As the morning gave way to lunch time, the QR premium terminal emptied out. A little after 12:15PM, Qatar agents called boarding for flight QR 976 to Baku with continuing service to Tbilisi. I went back downstairs and onto a bus with three other passengers. We were deposited out front of the Airbus A320 A7-AHI. After snapping a photo, I was up the airstairs and into Seat 2A.
We were 6/12 in Business for the DOH-GYD leg. I’m not sure the exact stats, but the seat felt like it reclined somewhere in the neighborhood of 156 degrees. I say this, because it felt about the same as the recline of the old CO BF seats, and I think this was their level of recline. The IFE screen comes out of the armrest, and is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 10” or 11”. I watched Salmon Fishing in The Yemen on the 2h20m flight from DOH-GYD and found it to be rather entertaining.
The meal service was a salad along with an Arabic Mezze to start, a choice a entrees (I chose the mixed Iranian grill, which was fantastic), an optional cheese course (I passed) and a choice of desserts.
As we descended in to the Baku area, I was glued to the window trying to get a glance of Baku. Azerbaijan has been on my list of places to see for a few years now, but American citizens need to get a visa in advance for entry. I wasn’t sure if there was an Azerbaijani embassy in Paris and during the course of the summer I had been on the move so often, that it wouldn’t have been possible for me to surrender my passport for an entire week anyway. On arrival at GYD, only passengers who have GYD as their final destination are permitted to leave the aircraft. Since the stop was fairly long, I asked if it would be possible to just walk down to the end of the jetway and stretch my legs. The FA’s informed me, that they were sorry, but it was really not possible to leave the airplane at all…shame, I wanted to see what the inside of an Azerbaijani airport looked like…someday. The load was pretty light on the DOH-GYD leg (6/12 in first and perhaps 30% full in Y) and most people seemed to be getting off in GYD.
It took perhaps an hour to refuel. During this time we were required to turn our cell phones off. Less than 10 people joined the flight in GYD. The airport itself seemed rather deserted save for the Silk Way Airlines cargo operation and Azerbaijan Airlines. In fact, I think our A320 was the only plane on the tarmac not belonging to one of those two outfits.
For the much shorter GYD-TBS leg, we were only 3/12 in J (with one of the three being a non-rev in airline uniform). I didn’t peek into the back, but based on how many people deplaned in GYD and how few came on, I would be shocked if it was more than 20% full. Given the light loads, I wonder if QR will keep this route in service. I’m glad I got to fly it, it was a very cool experience.
Yet ANOTHER meal service was offered on the GYD-TBS leg, but I was stuffed and exhausted from flying CDG-DOH-GYD already AND eating breakfast in Doha and grazing in the lounge, so I cranked the seat back and fell asleep as soon as the landing gear were retracted.
I woke up on final, when the FA requested I put my seat in the upright position. It was getting towards sunset, and I saw the green hills of Georgia as we descended into the airport. The airport seemed to be a long way from anywhere, and I started to wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into by choosing Tbilisi on a whim. TBS was pretty deserted on arrival, we were the only thing moving on the ramp. We pulled up to a jetway, went quickly through immigration (US Citizens do not require a visa), then down to baggage claim. I met my driver after going through customs and was soon ripping down George W. Bush Avenue from the airport to the city center. Hello Tbilisi!
Cabin Shots of QR A320: