Air Astana (Kazakh: Эйр Астана, romanized: Eir Astana; Russian: Эйр Астана́) is an airline group based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.[2] It operates scheduled international and domestic services on 64 routes from its main hub, Almaty International Airport, and from its secondary hub, Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport. It is a joint venture between Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna (51%), and BAE Systems PLC (49%).[3] It was incorporated in October 2001 and started commercial flights on 15 May 2002. It is one of a small number airlines which has required neither government subsidy nor shareholder financial support to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, thus preserving its central corporate principle of financial, managerial and operational independence.

Air Astana
Air Astana logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
KC KZR ASTANALINE
Founded29 August 2001; 20 years ago (2001-08-29)
Commenced operations15 May 2002 (2002-05-15)
Hubs
Focus citiesAtyrau International Airport
Frequent-flyer programNomad Club
SubsidiariesFlyArystan
Fleet size27
Destinations64
Parent companySovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna (51%).
Other Shareholder: BAE Systems PLC (49%)
HeadquartersAlmaty, Kazakhstan
Key people
  • Peter Foster, President & CEO
  • Nurzhan Baidauletov,[1] Chairman
Websiteairastana.com

HistoryEdit

Air Astana was described by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in January 2012 as having "performed better in its first decade than just about any other start-up carrier".[4] Yet its origins represent one of the more intriguing and unlikely stories to have emerged from the airline industry in recent times. Originally conceived as a purely domestic airline, BAE Systems agreed in mid-2001 to participate in the proposed start-up at the request of Kazakhstan's head of state, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in order to facilitate an air radar contract it was then negotiating with the Government of Kazakhstan. Sir Richard Evans, BAE System's chairman at the time, was instrumental in and key to the deal. However, the radar contract never materialised, and subsequent senior management changes and strategic reviews at BAE Systems led to the closure of its offices in Kazakhstan. Additionally, not withstanding the support of Nazarbayev, the start-up, initially seen as a foreign entity, was confronted with immediate and vocal opposition from many elements of Kazakhstan's media and political establishment.

2002–2005Edit

In spite of a lack of support, the airline took off on the charge. Under its first operational president, former British Airways executive Lloyd Paxton (there had been a brace of short-lived pre-operational incumbents), it leased its first 3 Boeing 737s from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and commenced Commercial operations on 15 May 2002. In late 2003 Fokker 50s were leased from Aircraft Finance Trading BV (AFT) and 3 Boeing 757s from Pegasus Leasing Corp. It declared a net profit in 2003, its first full year of operations. Upon the bankruptcy of the previous flag carrier Air Kazakhstan in February 2004, it moved quickly to expand from its domestic network to key international routes to Dubai, Istanbul, Moscow and Beijing, followed by Frankfurt and London.

2005–presentEdit

Early growth pains and disagreements over fleet plans and hub strategy led to tensions between the shareholders and a management change in autumn 2005. Peter Foster, a former executive of Cathay Pacific Airways who had led the rehabilitation team at Philippine Airlines in 1999 before a spell as CEO at Royal Brunei Airlines, was appointed as the airline's president on 1 October 2005. Long-term development plans and management structures were established that have remained largely unchanged since then. The airline has been consistently profitable and was listed in the top 20 most profitable airlines in terms of net margin in the world for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012, according to Airline Business and Air Finance Journal, which ranked it 20th in its 2015 survey of global airline financial ratings, with a score of BBB-.[citation needed]

In an article on BAE Systems' offset programmes (10/10/13) the Financial Times stated, "BAE’s 49 per cent stake in Kazakhstan’s Air Astana became one of the company’s highest-yielding investments".[5]

Until 8 December 2016, Air Astana was the only Kazakh airline allowed to fly to the European Union.[6]

Air Astana was the "Official Air Carrier of EXPO-2017"[7] and the official carrier and general partner of the 2017 Winter Universiade, which took place from 29 January to 8 February 2017 in Almaty.

Air Astana airline's fleet consists of 36 (as of January 2022) aircraft. As a result of the restructuring of the fleet and the replacement of Boeing 757 and Embraer 190s by Airbus A321neo Long Range and Embraer E2s in 2020/2021, the average age of the Air Astana fleet decreased to 3.6 years as of 2022, one of the youngest in the world. The company plans to expand its fleet up to 54 by 2025.

