In this review, we will check out the Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) business lounge at Baku Airport.
Reaching the airport
After a good sleep at the lovely Shah Palace Hotel in the old town of Baku, I woke up from my alarm clock in the middle of the night. At this early of the morning I didn’t feel like haggling with the taxi drivers outside of the old town gate and settled for the taxi being offered by the hotel, which only asked for a small surplus for a ride by their own hotel car.
The hotel car turned out to be a proper luxury sedan with an extremely friendly driver. It was quite cool to race along the deserted boulevards of Baku, which had temporary crash barriers and stands installed for the upcoming Formula One race.
Perhaps the driver was even a bit too friendly as instead of dropping me off in front of at the departure terminal he insisted that he would park the car so he could carry my stall trolley to the front door of the terminal.
It might have been a nice gesture if I would have a lot of luggage, but this meant the whole process ended up taking 10 minutes longer as the driver had to find a parking spot first before escorting me to the terminal building.
Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Airport, named after the country’s third president who served from October 1993 until his death in October 2003, is definitely one of the nicer facilities I’ve visited of late. The airport is glitzy and grand without being too overwhelming in size. It has some interesting architectural features both before and after security.
Azerbaijan Airlines has a separate check-in area for its business class passengers located behind a sliding glass door. Unfortunately, check-in had not yet opened at the time I arrived at the airport. The lady behind the desk informed me that only at 4.30am would she be able to check me in for the 6.30am flight to Paris, which meant I had to wait for half an hour in the terminal building.
Whether this two hour check-in limit is only the case for the early morning flights or also counts for flight departing at a later hour was not clear to me.
At T-2 I went back to the business class check-in area and handed over my passport to the lady, who was sitting behind a normal desk instead of the usual check-in counters.
The business class check-in area looked more like a first class check-in facility than a normal business class check-in desk. After handing over my passport, I was told to make myself comfortable in the waiting lounge while she would go through all check-in formalities.
I was told that when the check-in process would be completed, an Azerbaijan Airlines employee would come and find me to hand back my passport and boarding pass, and to escort me through security and passport control to the business lounge.
The waiting lounge itself was nicely appointed and consisted of a few comfortable sofas. The waiting lounge also has a bar area with fridges stocked with soft drinks. On request, a waiter can make you a coffee or tea. There was also a circular buffet, which was however limited to some cookies and sweets only.
Even though I was the second person in the waiting lounge, and there were only two more persons arriving later on, it took the staff ages to sort out my boarding pass and complete the check-in procedure.
Only after 45 minutes a friendly girl came over and handed my passport back with the boarding pass put between the pages. I was wondering why it took them this long as in the meanwhile all the other passengers in the waiting area were picked up by their escorts having their check-in process finished.
Did it have to do with me being a foreigner for whom the paperwork might be more complicated than for Azerbaijani nationals? Or did perhaps my complicated ticket raise a few eyebrows with the Azerbaijan Airlines check-in agents and got some extra scrutiny? Who knows!
The girl, who was immaculately dressed in Azerbaijan Airlines uniform, explained that she would escort me personally through security and passport control all the way to the Azerbaijan Airlines business lounge. A personal escort for business class passengers is a great touch and to my knowledge quite unheard of. As far as I know this is usually only reserved to first class passengers on a select few airlines.
Both security and passport control took just a few minutes to complete and within 10 minutes after leaving the check-in lounge I was dropped off at the escalator leading to the upstairs area where the Baku Airport business lounges are located. Once upstairs you will find the Azerbaijan Airlines business lounge on the right, and the general lounge (used by all other airlines) on the left.
Azerbaijan Airlines business lounge
Once in the real Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) business lounge my personal escort introduced me to the two agents behind the reception desk. After a quick look at my boarding pass I was allowed into the lounge.
The business lounge itself looked aesthetically very pleasant. Design-wise it was a nice space to be in. Although there are no tarmac views, you have a great vantage point over the entire terminal below, making the lounge feel spacious and airy.
