A new carrier called KAP.kg, which is an abbreviation of Kyrgyz Airlines Plus, is gearing up to enter the stagnant Kyrgyzstan airfreight market this spring. Its first aircraft is a 1982-built Airbus A300F, which was ferried to Bishkek’s Manas airport in November even though, according to local regulations, aircraft older than 25 years are banned from the national roster.
The government requirement had to be waived for freight carriers, to allow for the launch of the new airline’s commercial operations, and the age limit has been doubled – but the 25-year provision remains in effect for passenger airliners.
According to open sources, the cargo airline was founded by Kyrgyzstan citizens Almaz Matmusayev and Aijan Kerimkulova and will be managed by Dzhamil Abdubekov, with no further information available on their previous aviation backgrounds. However, commercial director Arsen Tabyldiev previously worked as an executive director of state-owned Air Kyrgyzstan, and he revealed to Russian Aviation Insider that the aircraft age requirement had previously been the only obstacle to the launch of KAP.kg.
However, it would be incorrect to say that the regulations were changed for the sake of the new project alone. Russian Aviation Insider’s source in the central Asian country’s aviation industry explains that such attempts had previously been made over several years. “Clearly, KAP.kg has some lobbying power, but there’s an objective reason as well: there are no airlines, we’re idling,” he argues.
According to Kyrgyzstan’s civil aviation agency, as of mid-February, no dedicated freight airliners were registered on the national roster and, as it was previously operated by Georgia’s Global Charter Air Services, KAP’s A300 (serial number 183) it is still sporting its Georgian registration number 4L-BAK. Its airworthiness certificate is pending.
KAP.kg is taking off in a turbulent market, with Kyrgyzstan’s only cargo airline flying in the face of a global freight downturn, which will directly affect its local market as well. In 2019, Kyrgyz airlines collectively transported only 300 tonnes of freight, down from the 1,000 tonnes of 2018. Cargo volumes processed at Bishkek’s airport have also shown a decrease. “Our closest competitor, [Kazakhstan’s] Almaty airport has simply taken everything,” a representative of Manas complained to Russian Aviation Insider. Almaty, just 210 km from Bishkek, processed almost 70,000 tonnes of freight last year, an 18 per cent improvement on 2018.
Meanwhile, Arsen Tabyldiev is hopeful that KAP.kg will take off in April. “We’ll be using Bishkek airport as hub. But we’re ready to just carry freight into and out of Kyrgyzstan. It will depend on the customers,” he says.
Russian Aviation Insider
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