The infamous Tajik Air Dushanbe – Khorog flight: a must for any lover of mountain scenery. After an interruption of service in the first part of 2017, the plane flew in late summer, was grounded again in September 2017 but running once more since October 2017. All updates are welcome in the Dushanbe – Khorog flight topic.
The plane is configured in a 2-1 seating configuration, with single seats down the left hand side, and twin seats down the right hand side. You can also see out the cockpit windows, as the cockpit door is left open during the flight so that the sole cabin attendant can sit on a seat wedged between the two pilots.
Views are spectacular (Youtube) on either side, but best ones are on the right hand side going from Dushanbe to Khorog, or left hand side on the way back – you will be looking out over Afghanistan most of the way. Having said that, the view out the right hand side seems equally impressive, and the windows are big so you can see out both sides from pretty much any seat in the plane (including the aisle seats on the right hand side).
Do the flight at least one way if your budget allows. The road journey is spectacular, and interesting from a cultural perspective as well if you stop along the road, but it takes a lot out of you. You need at least another day, maybe 2, to fully recover from the 16-hour ride.
Flights are scheduled every day in either direction, but weather has to be perfect for the flight to happen, so this means you could be waiting for days for clear skies. This is especially a problem in spring, when the weather is very changeable. If there are enough people and weather permitting, a second airplane might fly out the same day.
The plane only flies when there are enough passengers that day. On some days there is not enough demand and the plane does not fly, even if there is enough demand for the return flight. On other days, demand is high and securing a seat is the issue.
Dushanbe-Khorog: Check in opens at about 6.30am for the morning flight at 7.30. On some days there is an additional flight at 11.30am.
Khorog-Dushanbe: First flight should leave at 11am.
Buying a ticket
If the plane didn’t fly on the previous day, ticket holders of that flight go first on the new flight; only if there are places left, you can then start to fight for your ticket.
Last price check in October 2017: 681 somoni.
Different strategies exist.
1. Go to TajikAir office
You have to go to Tajikair office personally. To get there, take bus 8 or 33 from the city and go to the airport. Don’t go to the main airport hall, but instead follow the Titov street 400m to the west and Tajikair office is located behind houses (map).
At the office, you have to add your name to a list as mentioned in article and wait for your turn. You can ask when it will be, but lady at the desk will tell you only estimation, nothing you can rely on. If the weather will be OK, and you are in queue, you have to return to the office and buy a ticket a day before.
You will be assured, that airline will contact you in case it’s your turn to fly. This will not happen.
Call to the office every day and ask if it is your turn and if you can go there for your ticket. Once you have a ticket, there is a high chance you will fly in the morning.
2. Book through the “travel agents” at the airport
At the airport you have to make a beeline for the far left side of the departure terminal and find one or two gentlemen (unofficial travel agents I think) who are holding bits of paper on which they take names and hold on to passports. They are relied upon by the airline to ensure that there is a broad first come first served approach on the tickets, so it is important to get on the list. I’d advise getting onto any list you see, though you can only give your passport to one of them so give it to the one who looks most aggressive.
When bookings for Khorog are announced a scrum ensues around the small ticketing window. These two gentlemen are helped forward to the front by those who have entrusted to them their passports. Once one of them is at the window it is hogged for pretty much the next hour while he works thorugh his list.
If his list is long enough to fill the 16-seat flight then hold on because weather permitting there can be a second flight, if they can fill it. When you see everyone looking despondent it is because either no flights are going because of the weather, or there are no more spaces available on the flights that will go out.
- Nobody speaks English in Tajikair, so it can be very frustrating to arrange all the stuff with a dictionary. Try to find somebody among other people at the office who do and ask for help. People are very kind and won’t refuse any help.
- There can be local drivers at the parking lot in front of the airport and also in front of tajikair office who are waiting for tourists and will try to fool you, that flight is canceled because of bad weather and so on, and will offer you a ride to Khorog. Just don’t trust them.
The Tajik Air office is the place to be. Put your name on the list for the next day’s flight, together with a phone number. They will call you if a plane is leaving the next day and you are on it. You then still need to return to actually buy the ticket.
You can also buy your ticket at the airport, but it’s likely to be chaos, and will be difficult if you don’t speak Russian. Note that the ticket counter is not in the airport building itself – it is at the rear of the closest two-storey building to the airport, on the other side of the road.
2 other options: the travel agent across the street from the airport, and the tourist information center in town.
Just go to the airport domestic flights hall (located on the left at the airport) at 6:30am and wait until it’s open. There is a short baggage check, you have to pay 1$ per kilo over 10kg and after that, you can enjoy a pleasant flight. Nothing scary, maybe some noise reduction earplugs can come in handy.
Baggage is weighed. If you have more than 10kg, say so when you buy your ticket; you cannot pay for excess baggage in the airport building and need to exit again to the ticket counter.
Seating is unassigned, and there isn’t much of a formal boarding queue, so be prepared to dash across the tarmac if you want a particular seat.
Lots has been said about how scary this flight is, but in fact it is much safer than going by road. Seeing the car wrecks in the valleys below will make you appreciate that the flight has crashed only once in its long history. According to our lovely commentator Maria, a plane crashed once in 1993, but that was not due to a missile (like others say).
When the civil war was going on, local terrorists tried loading the plane with their people, commanding the crew to take off with 81 passengers (while the plane can take 32). This is called the 1993 Khorog incident.
Maybe there was another incident, when it was shot down by an Afghan missile.
Should you be left with questions after reading this article: this forum topic collects questions and answers regarding the flight, prices and booking tickets.