Kazakhstan’s Air Astana returned to profitability in the first half of the year. The airline carried more passengers for the six-month period than 2020, even though many other carriers are seeing the opposite as January to March were largely unaffected for many airlines last year.
In the United States, we’ve started to see the first signs of airlines returning to profit following the worst year ever faced by aviation. However, it seems as though the recovery isn’t just happening in North America, as proved by Asia’s Air Astana, along with its low-cost subsidiary FlyArystan.
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Return to profitability
According to Air Astana, the Kazakh airline has now returned to profitability for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year the airline posted a loss of $66.2 million for the first six months of 2020. While not as significant as the airline’s loss, the airline managed to post a net profit of $4.9 million this year.
Behind the numbers was a massive increase in passenger numbers year on year seen by the airline. After all, the majority of a passenger airline’s income comes from flying passengers. Across the board, passengers rose by 91% year on year to 2.97 million. Interestingly, a big chunk of this increase came from domestic flying, with a rise of 125% seen to 2.5 million passengers on these routes.
Last September, the airline’s CEO, Peter Foster, told Simple Flying that he believed a shift from long train journeys to short domestic flights was partly behind the rise in numbers. The airline already saw more robust domestic numbers than before the pandemic back then. With the release of these latest figures, Foster confirmed the link with rail, commenting,
“Strong market growth and a preference for air travel over long rail journeys have transformed Kazakhstan into the world’s fastest-growing domestic market, with 31% passenger growth over 2019, undoubtedly stimulated by FlyArystan’s ultra-low fares… assisted by regular cargo charters on our converted Boeing 767”
The Air Astana fleet
Based out of Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, Air Astana has a fleet of 36 aircraft. The airline’s fleet has been pretty newsworthy lately for several reasons. We recently saw the airline take Embraer to court over issues it was having with the E190-E2.
In terms of the airline’s Airbus fleet, things have also been exciting. The airline took delivery of the Airbus A321neo and then the Airbus A321LR. While many A321neos have an all-economy layout, Air Astana’s come with a dedicated business class section, replacing 3-3 with 2-2 seating. The airline’s LCC subsidiary FlyArystan now has ten Airbus A320 family aircraft, including its first A320neo.
As far as the Boeing fleet is concerned, the airline has just three of the American planemaker’s aircraft. These are all Boeing 767s, with one having been turned into a cargo aircraft for the airline. The airline has three Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order, although last year, Foster commented that while his airline will take the aircraft, they do not need them just yet. Finally, in November 2019, the airline signed a letter of intent for 30 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which is still yet to be firmed up.
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