Air Astana, the flag carrier of the Republic of Kazakhstan, experienced strong growth during the first half of 2010, with passenger numbers increasing by 14% and revenue jumping 24% to US$245 million compared with the same period in 2009. The carrier performed almost 13,000 scheduled flights, with an average passenger load factor of 66%. These figures were achieved despite operational disruptions caused by a very severe winter across Kazakhstan and closure of European airspace owing to the Icelandic volcano explosion. Half yearly profit before tax was a record $33.5 million, up 34% over 2009.
Improved aircraft utilisation enabled Air Astana to increase frequencies on domestic trunk routes from both Astana and Almaty, with international service frequencies being increased to Frankfurt, Baku, Urumchi, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.
The continuing growth of Almaty as a hub for Central Asia continued with Urumqui in western China being added to the existing destinations of Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan and Novosibirsk in southern Russia. Services from Almaty to Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan and Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan are scheduled to commence during the second half of 2010.
New Embraer 190s arriving from early 2011
A fleet of new-generation Embraer E190 airliners has been selected to operate on the airline’s expanding Central Asia network, with the first of three leased aircraft scheduled for delivery in early 2011.
Investment in future pilots
Air Astana’s strategic commitment to pilot development has seen the acquisition of Airbus A320 family and Boeing 767/757 Enhanced Virtual Procedures Trainers, jointly developed with Aerosim Technologies Inc. The airline’s first group of ab-initio pilots graduated from the Pilot Training Centre, Florida Institute of Technology, USA in June. Air Astana sees the need to dramatically increase it current pool of 310 pilots in order to match route and fleet growth over the next decade.
Inflight enhancements and award accolades
Other highlights during the first half of 2010 included the introduction of the KCTV personal entertainment system on long haul services, a new website, and the latest Skytrax ranking of third best carrier in Eastern Europe, and best airline in the CIS.
“Air Astana continues to lead the CIS region with its modern fleet, expanding network, and service improvements. Financial results have exceeded expectations. These have been driven by revenue increases across all markets. Although the cost savings which resulted in 2009 being a record year have come under some pressure with the improving economy, overall prospects for the full year are good” said Peter Foster, President of Air Astana.
Air Astana commenced regular flight operations on 15th May 2002 and currently operates a network that serves 26 domestic and 23 international destinations, including London Heathrow from its hubs in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau. Air Astana flies an all western fleet comprising of two Boeing 767s, four Boeing 757s, ten Airbus A320 Family and six Fokker 50 aircraft. Air Astana is a full member of the International Air Transport Association and is the only airline in Kazakhstan with EASA Part 145 aircraft maintenance certification.
Air Astana is a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s JS Company “Sovereign Wealth Fund SamrukKazyna” (51%) and BAE Systems PLC (49%).