Air Astana is set to launch a second service to India, this time to the financial capital of Mumbai. Flying four times a week between Mumbai and Almaty, the flight will commence on 1st June, just in time for the peak summer season.
Doubling down on India
Air Astana is not new to India. The carrier has operated its Delhi-Almaty route since 2004, the first to directly connect the two countries. This twice-daily service, combined with the new Mumbai route, means that Air Astana is raising its weekly departures from 14 to 18.
The past few years have also seen the airline incentivize Indian travelers. Since 2018, Indians can secure a 72-hour visa-free layover in Kazakhstan if they fly with Air Astana. This transit visa aimed to boost passenger traffic and direct tourism to the country. This policy seems to have worked, considering that the airline saw a 40% rise in transit passengers in the year it was introduced.
Mumbai has been on the list of Air Astana’s upcoming destinations for a while now. In an interview with Business Standard in 2017, CEO Peter Foster spoke of plans to add a Mumbai route in 2019, contingent on slot availability. He also added that the airline carried 43,459 passengers from it’s Delhi route in 2017, a number which was bound to increase with the start of the visa-free regime and more flights each week.
A different hub
Air Astana isn’t looking to compete with the dominant international players in the Indian market, i.e. the Middle East carriers. Instead, Air Astana is attempting to provide routes to countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and more. These destinations have little connectivity to India and Air Astana is hoping to tap into this market while offering Kazaksthan as a transit stop. The airline is also eyeing further Asian expansion with new planes joining its fleet.
Air Astana also offers extremely competitive fares for popular European destinations such as London, Paris, Frankfurt and many more. They constantly come in as one of the cheapest options when searching for flights between Delhi and these cities. However, there is a catch; these European departures take place from Air Astana’s other hub airport of Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), meaning a much longer journey time. However, with a transit visa, this journey can be a lot less tiring!
What does the future hold for Air Astana?
Air Astana has had a whirlwind last few months. It reported a whopping 461% rise in profits, carried nearly 5.1m passengers (a 17% rise), and revenues rose to nearly $893mn. This was buoyed by the launch of its low-cost subsidiary, FlyArystan.
In addition to a great financial year, Air Astana also inked a deal for 30 new 737 MAX 8 aircraft, allowing the airline to further expand. While the airline has felt the burden of the coronavirus outbreak, with China being a key destination, it is to be seen how that affects its bottom line for the coming year.
For now, the Mumbai route will further bolster Air Astana’s belief that the Indian market is rapidly growing, and one that is to be focused on.
The Mumbai route will fly four times a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday). On Mondays and Tuesdays, the flight depart Almaty at 7.05 and arriving in Mumbai at 11.05. The outbound service will leave at 12.05 on the same days, arriving at 16.55. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the flight will depart at 22.10, arriving in Mumbai at 2.05. The outbound service will leave at 3.05, reaching Almaty at 8.05.