TRIP REPORT: Turkish Airlines, Baku - Ljubljana via Istanbul


Written by Matjaž Nose

There are destinations which you have on your travel menu for a long time, you plan a trip carefully well in advance and you read all the related travel books you manage to find. Then there are destinations where your decisions are sudden, in many cases depending on certain circumstances. My decision to visit Azerbaijan was exactly that. In January this year Turkish Airlines launched a campaign offering very attractive plane ticket prices to selected destinations. Baku was one of them. The promotional fare of a return ticket with included checked baggage was only €150. I was not able to reject such a generous offer. It was not a question of if but when. Finally, I decided to visit Azerbaijan at the end of October when we have national holidays for two consecutive days (October 31 and November 1). I took four additional days off and was therefore able to enjoy a 10-day break in Azerbaijan. Baku seems to be an important destination for Turkish Airlines as they offer several daily flights connecting Istanbul and the Azerbaijani capital with widebody aircraft deployed on regular basis for certain flights.

I departed on Thursday evening, my flight from Ljubljana to Istanbul was operated by an A321neo (almost completely full) and after approximately 2.5-hour layover, I continued my journey on board the B787-9 to my final destination Baku. It was a red-eye flight lasting approximately two and a half hours and immediately after I had settled into my aisle seat I put on my eye mask (I brought it myself) and tried to catch some sleep. I skipped the meal service and did not use any of the entertainment options (earphones were provided by the crew). We landed early in the morning. I cleared immigration and collected my baggage before exchanging some money into Azerbaijani currency (called manat). I needed a visa and it was very easy to obtain a 30-day single entry e-visa online before the trip, total cost was $26. With manats in my pocket I went out of the terminal and took a public bus to the centre of Baku. The bus ride is very cheap, a ticket costs only 1.30 AZN or approximately €0.80 but you have to buy a plastic Baku electronic payment card first (2 AZN) and have sufficient credit for the bus ride - there is a kiosk just outside of the airport, near the entrance, where you can buy a BakuCard. You can then use the same BakuCard for the metro and other transportation options within the Baku area.

The final stop of this airport bus is near 28 May metro station. It was early morning and since my hotel was located not far away from the bus stop, I decided to simply walk to it. Baku is an interesting city with combination of old buildings located in the old town (Icherisheher) and ultra-modern masterpieces. Heydar Aliyev Centre designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid is definitely on the top of that list. Delicious food and friendly people along with the city sights make your visit a very enjoyable experience. But I also wanted another experience, not on the ground but in the sky. Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) is the national airline of Azerbaijan. The country borders the Caspian Sea to the east, but the interesting thing is that it consists of two separate parts, the mainland and the exclave separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian territory. Since relations between the two neighbours are non-existent and rather hostile (due to disputes over Nagorno-Karabagh region) it is not a surprise that the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed and the only way to reach the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic from Baku is to either take a 10-hour bus ride via Iran or fly there, the flight takes only an hour. I booked my Baku-Nakhchivan-Baku flights well in advance. There are four daily flights operated by AZAL and in most cases, they deploy an A320 aircraft. The price of the ticket is fixed, it does not matter if you buy it a day or a month in advance. In all cases you have to pay 70 AZN (€43) if you are a foreigner or 60 AZN (€37) if you are Azerbaijani citizen for a one-way ticket. The fare includes 23 kg checked baggage. Although the price does not change, I strongly recommend buying a ticket at least a week or two in advance as the flights are often sold out. For example, both of my flights were sold out days in advance. Let me give you some information and review of the AZAL flights I took. I booked the earliest daily flight in both directions. The first flight departs Baku at 7:00am and arrives to Nakhchivan about one hour later. Although the flights were short, we were still served a juice, tea or coffee and some biscuits somewhere over Azerbaijan or Iran. Both flights were on time, uneventful but I got all what I had paid for. AZAL is rather small airline, but their fleet consists of many different aircraft types, including some widebody jets.

The current fleet consists of A319-100, A320-200, A340-500, B757-200, B767-300ER and B787-9 jets. They also own Buta Airways, a low-cost subsidiary located in Azerbaijan as well (the fleet of Buta Airways consists of seven Embraer E-190 aircraft).

Heydar Aliyev Airport - domestic terminal

Nakhchivan (NAJ) Airport

AZAL A320 plane (reg. 4K-AZ78)

Photos from my NAJ-GYD flight

Alinja Castle (Nakhchivan)

Flame Towers (Baku)

Baku Promenade

Heydar Aliyev Centre

Mud volcanoes

Yanardag - burning mountain

Sunday, November 6 approached really soon, and I had to pack my baggage and head towards Heydar Aliyev International Airport. It was a rainy day, so I decided to take a transfer offered by the hotel in Icherisheher where I had stayed. The price was 30 AZN and it took less than an hour to reach the modern Baku airport (named after the first president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev). Both of the flights that were booked to take me home from Baku were daily flights. Since I had already checked in online a day before (economy seats are assigned automatically and if you want to change them, you have to pay). I was assigned an aisle seat for the Baku-Istanbul flight and a window seat for Istanbul-Ljubljana leg. It was ok for me, so I did not want to change anything and I just confirmed it, filled in requested passport data and I was checked in. At Turkish Airlines you can check in online from 24 hours before departure. On Sunday, I had to drop off my baggage at the check in counter, boarding passes were printed out and I was off to the security check area and passport control. It was a very smooth process and after less than half an hour I was in the departures area. There you can find restaurants, many different shops and even a fresh baklava shop. The airport has a unique design with wood-clad ''cocoons'' designed by a Turkish architecture studio Autoban. Free unlimited WiFi is available throughout the airport. I really liked this airport!

The airplane from Istanbul landed on time. It was a 4.1-year-old Boeing B737 MAX 8 jet. Boarding started with some delay. It was a relatively quick process taking place via jetbridge and I was soon sitting in my aisle seat waiting for the announcement ''boarding completed''.

The following two aircraft hosted me for most of Sunday's afternoon:

Baku (GYD) - Istanbul (IST)
Flight number: TK333
Flight date: November 6, 2022
Aircraft type: Boeing B38M
Aircraft registration: TC-LCC
Departure time: 13:45
Arrival time: 16:00
Scheduled flight time: 3h 15min
Seat: 13C

Istanbul (IST) – Ljubljana (LJU)
Flight number: TK1063
Flight date: November 6, 2022
Aircraft type: Airbus A321
Aircraft registration: TC-JRS (Star Alliance livery)
Departure time: 18:40
Arrival time: 19:00
Scheduled flight time: 2h 20min
Seat: 11A

The flight was almost fully booked. No amenity kits were provided but we were all given earphones to enjoy the modern and responsive entertainment system of the aircraft. This type of aircraft is widely used by Turkish Airlines for their operations in Africa. The particular airplane I was in had completed its Djibouti rotation just before heading to Baku. Days before my flight it also visited Yaounde, Douala, Juba, and after completing the Baku rotation, it flew down to Isfahan. I would say it is a very useful aircraft for Turkish Airlines, but I still prefer a widebody jet to destinations over five or six hours away. As the airplane was almost new, it was in very good condition. Also, the inflight entertainment system was on a much higher level compared to the one on my next flight bound for Ljubljana (over 11-year-old A321 jet was used for the Istanbul-Ljubljana flight). The content of the inflight entertainment system was diverse, from the latest movies, TV shows to different games, music and, of course, a flight map with real-time details of the flight.

Black and red leather seats had adjustable headrests with embossed logos and were comfortable enough for a 3-hour flight.

At 14:23 we were pushed back, we took off at 14:40 and landed at 17:30, all Baku time (Istanbul is one hour behind Baku). Actual flight time was therefore 2 hours and 50 minutes and during this time we were served a hot meal. There were two different meal options available: pasta and meat balls. I ordered pasta and a can of Efes beer. Pasta was a bit dry but overall, the meal was delicious.

Entrance to Heydar Aliyev International Airport

Check-in area

Wood-clad cocoons in departure area

After we landed, I headed towards transfer area and security check before entering departures area for my flight to Ljubljana. It was a smooth process, nothing compared to transfers at the old Atatürk airport where I almost missed some connecting flights due to congestion at security check. It is interesting that when you arrive from a Schengen country and transfer at Istanbul airport you do not have to go through a security check, but you can head directly to departures area for your next flight.

