Checked-in and ready to fly for the first time this trip

One brand new plane in the Azerbaijan Airlines fleet

Baku, Azerbaijan

The Terminal

June 14, 2012

Airplanes make strangers of us all

Give us distance much too easily

- Blue Oyster Cult

For the first time since landing in Shanghai I found myself at an airport. I was hoping to do this entire trip overland but due to some visa complications with Azerbaijan I decided that the principle of an all-overland trip wasn’t worth a week or more of my remaining time. While this meant a quicker trip there are, as to be expected, not a lot of flight options from Aktau. The best of all the bad options left me with a very long layover in the airport in Baku, where I would have ended up had I crossed the Caspian Sea by boat. Having recently hosted Eurovision, an American Idol type song contest, I figured that perhaps this airport would have something decent to offer. It turned out to be the worst international airport I have ever transited.

The international “terminal” has two duty free stores, one Azerbaijani gift store, two cafes, and two kiosks. The two cafes don’t really serve any food, unless you count grilled ham and cheese or instant noodles. The kiosks sell exactly the same drinks and some cookies and chips. The duty free stores sell alcohol, which to my dismay you can’t drink in the airport, and overpriced food like candy, chips, and dried fruits and nuts.

The cafes and kiosks don’t take credit cards but at least the duty free stores do. There is, of course, a currency exchange but inexplicably it only exchanges dollars, roubles, and euros, none of the other dozen currencies where flights go to and arrive from, including Kazakh Tenge. I had $10 which I exchanged for Azeri Manat, giving me enough to buy a sandwich, coke, water, and pastry. For my second meal my options were more limited because I didn’t want to exchange my $100 bill for Azeri Manat. This forced me to eat “dinner” at the duty free store on my credit card. For 7 euros I bought a bag of chips and some peanut M&Ms, counting on the in-flight food for the rest of my nourishment.

Whiling away more than a dozen hours on unpadded metal bench seats was not enjoyable. The only saving grace was the free WiFi which provided some amount of entertainment. Despite the terrible airport, the flights on Azerbaijan Airlines were quite nice with brand new propeller driven planes and halfway decent food even on the short flights. Not counting the week I would have had to wait it was barely quicker to fly. I also missed out on seeing Azerbaijan but if it is anything like its airport then I don’t think that was a huge loss.