This is turning out to be a mini-series, the last bit being about you never pay enough attention when traveling, so it’s more like a memo-to-self.
The outgoing trip from IST to ALA starts totally on the wrong foot: despite my confirmed reservation, and despite being at the check-in counter well over one hour prior to departure, the kind Air Astana people state that the flight is not overbooked, but overloaded (what on Earth does this mean? too many fatsos on board??) Together with another four or five people I wait rather trepidantly while the ground staff go back and forth, until finally we are boarded.
The return leg is not much better: for some reason I am convinced that my departure time from Almaty is a very civilized 11:20. When the hotel staff call me to inform me that my taxi driver would arrive much earlier than I expected, I stubbornly refuse to see my mistake, and only upon being called by my guardian angel Sascha I relent and finally check the right ticket: indeed my departure time is 7:25AM, meaning wakeup at 3:30AM. Gah!
But even though I am on time despite myself, I still manage another slip: the small Almaty airport has only five gates, four of which are bunched together through a single physical entrance. Indeed this collective gate entrance does not include Gate 1, so I ask one of the policemen and he vaguely gestures towards the single entrance, so I sit down minding my own business and waiting for my flight to be called. Now, another little thing I learned about the Almaty airport is that essentially nobody speaks english – even the announcements are made in an english so broken to render it for me indistinguishable from russian; and so here I am, happily lining up to board the flight to Istanbul… except, get that, there are TWO flights to IST departing within 20 minutes from each other and I am lining up for the wrong one!
Such mistakes must occur rather frequently because a uniformed gentleman is asking all passengers for their boarding passes and, upon reading mine, ushers me to an elevator marked “1” leading to Gate 1 where everybody has boarded already and I get the treat of a bus ride all by myself.
P.S. By the way, Air Astana, given these flights are so popular (100% full both ways) why don’t you switch that route to a larger capacity aircraft from the measly A320 you crammed us in for the four and a half hours of the route? Thank you!