FlyArystanEdit

In November 2018, the airline announced plans to launch a low-cost airline, FlyArystan,[8] FlyArystan began operations on 1 May 2019 with a pair of Airbus 320s configured to 180 seats operating a classic low cost model, on the same Airline Operator Certificate (AOC) as its parent but with a separate specialist management. As of January 2022, Fly Arystan operated 10 A320s with a further 7 on firm order through to 2023. The high passenger growth of Fly Arystan (553% 2021 v 2020) has contributed to Kazakhstan becoming the fastest growing domestic aviation market in the world in 2021.

OperationsEdit

Activity in RussiaEdit

In September 2002 the airline launched flights between Nur-Sultan and Moscow with a frequency of 3 times a week and daily flights between Almaty and Moscow performed by Boeing 737-700. In 2014, the number of weekly services on the Nur-SultanMoscow route was increased up to 9 flights a week, and Almaty – Moscow flights up to 14. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline operated 54 weekly services on 11 routes to Russia: Almaty – Moscow performed by Airbus A321 and Boeing 767, Nur-Sultan – Moscow, Almaty – St.Petersburg performed by Airbus A320 and Nur-Sultan – Novosibirsk, Nur-Sultan – Yekaterinburg, Nur-Sultan – Omsk, Nur-Sultan – St.Petersburg, Almaty – Kazan, and Almaty – Samara performed by Embraer 190.

After a pandemic-driven halt from March to May 2020, the airline resumed services from Almaty and NurSultan to Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, and between Almaty and St Petersburg, both operated in code-share with its long-term code-share partner S7 Airlines of Russia. In addition FlyArystan started operating from Karaganda International Airport to Moscow Domodedovo, and from Almaty to Novosibirsk.

On March 11th 2022, the group suspended all flights to, from and over Russia due to sanctions and restrictions imposed on a number of essential business partners as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

Activity in the rest of C.I.S.Edit

Air Astana has built on its geographical strength by expanding its network to cover all key cities of the region with short haul flights. In Central Asia and the Caucasus, the airline flies to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Baku (Azerbaijan), Tbilisi (Georgia), Kyiv (Ukraine) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan) both from Almaty and Nur-Sultan. Following the global pandemic, all these routes, which were temporarily suspended from March to May 2020, were resumed, and FlyArystan started operating to Kutaisi (Georgia).

Activity in China and KoreaEdit

Prior to the pandemic, the airline operated daily flights to Beijing from both Almaty and NurSultan, and flights to Urumqi in western China. Since July 2020 passenger charter flights have been resumed to Chengdu International Airport, in addition to regular all-cargo charters to various points in China with a partially-converted Boeing 767. In reflection of increasing passenger demand, the aircraft was re-converted to a passenger configuration in September 2021.

Following the pandemic, flights which had been operated daily to Seoul (Korea) from Almaty and twice a week from NurSultan have been reduced to a once weekly flight between Almaty and Seoul because of travel restrictions imposed by the Government of Korea. Flights between Almaty and Hong Kong have been indefinitely suspended.

ICAO and the EUEdit

The airline's international route development was heavily influenced by regulatory factors from 2009 until April 2014. In April 2009, an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), found the Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee (CAC) to be non-compliant in key areas of regulatory oversight. This resulted in, with the exception of Air Astana, a blanket ban of all Kazakhstan-registered airlines from flying to, from or within the European Union by the EU's Air Safety Committee (ASC), until the ban was lifted on 8 December 2016. Air Astana was exempted from the ban "...taking into account oral and written presentations made...." particularly the registration of its aircraft with the Department of Civil Aviation of Aruba, a Netherlands dependent territory, and its operations safety management programme as presented to the ASC. However, it was included on the ASC's Annex B, restricting its EU operations to the level of frequencies and fleet operated at the time of imposition of the ban in July 2009. The ASC removed the fleet restriction in November 2012 for the Boeing and Airbus fleet based on the airline's fleet renewal programme but retained the restriction on Embraer aircraft. On 10 April 2014 the ASC lifted the frequency restrictions based on the airline's safety performance, including Safety Audit of Foreign Airlines (SAFA) monitoring programme results, as well as continuing transparent communications. This allowed the airline to start planning for new destinations in Europe and increases to its daily service to Frankfurt from Nur-Sultan, a 6x weekly service to Amsterdam from Atyrau, and a 4x weekly services to London. The airline subsequently commenced service between Nur-Sultan and Paris in April 2015. The restrictions on the Embraer aircraft, which were the last to be banned from the EU, were removed in December 2015.[8]

During the global pandemic, the airline was able to maintain flights between Atyrau and Amsterdam (its only international route at that time) in order to transport key oil field workers to and from Western Kazakhstan. Since July 2020 its other EU operations have gradually resumed, and by January 2022 the airlines was operating from NurSultan to Frankfurt (in code-share with Lufthansa German Airlines) and London Heathrow, in addition to its Amsterdam and Frankfurt flights from Atyrau and Urlask.

