INSIGHT: Kazakhstan to become flexible Eurasian hub

Almost all Air Astana’s flights are operated from hubs in Astana and Alma-Ata Almost all Air Astana’s flights are operated from hubs in Astana and Alma-Ata (Photo by Georgy Botvik)

Kazakhstan flag-carrier Air Astana is expecting to have carried some 3.8 million passengers last year. Although ticket sales on flights to former Soviet republics (especially Russia) are generally down, the airline is hoping for a 12% boost in passenger numbers transiting through its hub in 2017. “We will continue to grow transit traffic by developing Kazakhstan as a Eurasian hub as well as assisting the national Nurly Zhol infrastructure development program,” Air Astana’s officials reveal.

By the autumn of 2016, Kazakhstan’s biggest airline (51% of which belongs to the national wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna and the remaining 49% by British defense corporation BAE Systems) was performing almost all its scheduled domestic flights out of Almaty and Astana, the only exception being the service between Aktau and Atyrau. The carrier has been utilizing Embraer ERJ190LRs, Airbus A319/A320s and even Boeing 757-200s. According to the Yandex.ru web service, Air Astana operates the latter type on flights from Almaty to Aktobe (around 1,700 kilometers) or Atyrau (2,000 kilometers).

Up until the mid-2000s Air Astana employed Fokker 50 turboprops for its domestic flights, but three years ago these ageing aircraft were phased out, to be replaced by nine 97-seat Embraer ERJ190LRs (with nine business-class seats and 88 economy) and, for now, the Kazakh airline is not considering reverting to smaller types. “Fokker 50s successfully accomplished their mission by allowing us to launch and develop the domestic route network. Several years ago they were replaced by modern Embraer E190s and the comfort, speed and innovation technologies of the newer aircraft were duly appreciated by our passengers,” the company advises Russian Aviation Insider.

As of October 2016, Air Astana served 24 domestic destinations, with the Embraer E190 operating the overwhelming majority. The carrier deems its domestic route network to be one of the key elements of its overall development strategy. “Our domestic route map is vital for both passengers travelling directly from point A to point B and our international destination network, as we offer connections between all our domestic flights and all cites abroad where we are present,” the airline explains.

“Over the last seven years we have also been focusing on developing international transit traffic while having increased overall volumes from 10,000 passengers in 2010 to more than 300,000 in 2016,” the company’s officials add. Today the carrier operates to more than 250 airports worldwide.

As for the domestic market, the company is targeting a wide range of clients by offering attractive, flexible fare options. “For those who consider price as a key decision factor we offer highly competitive fares provided the booking is done well in advance of the flight. We also have affordable fares for those people who plan their trip two weeks ahead. But even those who search for tickets just two or three days beforehand can still find attractive prices.

“We also offer a rather flexible timetable for those for whom every minute counts. Such passengers are able to book their flights at the very last moment, and departure time options are numerous. For example, flights from Astana are operated almost every hour, whilst other destinations are served several times a day,” Air Astana adds.

By Artyom Korenyako

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  1. «Ла-ла Лэнд»: Казахстан и его «Астанинский кодекс поведения» — Новости KZ
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