Around the world, low cost carriers are taking over. From Transatlantic flights on Norwegian, to intra-Europe jumps on RyanAir, Easyjet, or Wizzair to Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, Scoot, and more in Asia, every continent has some type of low cost player. Azerbaijan Airways is also playing in the low cost space with virtual airlines Buta Airways. Buta uses the same airline code as Azerbaijan (J2), but operates with a low cost model. While visiting the Caucuses’ I had the opportunity to fly Buta Airways, and interesting is exactly what it was.
My flight was between Batumi, Georgia and Baku, Azerbijan. Buta Airways is the only airline flying direct between the two locations and the cost of a last minute ticket was only $125, The price could not be beat. Either 15-20 hours over land on a mix of trains and buses or a quick flight. Offering service three days a week, Buta Airways was definitely the best option.
Purchasing a ticket
Buta Airways operates as a hybrid low cost carrier. Not as bad as Ryanair, but similar. When purchasing a ticket you have the three options: Buta Budget, Standard or Super. All option are economy though Be aware that budget does not include a carryon bag. . However Buta Airways will still allow a very small personal item such as an umbrella or laptop bag or woman’s purse on a budget fare. I opted for a budget fare and then purchased a 23kg check bag for an additional 20 euros. This was cheaper than the super fare which was offered. As I was not concerned about seat selection or refunds. The luggage was more important to me.
Buying the ticket online was easy. Also during regular business hours Buta Airways offers excellent customer service via Facebook Messenger. Initially my bank did reject the purchase, but after a quick fraud alert, it went through. A confirmation email came immediately from the airline.
Buta Airways Check-in at Batumi Airport
Checking in at Batumi international airport was an absolute mess. The airport is extremely small and on my day of travel at 1pm four international flights were departing within 30 minutes of each other, on a mixture of 737s and one regional aircraft.
Batumi airport was not designed to handle many aircraft movements, as it’s a single runway and planes land from the west over the Black Sea and also take off to the west. Thus, highly limiting the times when aircraft can land and takeoff.
I arrived at the airport at 11:30am for my 1pm flight. I thought this would be plenty of time. Little did I know that the airport would be a zoo. It took almost an hour to check-in and get through security. Everyone was stressed out, the staff and customers. International departures only offers three passport control officers and two security screening stations. Not to mention, everyone was checking a bag!
When checking in, the agent was aware that I had paid for my luggage, but stopped me for I was wearing a backpack and my fare did not permit a carryon bag. I opened my backpack and showed it only contained my Bose headphones and laptop. After the inspection, she placed a tag on the small backpack and permitted it as a underseat carryon. Next stop Baku!
Boarding and Inflight
Batumi Airport offers what I consider uniquely excellent plane spotting. Although mainly 737s, airlines from previous Eastern bloc countries fly into Batumi. I saw airlines livery I had never even heard of! There was even a Georgian Airways airplane on the tarmac that was bound to Tel Aviv. Turns our Georgian Airway is known for not panting their planes!
Once all passengers were on the single bus, we jetted across the tarmac to our brand new Embraer 190 jet.
Buta Airways operates a new fleet of all E-90s with 106 economy seats. Being a smaller aircraft, every seat is either a window or an aisle. The new E90s are also very spacious, feeling more like a full size aircraft with larger overhead bins and headroom to walk. Seats are 18 inches wide and offer 31 inches of pitch.
The flight was pretty uneventful, but it was only an hour flight. Views out the window of Batumi and Baku were fabulous.
Inflight, a free sandwich and water is available to all passengers. Despite being a low cost airline, food and drinks are complimentary. Soda, Alcohol, and other snacks are available for purchase. The sandwich was mostly bread, but came in two options: meat or cheese.
Upon arrival Buta Airways uses terminal 2. Passengers are then use buses to reach terminal 1 for immigration clearance.
Everything went smoothly and I was now in Baku and ready to explore the beautiful Azerbaijan! Buta Airways, not the best, but a step ahead of most LCCs!
Buta Airways Final Thoughts
Although Buta Airways is not a world class carrier, flying them isn’t bad. My flight was great for a short hop to Baku. Low Cost Carriers are not my favorite way to travel, but I would fly Buta Airways again if in the region. Heck, I even flew Ryanair recently and enjoyed it!
Do note, ALWAYS check in online when flying a LCC. Check-in is cut off even at the airport 2 hours before departure for Buta Airways. After that, bag drop is still available, but check-in is technically not.
Have you flown Buta Airways? Or any other low cost carrier from the former USSR nations? What was your experience like?