DestinationsEdit

Air Astana's 64 routes include most of the major cities in Kazakhstan and an increasing number of neighboring Central Asian and Russian cities. The latter is the result of a decision to implement what its managers refer to as an "extended home-market strategy", to leverage its reputation for high standards of service and air safety compliance in the region's growing air transport markets. Since 2009 it has launched services to Baku, Tashkent, Ürümqi, Tbilisi, Dushanbe, Bishkek, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg, and from the middle of 2012 – Kazan and Omsk. Routes from Almaty and Nur-Sultan to Kyiv were launched in spring 2013.

Its long haul growth has been towards south and east Asia, with flights to Delhi, Seoul (operated in code share with Asiana Airlines), Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong (28 August 2012) and Ho Chi Minh City (January 2013). In addition to its existing Almaty-Seoul services, Air Astana launched service from Nur-Sultan to Seoul in June 2015. Air Astana operates daily services from Nur-Sultan to Frankfurt, three weekly services to Heathrow and three weekly services to Paris (launched 29 March 2015). The European services are connected with Air Astana's extensive domestic services as well as regional services in South Russia, Central Asia and China. The airline launched a non-stop flight from Almaty to Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran (30 June 2016). Flights to Tehran were suspended in June 2017.

Lifestyle DestinationsEdit

Air Astana was additionally obliged to cease flights from Kazakhstan to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in March 2020 due to strict Covid 19-driven travel restrictions across Southeast Asia. In October 2020, following partial withdrawal of travel restrictions for both Kazakhstan citizens and at certain leisure destinations, the airline resumed services to Antalya (Turkey) and Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), and commenced flying to The Maldives (Male International Airport) and Colombo (Sri Lanka). These flights, referred to as “lifestyle routes” by the airline’s management due to an increased average length of stay at destinations by travellers, were added to in March 2021. As of January 2022 Air Astana operates the following such routes either on a year-round or seasonal basis:

Codeshare agreementsEdit

Air Astana has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[9]

Interline agreementsEdit

Air Astana has interline agreements with the following airlines:[9]

FleetEdit

Current fleetEdit

 
Airbus A320neo "Air Astana"
 
Boeing 767-300ER "Air Astana"

The Air Astana fleet (excluding subsidiary airline FlyArystan) consists of the following aircraft (as of May 2022):[16][17]

Air Astana fleet:
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
C Y Total
Airbus A320neo 5 2 16 132 148
Airbus A321-200 2 28 151 179
Airbus A321neo 4 7 28 151 179
Airbus A321LR 8 16 150 166 Deliveries since 2019[18]
Boeing 767-300ER 3 30 193 223
Boeing 787-8 3
TBA
Deliveries postponed to 2025[19]
Embraer 190-E2 5 12 96 108
Total 27 12

Fleet historyEdit

Air Astana's fleet history:[20]

Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A319-100 1 2008 2018
Airbus A320-200 14 2008 2021
Boeing 737-700 2 2002 2007
Boeing 737-800 2 2002 2007
Boeing 757-200 5 2003 2020
Embraer 190 9 2011 2020
Fokker 50 6 2004 2013

Service and brandingEdit

The airline has over the years acquired a reputation for high quality customer service, evidenced by multiple awards from Skytrax,Trip Advisor and APEX (see below).

During the ATW's 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards ceremony in Washington, DC on 25 February 2015 Air Astana was awarded the Airline Market Leader of the Year.[21]

Class typesEdit

Air Astana operates a 2 class service, Business and Economy, on all aircraft, and Economy Sleeper on its Airbus 321neo Long Range aircraft. All aircraft with the exception of its Embraer E2s are equipped with an individual in-flight entertainment system supplied by RAVE in both cabins.

Nomad ClubEdit

The Nomad Club frequent flyer program consists of Diamond, Gold, Silver and Blue membership tiers, and has reciprocal agreements with Lufthansa's Miles & More and Asiana Airlines's "Asiana Club" programs.

PersonnelEdit

Air Astana employs 5,600 people, mostly in Kazakhstan, supplemented by local employees at its foreign offices. It employs 460 pilots, of whom 64 are foreign nationals. All of its pilots hold EASA-European licenses. Since 2008 it has operated an ab-initio pliot training program for Kazakhstan nationals at flight training schools in the US and EU. As of January 2022, 320 of its operating pilots were graduates of this scheme. In 2012 company has introduced a general management training program at Cranfield University, UK, since transferred to Henley Business School, UK) The airline's cabin crew consists of over 1,100 flight attendants, all of whom are Kazakhstan nationals. Its management is a combination of Kazakhstan and foreign nationals.

