Air Astana Eyes London Heathrow Return With The Airbus A321LR

Air Astana is planning to return to London Heathrow with its Airbus A321LR aircraft next month. The airline hasn’t regularly served the English capital since March 2020, when the pandemic began to impact the aviation industry globally.

Air Astana, Airbus A321LR, London Heathrow
Air Astana is to resume its longest route, having suspended it back in March 2020. Photo: Airbus

Across the globe, airlines are seeing a rising number of passengers and a return to profit as the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have passed. Air Astana, the national carrier of Khazakstan, is one of these airlines, seeing a return to profitability in the first half of the 2021 financial year. Now, its network resumption continues, with the return of the airline’s longest pre-pandemic route.

Flying back to London Heathrow

As a key global hub, London Heathrow has long been an important destination for Air Astana. Having suspended the route due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Astana is now set to return to the British capital.

From September 18th, the airline intends to fly to the city twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The flights will operate out of Nur-Sultan, with the airline opting for its flagship Airbus A321LR to run the route. Before the pandemic, the airline predominately flew the Boeing 757 on the route, with the transition to the A321LR starting in March 2020, just as the airline suspended flights.

Air Astana, Airbus A321LR, London Heathrow
The airline used to operate the Boeing 757 on the London Heathrow route. Photo: Getty Images

The Air Astana Airbus A321LR

The Airbus A321neo is the flagship aircraft in the Air Astana fleet. As the range of narrowbody aircraft increases, they are becoming popular for longer flights. This month JetBlue launched A321LR flights from New York to London.

While not quite as long as the flight from New York to London, Air Astana’s flight from Nur Sultan is still a long one with the outbound leg scheduled to take seven hours and 15 minutes. The airline has focused on comfort in the cabin, with 166 seats in the same aircraft that British Airways has installed 220 seats.

Air Astana, Airbus A321LR, London Heathrow
The Air Astana Airbus A321LR seat layout. Photo: Air Astana

At the front of the cabin is a spacious business class section. This is made up of five rows in an alternating 2-2 and 1-1 configuration. The 1-1 seats in rows two and four are known by the airline as the ‘jewel in the crown’ throne seat. Each of the 16 business class seats lies flat with a 16-inch IFE screen.

Behind the business class cabin are 150 economy class seats in a standard 3-3 configuration. While this equates to the same layout as a normal short-haul narrowbody, the airline’s seats are equipped with a generous 33-inch pitch, and each has a 10-inch IFE display.

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Who can travel to Kazahkstan?

According to Air Astana, Khazakstan allows travelers to enter the country if they are citizens of a nation with which the country has resumed direct air services. From September 18th, this will include the United Kingdom, as Air Astana will be flying there directly. A negative PCR test taken within three days of travel is required, although those with a vaccine certificate from a limited list of countries (not including the UK) can travel without a test.

Air Astana, Airbus A321LR, London Heathrow
The route will mean that Kazakhstan resumes direct connections with the United Kingdom. Photo: Cirium

For travel in the other direction, passengers are subject to the UK’s amber travel rules. All passengers must take a rapid or PCR COVID-19 test before travel. On arrival, everybody must take a PCR test within two days. Those vaccinated in the UK, EU, or US won’t need to quarantine. Any other individuals will need to take an additional test on day eight, with a mandatory ten-day quarantine reduced to five days with a third PCR test. Those who have been in a red-list country will need to quarantine in a government hotel at their own cost.

All passengers should check the COVID-19 travel regulations relevant to their circumstances before travel.

What do you make of Air Astana’s return to the United Kingdom? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!