There were plenty of seats available, ranging from high-top tables to comfortable seats and sofas. Some of these were arranged in pairs of two and four, creating semi-private seating areas within the lounge. My favourite seats however were the large seats placed directly at the glass window overlooking the terminal as these offered the best views and had the most privacy for solo travellers.
An apology in advance for the lack of pictures of everything, as I read numerous online accounts of the lounge staff being very sensitive about people snapping pictures. As I only had limited time in the lounge, I didn’t manage to get quite as many pictures as I would have liked.
The Azerbaijan Airlines business lounge has a small buffet with some decent quality food. The breakfast buffet existed out of sandwiches, pastries, sweets, cheese, salads, fruits as well as a selection of nuts (pistachios!) and crisps.
There was a coffee machine which made some good coffee, fridges with soft drinks and quite a large selection of booze. Although the lounge featured a cool-looking glass wall with dozens of different bottles of wine bottles stocked behind it, the actual number of wine bottles at the self-serve bar was rather limited.
Unfortunately, there was no champagne available in the lounge.
Other lounge facilities
The Azerbaijan Airlines business lounge had fast WiFi internet and plenty of power sockets placed throughout the lounge, making it a great place to get some work done.
The lounge was kept clean throughout my stay, with lounge staff making a walk through the lounge at regular intervals to collect used plates and rubbish.
The same could be said of the toilets, which were spotlessly clean. Do note however that the lounge did not have any available showers.
Let’s start with the positive. Azerbaijan Airlines has an amazing ground service with a separate business class check-in lounge and escort through security and passport control towards the business lounge or departure gate. For business class, such a ground experience is unparalleled as normally you will only see it with some first class airline products.
Unfortunately, in my case the process took extremely long for whatever reason, which had the result that I had to wait for too long of a time in the check-in waiting area (which is however perfectly comfortable) and only managed to spend a short 15 to 20 minutes in the actual business lounge before I had to head to my boarding gate.
The Azerbaijan Airlines business lounge itself is perfectly comfortable. I did really like the lounge design. Aesthetically it is a pleasant place to be in and a relaxed environment to await your flight with a drink and bite.
Although the lounge buffet wasn’t very extensive, the quality of the food was quite good. Later in the day, the lounge should also be a perfectly nice place to grab a drink as there was quite a wide choice of booze even though the same could not be said of the amount of wines available.
It’s a perfectly acceptable, nice lounge – but not as good as you might hope for when comparing it to the rest of the ground experience or the top quality business lounges in the world.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A Day in the Norwegian Capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways Night Train Oslo-Stavanger in a Private Sleeper
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. Stavanger – A Great Norwegian City Trip Surprise
6. Review: North Sea Lounge Stavanger Airport
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper Business Class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Guide to the Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France Business Class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ Business Class Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo
14. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Irkutsk Trip Report: Exploring the ‘Paris of Siberia’ in Winter
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka (Lake Baikal)
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel, Irkutsk
20. Review: Domestic Business Class Lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24 Hour Stopover in the Russian Capital of Moscow
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ Business Lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal D
25. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM Business Class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
28. Review: Air France Business Class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
29. A Short Overnight Stopover in Paris
30. Review: Sheltair Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
31. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
32. Review: Old City Hotel and Apartments, Baku, Azerbaijan
33. Destination Baku: An Intriguing Mix Between Old and New
34. Guide: Train Travel in Azerbaijan
35. Sheki: Azerbaijan’s Most Lovely Town and Springboard to the Caucasus
36. Must Be the Ganja! A Visit to the City of Ganja in Azerbaijan
37. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku, Azerbaijan
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Lounge Baku Airport (current chapter)
39. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
40. Review: Air France Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
41. Review: KLM Business Class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737)
42. Review: KLM Business Class Amsterdam to Bergen (Boeing 737)
43. Blissful Bergen – Is It Really Norway’s Most Beautiful City?
44. Review: Bergen to Oslo on a Norwegian Intercity Train (Bergensbanen Railway)
45. The Flamsbana Railway – From the Myrdal Mountains to the Fjord at Flam
46. Review: SAS Economy Class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
47. Review: Diamond Lounge Brussels Airport Pier B Non-Schengen
48. Review: TAROM Economy Class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)