Air Astana’s Domestic Network Is Stronger Than Ever Despite COVID

Air Astana’s domestic network is stronger than it was this time last year according to the airline’s CEO, Peter Foster. Foster made the comments during an interview with Simple Flying earlier today.

Air Astana, Domestic Demand, COVID-19
Air Astana’s domestic demand is stronger than it was a year ago despite COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

Around the world, the aviation industry is still coming to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic that brought the industry to its knees. For example, the TSA is still counting less than half of the daily number of passengers that it was seeing this time last year. However, interesting things are happening in some other countries on a domestic level. Simple Flying recently reported that Russia’s Aeroflot had seen a full recovery of domestic passengers, and it seems as though a similar effect has been felt in Kazakhstan.

Domestic travel going well

Earlier today Air Astana’s CEO walked Simple Flying though the current status of demand for its services. Foster commented there was no clear pattern across the network, saying,

“The domestic network is very strong even stronger than it was in fact this time last year. Now of course, obviously, you know we have a low-cost airline now with six aircraft and this time last year it only had two aircraft… There’s good growth, high loads, and plenty of demand.”

Air Astana, Cargo, Boeing 767
The airline’s low-cost start-up has helped with the domestic traffic boost. Photo: FlyArystan

Kazakhstan has a comprehensive rail network. While Air Astana doesn’t currently have the numbers to back it up, Foster has a theory that on longer domestic journeys, passengers may actually be switching away from the long train journeys, in favor of much shorter flights.

How does the picture look on an international scale?

On an international scale, things still aren’t looking quite so rosy, with Foster calling it a ‘very patchy story’. In October the airline is set to launch its third route to Frankfurt in Germany. However, Foster called the long-haul international market ‘pretty much dead in the water’.

This is reflected in the reduced schedule for Germany. Including codeshare flights with Lufthansa, prior to COVID-19, there were 16 weekly flights between Germany and Kazahkstan. With the launch of the new Almaty route on October 2nd, there will be just five. Where demand does exist, Air Astana is seeing more leisure travelers to destinations such as Dubai. As a result, it is operating an extended season to Antalya in the Turkish Riviera.

Air Astana, Domestic Demand, COVID-19
Air Astana’s CEO said that long-haul international demand was ‘pretty much dead in the water’. Photo: Air Astana

Things are again different on the regional international scale, such as to destinations in China and Russia. Foster remarked that in this market, the demand for travel is strong. However, the biggest problem for the airline is the restrictions on the number of movements being allowed by foreign governments.

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Russia is typically the largest source of international traffic for Air Astana, with the airline previously operating 54 weekly flights to the country. Currently, it is only allowed to operate one flight a week to Moscow. The situation is similar in China, the second-largest source of traffic. While China is not currently accepting Air Astana flights, talks between the airline and the state are ongoing.

What is your take on the current global travel situation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.