Kazakhstan flag carrier Air Astana is to launch a dedicated air cargo division operating a fleet of three partly converted Boeing 767-300 passenger aircraft on international routes. The decision to launch its own dedicated airfreight business, dubbed Air Astana Cargo, is the result of the strong increase in demand for regional freight transport in recent months and follows a strategic review of Air Astana’s overall fleet utilisation plans in the wake of the global health crisis.
The Boeing 767 has been in passenger service with the carrier since 2013. The first of the type is already undergoing conversion into semi-cargo configuration at Air Astana’s Almaty technical centre, with the removal of all seating and other passenger amenities. Associated amendments to technical documents and approvals for freight operations from local aviation authorities are also part of the process, the company states.
During the health crisis, Air Astana has responded to the burgeoning demand for the transportation of medical equipment and supplies to destinations across Kazakhstan and within central Asia and Europe by operating a specially prepared cargo-only Boeing 767-300 passenger aircraft.
“Air Astana has rapidly met the immediate heightened demand for airfreight by operating a Boeing 767 passenger [cargo-only] aircraft, but we must strictly enforce European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) weight and volume regulations regarding cargo placed on seats,” says Zhanna Shayakhmetova, director of freight at Air Astana. “Once we start operations with the converted semi-cargo Boeing 767 aircraft, we’ll be able to considerably increase the volume of transported goods and offer our customers more flexible conditions.”
Plans to create a specialist cargo airline in Kazakhstan first surfaced in 2017 when the country’s government was anticipating that Kazakh national railway operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) would join forces with Air Astana in the project. But eventually nothing happened.
Surging demand for airfreight has already prompted Ukraine’s SkyUp, another carrier from the former Soviet Union territories, to add dedicated cargo services in addition to the transportation of passengers to its activities.
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