Activity indicatorsEdit

Number of passengers transported:

Year Passenger traffic[22] Profit after tax (million USD )[23]
2006 1,5 m 32.0
2007 2,1 m 35.4
2008 2,3 m 17.1
2009 2,2 m 48.0
2010 2,6 m 77.1
2011 3 m 61.3
2012 3.3 m 61.1
2013 3.7 m 51.4
2014 3.8 m 19.5
2015 3.9 m 48.7
2016 3.7 m (39.9)
2017 4.2 m 39.3
2018 4.3 m 5.4
2019 5,1 m 30.0
2020 3,7 m (93.9)
2021 6,6 m 36.2

AwardsEdit

  • Skytrax 4 Star Airline, 2010 to present.[24]
  • Skytrax World Airline Awards, Best Airline Central Asia and India, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and Best Airline in Central Asia 2021 (Skytrax awards were suspended in 2020).[25]
  • Air Transport World Industry Awards, Global Market Leadership Award, 2015.[26]
  • Tripadvisor 2018, 2019 and 2020 Travelers' Choice Awards, Best Regional Airline Asia.[1][2]
  • Five Star Airline Rating in the Major Regional Airlines category at the APEX Awards 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 [3]
  • UK New Year's Honours List 2015, Peter Foster appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to British aviation in Kazakhstan.[27]

Accidents and incidentsEdit

  • On 11 November 2018, Air Astana Flight 1388, an Embraer ERJ-190, suffered severe control problems after takeoff due to faulty installation of control cables following a heavy maintenance check at a 3rd party maintenance provider in Portugal. After more than 90 minutes the aircraft, with 3 flight deck and 3 maintenance personnel onboard, was able to land at Beja Airbase. However the aircraft suffered severe multiple structural stress and was written off.[28]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 4 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Head Office". airastana.com. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  3. ^ Hofmann, Kurt (11 April 2014). "Air Astana eyes Paris and Prague services after EU lifts safety ban". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014.
  4. ^ "Air Astana traffic up over 160% since 2006". anna.aero. 19 July 2016. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  5. ^ Hoyos, Carola (9 October 2013). "Offset side deals spark calls for transparency". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Aviation Safety: Commission removes all Kazakh airlines from EU Air Safety List". ec.europa.eu. 8 December 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Astana Expo 2017 has an official air carrier". www.eturbonews.com. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  8. ^ "European Commission clears Air Astana and adds Iraqi Airways to EU air safety list | CAPA - Centre for Aviation". centreforaviation.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Air Astana Codeshare and Interline Partners". Vistara. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Cathay Pacific and Air Astana Announce Codeshare Agreement". aviationtribune.com. Aviation Tribune OÜ. 5 March 2018. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  11. ^ Liu, Jim (19 March 2018). "KLM / Air Astana expands codeshare service from late-March 2018". Routesonline. Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  12. ^ Liu, Jim (23 April 2019). "Air Astana expands KLM Europe codeshare to Madrid from April 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Air Astana and Lufthansa Sign Codeshare Agreement | AviationPros.com". AviationPros.com. 15 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  14. ^ Liu, Jim (15 July 2019). "Air Astana / S7 Airlines begins codeshare partnership from July 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  15. ^ Liu, Jim (15 June 2019). "Ukraine International / Air Astana begins codeshare partnership from June 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Air Astana Fleet | Airfleets aviation".
  17. ^ "Air Astana Fleet Details and History".
  18. ^ David Kaminski Morrow (5 October 2018). "Arkia to replace Primera as A321LR launch operator". Flightglobal.
  19. ^ "Air Astana Delays First Boeing 787 Delivery A Third Time". Simple Flying. 9 June 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "Air Astana Fleet – Airfleets aviation". airfleets.net. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.
  21. ^ "Air Transport leaders celebrated at ATW Achievement Awards". Air Transport World. 26 February 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2015.
  22. ^ "Annual Reports". airastana.com. Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Annual Reports". airastana.com. Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  24. ^ "A-Z Airline Quality Rating". SKYTRAX. Archived from the original on 26 January 2015.
  25. ^ "A-Z of the 2021 World Airline Award Winners". www.worldairlineawards.com.
  26. ^ "ATW's 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards". atwonline.com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Diplomatic and Overseas Honours List" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  28. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Embraer ERJ-190LR (ERJ-190-100 LR)". aviation-safety.net.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Air Astana at Wikimedia Commons