Istanbul Airport

My last flight of the day was the flight back home. The A321 jet in Star Alliance livery was almost completely full. I managed to spot only one or two seats that were not occupied. We departed on time, landed even a few minutes ahead of schedule and in the meantime enjoyed another delicious meal. This time we were offered chicken with rice or pasta. I asked for a chicken meal. Hummus, served as a side dish, was excellent as well as chocolate mousse for dessert. A very big plus is also the metal cutlery provided on Turkish Airlines flights. Soon after, the empty trays were collected by the cabin crew as we started our descent towards Ljubljana airport. It was completely dark when we landed.

Runway for our take-off to Ljubljana

What can I say about Turkish Airlines to seal off this trip report? I can say it is my preferred carrier flying to Ljubljana, although I do not have too many different airlines to select from. Their meal service is way above other ''water serving'' airlines that fly to Ljubljana and since they use larger single-aisle aircraft (usually A320 or A321) compared to competition which deploy various CRJs, ATRs or Embraers, it is always easier to find free space for your hand luggage in the overhead bins. Additionally, they have very competitive prices and attractive promotional campaigns on a regular basis. For example, this trip report, as you already know, is a child of such a campaign. I hope it was not too boring, the trip report I mean.

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  1. Anonymous09:14

    Excellent photo report.

  2. Anonymous09:15

    Wow, the terminal building in Baku looks stunning!

  3. Prepelica09:45

    Matjaz, thank you for this report. Very detailed, and great photos!

  4. Anonymous10:31

    I travelled to Baku in January without much expectations but was blown away by the city. It is beautiful and the people are extremely welcoming and nice. Would highly recommend it.

  5. Anonymous10:46

    Great read. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous11:08

    Nice report. I like your definition ''water serving'' airlines for most European airlines. The cabin of the Turkish A321 looks superb.

  7. Anonymous11:55

    Nice report. Thank you! I also loved the "water-serving airlines" definition. Haha

    A3 is resuming both ATH–GYD and ATH–LJU next summer season.

  8. Anonymous12:01

    The fact that in Istanbul they now even put the destination names in the corresponding language. Das ist super gut und wunderbar. Names are in Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew and obviously Farsi. Turkey and Iran have a love relationship.
    Very interesting, report. Not the typical destination we see everyday.

  9. JU520 BEGLAX12:07

    A detailled report to an exciting destination, thank you. I liked it. Only thing I notice and not just in this report, are the reflecting lights on some of the pictures, especially when taking photos fm the airport terminals to the apron. It happens to me too. I usually try to put my camera right on the window glass, sometimes it helps, sometimes the angle is not perfect or the window is dirty.

    LJU airport is def. lucky to have TK with their daily or double daily IST flights, connecting LJU well with the world incl. North American destinations.

  10. Great report, thank you so much!

  11. Anonymous15:00

    Does anyone from Slovenia or the region have any expectations or vision about future Croatia Schengen membership and will people use both LJU and ZAG as alternative airports?

    1. Anonymous15:04

    2. Anonymous21:31

      Thanks a lot! I missed that part.
      "Ryanair expects to see even more traffic from Slovenia in the coming period. “We already see a lot of passengers from Slovenia on our Zagreb flights. Even if you go to Zagreb Airport, either in departures or arrivals, you will see that there are lot of Slovenians t the airport’s parking one will notice many cars with Slovenian car plates. We know and we are sure that we are covering the Slovenian market well from Zagreb Airport”, the carrier said, adding that there are also a number of Slovenian staff working for the company in Croatia, especially among pilots."
      Okay, this rephrases everything.

  12. Atanas Alkov15:07

    Thank you for the great trip report, You are an amazing storyteller. My opinion on TK catering is that of course they are superior to european legacies on short haul flights but they have the same few meal options for so many years. Don't forget the ever present mousse

  13. Matjaz-N16:51

    Thank you all for your kind words on this trip report and your comments. Have a great Sunday!

  14. Anonymous19:44

    Beautiful report, thanks

  15. Anonymous09:49

    Thx for that report and idea for next TK promotion!
    I enjoy all details how much was the cost, that you have.


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