Kazakhstan’s flag carrier Air Astana unveiled its latest move in a campaign to disrupt the country’s influx of foreign low-cost carriers.
Kazakhstan’s FlyArystan promises to be a low-fare force to be reckoned with. The country’s first low-cost airline begins flights from Almaty to Taraz and Uralsk on the 1st May 2019. It will offer cheaper airfares than those of its competitors in an attempt to claw back control of the low-cost domestic sector.
Tickets are selling fast. The new airline is to fly Airbus A320s with seats enough for 180 economy-fare passengers. That equates to around 130,000 cheap seats on each of the routes every year. It’s focus is on domestic routes, but Air Astana’s CEO Peter Foster hopes to announce more routes and aircraft bases later in the year.
‘A remarkable achievement’
Of the demand for seats Mr Foster was encouraged. ‘With Board approval for this exciting new airline granted just six months ago,’ he said, ‘seats going on sale so swiftly is a remarkable achievement’. Those who were involved in preparing for the launch of the airline were also congratulated.
‘FlyArystan adds strength to what we can now call the Air Astana Group.’ Foster added. ‘It enables us to effectively compete in the growing low-cost travel segment in our country on better than equal terms with other airlines.’
Air Astana was originally founded in 2001 and began formal operations the following year. The airline is jointly owned by Kazakhstan’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and the British aerospace company BAE Systems. The company’s fleet consists of 33 aircraft. These include short and long-haul types from Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer. Another 25 aircraft are on order, including the ‘new engine option’ A320neo.
The rising tide of LCCs
With the launch of FlyArystan, Air Astana stands firm in the face of a rising tide of low cost carriers including EasyJet, Indigo, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia.
‘While there are no genuine [Kazakhstan] low-cost carriers in the market yet,’ Foster said, ‘there are a number of international LCCs operating here – Wizz Air, Pobeda, Air Arabia, Flydubai. We fully expect Indian and southeast Asian LCCs will come before long. It’s clear that LCCs are coming to Central Asia, albeit relatively late. FlyArystan will be the first genuine Central Asian LCC.’
Tim Jordan the new head of FlyArystan is optimistic about his company’s future: ‘FlyArystan presents a great opportunity for both Kazakhstan citizens and foreign visitors to travel more easily and comfortably across this vast country with lower air fares,’ he said. ‘With only a month to go before the launch of our first services to Taraz and Uralsk, we are delighted at the immediate strong market response and look forward to welcoming our first customers in May.’
Although FlyArystan will initially operate just four aircraft, Foster and Jordan envisage the fleet burgeoning over the coming years. They hope to have 15 flying types in service by 2022.
The airline also plans to fly regional international routes in the not-too-distant future.