, then I slept for couple of hours. As I woke up, the flight attendant had noticed that and she offered to bring me something to drink from the galley so I didn't have to climb over my sleeping seat neighbour. The flight took 5 hours and 4 minutes (55 minutes more than Baku bound flight). I was really satisfied with this flight because it was really comfortable (free middle seat) and the crew were great. Lufthansas short haul seats can feel a little hard at some point but I can't complain as I had two pillows and enough legroom. Also the view on the sharklet was perfect from 22A.




Frankfurt airport is much more like a maze than Munich with which I am more familiar. I don't remember where the bus dropped us but somehow I managed to unnecessarily pass Schengen airside again while connecting between non-Schengen flights. During boarding for my flight to Zagreb I realised that Croatia Airlines took care of the environment again as gate agents were giving new boarding passes to some passengers. This time the aircraft changed from A320 to Q400. It must have happened while I was in the air.


Again, there were no window blinds on this aircraft (9A-CQC). Q400 might be fun to fly with but this time I wasn't so excited as I was tired. The seats were narrow and the flight was almost full this time. I'm 1,9m tall and that's why I really appreciate good legroom on Lufthansa. The flight didn't take too long, arrival was 10 minutes late. Not bad at all for a turboprop. Passport control and baggage claim didn't take long, as there was not much other traffic. The emptiness of the huge baggage claim area reminded me of GYD, looks like ZAG left some space for more baggage carousels. The only bad thing about Zagreb is the distance from my home town of Ljubljana and unpredictable boarder waiting times.

I was very satisfied with the route taken. Lufthansa did great as always and Croatia Airlines also didn't disappoint despite aircraft changes which are still better than canceled flight. I cannot recommend visiting Baku enough, it really is a photogenic city and Azerbaijan is trying to become more attractive to Europeans by organising various events so there are plenty of opportunities for visit. For my next one, I will rather consider flying from Trieste with Lufthansa or with Turkish from Ljubljana as Zagreb is a little bit far.


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Comments

  1. Thanks for the nice report!
    Why you didn't fly from FRA to LJU?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for kind words. I didn’t fly from LJU because I was booking only three weeks in advance and ZAG was much cheaper.

      Delete
  2. Interesting trip report. The A340 that operated the route could have been used because of cargo demand, not so much passenger traffic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The routing on the map looks very weird to me?
    It takes a huge detour instead of overflying Georgia, the Black Sea and Ukraine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point. Although it might be actually shorter given that the Earth is round. It could also be to avoid the eastern Ukranian airspace because of the ongoing conflict with Russia.

      Delete
    2. It says in the text.

      "The captain made an announcement that we might be late because we are taking a longer route due to weather."

      Delete
  4. I don't get why they don't have blinds on the Q400. That's just weird.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Baku is great! One of my favourite destinations and will return there for sure. Also Wizzair flies there from Budapest in case you are not on a business trip or not willing to pay legacy prices. I got return tickets summer two years ago for 160 € one month before departure, my friends paid even less (120 €) since they bought it one week ahead of me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The BEST reason for Yugo carriers to launch this route.
      JP, JU and OU must consider GYD, TBS and EVN as future organic destinations!!
      This report shows it all!!!

      Delete
    2. Serbia and Armenia should first abolish visa regime between them as Georgia already did.

      Delete
    3. You get an Armenian visa upon arrival, €6 for 21 days. So it's not much of a hassle. That said, Serbia and Armenia do have a free trade agreement which should stimulate trade between countries.

      Delete

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