Kazakhstan‘s Air Astana Celebrates 19 Years In The Skies

Air Astana is celebrating 19 years of commercial service this month. The Kazakh airline operated its first commercial flight from Almaty to Astana (now Nur-Sultan) in May of 2002. In the challenging business of air travel, sometimes even just surviving this long is an accomplishment. However, Air Astana has achieved a steady rate of growth, going as far as launching its own low-cost airline in recent times.

Kazakhstan‘s Air Astana Celebrates 19 Years In The Skies
FlyArystan is Air Astana’s budget airline brand. Photo: Air Astana

Air Astana has proven resilient throughout the current crisis, despite having a significant number of long-established international services either suspended or heavily reduced in terms of frequency.

The airline says that it strategically responded by identifying new opportunities in different market segments, “with the opening of new leisure services to destinations including Egypt and the Maldives, as well as new flights to Batumi and Kutaisi in Georgia.”

“Throughout the period, Air Astana has innovatively adapted to numerous challenges and successfully delivered the very highest standards of passenger service, safety, operational efficiency and environmental sustainability.” – Air Astana via official statement

60 routes and 34 aircraft

According to the airline, its passenger numbers have grown significantly – from just 160,000 in 2002 to more than five million per year in 2020 (prior to the global health crisis).

The network peaked with 60 domestic and international routes with a fleet of 34 jets comprised of Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer aircraft. Together, these jets have an average age of only three-and-a-half years. The current fleet compositions of the two airlines are as follows:

Air Astana
  • Five A320neos
  • Two A321-200s
  • Nine A321neos
  • Three 767-300ERs
  • Five Embraer E190-E2s
  • Nine A320-200s
  • One A320neo

The airline ordered three Boeing 787s in 2012 but has deferred delivery of the jets multiple times since citing a lack of demand. Historically, Air Astana has also operated the Boeing 737 and 757, as well as the Embraer E190 and Fokker F50.

Forming FlyArystan in 2019

After 17 years of operations as a single brand, Air Astana split its operations to form a low-cost carrier by the name of FlyArystan in May 2019. With this decision, a portion of Air Astana’s fleet moved over to the low-cost carrier, which has already carried three million passengers over the past two years.

“FlyArystan rapidly developed an extensive network of domestic services, together with international services to Georgia and Turkey,” the airline states.

Despite the global health crisis, FlyArystan has managed to post an average load factor of more than 87% while achieving an average on-time performance of 89%.

Kazakhstan‘s Air Astana Celebrates 19 Years In The Skies
Air Astana’s success over the past decade is reflected in its collection of various awards, which have come from SkyTrax, APEX, and Trip Advisor. Photo: Air Astana

Operating without state subsidies

Air Astana notes that it has “contributed greatly” to the economy of Kazakhstan over its 19-year history. It boasts a total tax payment equivalent to more than $490 million.

The airline also says that it has never received any state subsidy or shareholder capital beyond its initial investment, “even in the midst of the tough operating conditions experienced during the global health emergency.” Meanwhile, the airline continues to support local communities with its long-established social responsibility programs.

Moving forward, Air Astana plans to pivot from its “traditional international model” to a domestic leisure-based focus, where market demand has shown to be successful.

Have you flown with Air Astana or FlyArystan yet? What do you think of the carrier? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment.