Air Astana

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Air Astana
Air Astana logo.svg
Founded 29 August 2001 (2001-08-29)
Commenced operations 15 May 2002 (2002-05-15)
Frequent-flyer program Nomad Club
Fleet size 30
Destinations 60
Company slogan From the Heart of Eurasia
Parent company Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk Kazyna (51%)
Headquarters Almaty, Kazakhstan
Key people
  • Chairman: Nurzhan Baidauletov
  • President and CEO: Peter Foster
  • SVP Planning and Commercial: Alma Aliguzhinova
  • SVP Government, Regulatory Affairs and Security: Yerbol Ospanov
  • SVP Marketing and Sales: Ibrahim Canliel
  • SVP Corporate Safety and Quality Assurance: Gerhard Coetzee
  • SVP Engineering: John Wainwright
  • SVP Operations: Anthony Regan

Air Astana (Kazakh: Эйр Астана) is the principal airline and the flag carrier of the Republic of Kazakhstan, based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.[1] It operates scheduled domestic and international services on 60 routes from its main hub, Almaty International Airport, and from its 2 secondary hubs, Astana International Airport and Atyrau Airport. It is a joint venture between Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna (51%), and BAE Systems PLC (49%).[2] It was incorporated in October 2001 and started commercial flights on 15 May 2002.

At the 2014 World Airline Awards held at the Farnborough International Airshow Air Astana was named the Best Airline in Central Asia and India for the third consecutive time. Air Astana also received the award for Best Staff Service in Central Asia and India for the second consecutive time.[3] Since 2012, Air Astana has been rated as a 4 Star carrier by Skytrax and remains the only airline in Eastern Europe and CIS to achieve this.


Air Astana was described by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in January 2012 as having “performed better in its first decade than just about any other start-up carrier” (CAPA, Airline Analysis, 9 January 2012). Yet its origins represent one of the more intriguing and unlikely stories to have emerged from the airline industry in recent times. Originally conceived as purely domestic airline, BAE Systems agreed in mid-2001 to participate in the proposed start-up at the request of Kazakhstan's head of state, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in order to facilitate an air radar contract it was then negotiating with the Government of Kazakhstan. Sir Richard Evans, BAE Systems’ chairman at the time, was instrumental in and key to the deal. However, the radar contract never materialized, and subsequent senior management changes and strategic reviews at BAE Systems led to the closure of its offices in Kazakhstan. Additionally, notwithstanding the support of Nazarbayev and a number of close advisors, the start-up, initially seen as a foreign entity, was confronted with immediate and vocal opposition from many elements of Kazakhstan's media and political establishment.

2002 – 2005[edit]

In spite of these gloomy auguries the airline took off on the charge. Under its first operational president, former British Airways executive Lloyd Paxton (there had been a brace of short-lived pre-operational incumbents), it leased its first 3 Boeing 737s from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and commenced Commercial operations on 15 May 2002. In late 2002 Fokker 50s were leased from Aircraft Finance Trading BV (AFT) and 3 Boeing 757s from Pegasus Leasing Corp. It declared a net profit in 2003, its first full year of operations. Upon the bankruptcy of the previous flag carrier Air Kazakhstan in February 2004, it moved quickly to expand from its domestic network to key international routes to Dubai, Istanbul, Moscow and Beijing, followed by Frankfurt and London.

2005 – to the present day[edit]

Early growth pains and disagreements over fleet plans and hub strategy led to tensions between the shareholders and a management change in autumn 2005. Peter Foster, a former executive of Cathay Pacific Airways who had led the rehabilitation team at Philippine Airlines in 1999 before a spell as CEO at Royal Brunei Airlines, was appointed as the airline's president on 1 October 2005. Long-term development plans and management structures were established that have remained largely unchanged since then. The airline has been consistently profitable and was listed in the top 20 most profitable airlines in terms of net margin in the world for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012, according to Airline Business and Air Finance Journal.

In an article on BAE Systems' offset programmes (10/10/13) the Financial Times stated, ”BAE’s 49 per cent stake in Kazakhstan’s Air Astana became one of the company’s highest-yielding investments”.[4]


Activity in Russia[edit]

In September 2002 the airline launched flights between Astana and Moscow with a frequency of 3 times a week and daily flights between Almaty and Moscow performed by Boeing 737-700. In 2013, the number of weekly services on the Astana - Moscow route was increased up to 9 flights a week, and Almaty - Moscow flights up to 16. The airline operates 54 weekly services on 11 routes to Russia: Almaty - Moscow, Astana - Moscow, Almaty - St.Petersburg performed by Airbus A320 and Astana - Novosibirsk, Astana - Yekaterinburg, Astana - Omsk, Astana - St.Petersburg, Almaty - Kazan, and Almaty - Samara performed by Embraer 190.

Air Astana is represented in Russian Federation on Bolshoi Gnezdnikovskii pereulok 1, building 2 (Tverskaya metro station). There is also a ticket office at the Sheremetyevo airport (Terminal E).

Activity in the rest of C.I.S.[edit]

Air Astana has built on its geographical strength by expanding its network to cover all key cities of the region with short haul flights. In Central Asia and Caucasus Air Astana offers services to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Baku, (Azerbaijan) both from Almaty and Astana. Services to Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Tbilisi (Georgia) are currently offered from Almaty and will be extended from Astana starting IATA Summer 2014 navigation season. Air Astana closed its last gap in the region in 2013 by launching services to Kiev (Ukraine) both from Almaty and Astana with 8 flights per week. Since the launch of services, Air Astana has rapidly become a key provider for air transport to Central Asia and Far Eastern destinations from Ukraine and v.v. The extensive regional network provides for access to all major cities in the region with Air Astana’s medium and long haul flights from Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Frankfurt, London and others.

Activity in China[edit]

While many people are aware that Kazakhstan is located in the territory of the ex-USSR, it is only a few that are aware of its close vicinity with China. Kazakhstan neighbors China through its South East border with a flight time of less than one and a half hours to Ürümqi and under five hours to Beijing. The close vicinity of Air Astana’s hubs allows for competitive regional operations to China. The fact that not a single European or Middle Eastern carrier is operating to Ürümqi, provides a strong competitive edge for Air Astana. The Western hub of China is served both from Almaty and Astana with 11 services per week, offering connectivity to its entire CIS network as well as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Delhi, Istanbul, Frankfurt and others. The daily services to Beijing connect with the entire CIS network as well as European network such as Frankfurt, Istanbul and particularly London.


From 2006 to 2008 Boeing 737 were gradually replaced by leased Airbus 320 and two the very first widebody Boeing 767-300ER's were leased from ILFC. In 2008 and 2011 two Boeing 757 were leased from ILFC company and MacQuarie Aviation Inc. In mid-2008 there were made the first purchase order for 6 Airbus A320 aircraft, which were delivered at the end of 2012. In 2011 the company introduced 3 new Embraer 190 regional aircraft, two of them are purchased in leasing from Jetscape Inc, and 1 from Aircraft Lease Corporation (ALC). In 2012 the airline received 3 Embraer 190 aircraft, one of which became the company’s property. The purchased Embraer 190 aircraft joined the fleet in 2012 and 2013. On December 1, 2012 the airline retired the Fokker 50 fleet, replacing them all by Embraer 190's. In February 2012 the airline concluded the largest in the country’s aviation history contract on supply of Boeing 767-300ER in late 2013 and three Boeing 787-8 in 2017.

In 2013 Air Astana received its 7th Embraer 190 and 2 more Airbus A320 with sharklets. The airline has taken delivery of two new Boeing-767’s in 2013 and a third one in June 2014.

Air Astana operates a fleet of 30 aircraft, the youngest fleet in the region and one of the youngest in Europe. As a result of the fleet restructuring and replacing all its Airbus A320 and Boeing 767 aircraft with brand new ones, Air Astana’s average fleet age is only 5 years as of 2014. The company plans to expand its fleet to 34 aircraft by 2016 and up to 43 by 2020. And it also planned to make flights to USA when the Dreamliner will arrive.

An Air Astana Boeing 757 taking off from Almaty International Airport, Kazakhstan. (2008)
An Air Astana Boeing 757-200. (2009)
An Air Astana Boeing 767-300ER at Amsterdam Airport. (2009)
An Air Astana Boeing 767-300ER at Frankfurt Airport. (2014)
An Air Astana Airbus A320 at Atyrau Airport, Kazakhstan. (2011)

The Air Astana fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of April 2014):[5]

Air Astana Fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Seats Directions Notes
C Y Total
Airbus A319-100 1 12 114 126 Kazakhstan
Airbus A320-200 8 16 132 148 Kazakhstan, CIS, Asia
Airbus A321-200 4 28 151 179 Kazakhstan, CIS, Asia
Boeing 757-200 5 16 150 166 Kazakhstan, Europe, Asia Equipped with winglets[6]
Boeing 767-300ER 3 [6][7] 30 193 223 Kazakhstan (Almaty - Astana flights), Europe, Asia New aircraft to replace existing Boeing 767-300ER’s
Boeing 787-8 3
Kazakhstan (Almaty-Astana flights), Europe, Asia, USA, Africa Will be available in 2017, 2019
Embraer E-190 9 [8] 9 88 97 Kazakhstan, CIS, Asia
Total 30 3

Fleet history[edit]

Air Astana’s fleet history:[9]

Aircraft Put into the operation Out of operation The number of out of order
Airbus A319 2008
Airbus A320 2006 4
Airbus A321 2007
Boeing 737-700 2002 2007 1
Boeing 737-800 2002 2007 2
Boeing 757-200 2003
Boeing 767-300ER 2007 2
Embraer 190 2011
Fokker 50 2004 2012 6


Air Astana's 63 destinations include most major cities in Kazakhstan and an increasing number of neighboring Central Asian and Russian cities. The latter is the result of a decision to implement what its managers refer to as an "extended home market strategy", to leverage its reputation for high standards of service and air safety compliance in the region's growing air transport markets. Since 2009 it has launched services to Baku, Tashkent, Ürümqi, Tbilisi, Dushanbe, Bishkek, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg, and from the middle of 2012 – Kazan and Omsk. Almaty – Kiev, and Astana – Kiev were launched in spring 2013.

Its long haul growth has been towards south and east Asia, with flights to Delhi, Seoul (operated in code share with Asiana Airlines), Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong (August 28, 2012) and Ho Chi Minh City (January 2013). In addition to Air Astana’s current twice weekly direct service from Almaty to London Heathrow, flights between the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and London Heathrow started from 29 October 2013.

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Air Astana has Codeshare agreements with the following airlines:

ICAO and the EU[edit]

The airline's international route development was heavily influenced by regulatory factors from 2009 until April 2014. In April 2009, an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), found the Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee (CAC) to be non-compliant in key areas of regulatory oversight. This resulted in a blanket ban of all Kazakhstan-registered airlines from flying to, from or within the European Union by the EU's Air Safety Committee (ASC). Air Astana was the sole exception, exempted from the ban on account of its unique (for its region) structure and regulatory framework, including its European EASA 145 aircraft engineering license, the registration of its aircraft with the Department of Civil Aviation of Aruba, a Netherlands dependent territory, and its IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registration. However, it was until April 2014 included on the ASC's Annex B, restricting its EU operations to the level of frequencies operated at the time of imposition of the ban in July 2009. Since then no follow-up ICAO audit of the CAC has taken place, resulting in subsequent meetings of the ASC electing to retain the status quo until recently. The ASC decision on April 10, 2014 to lift the frequency restrictions on Air Astana allows the airline to start planning for new destinations in Europe and increases on its daily service to Frankfurt from Astana, its 6 weekly service to Amsterdam from Atyrau, and its thrice services to London.

Service and branding[edit]

At the 2014 World Airline Awards Air Astana was named the Best Airline in Central Asia and India for the third time running. At the same ceremony Air Astana received the award for Best Staff Service in Central Asia and India for the second time.

Air Astana operates a 2 class service, Business and Economy, on all aircraft, and has installed fully flat "Sleeper Business Class" seats on its fleet of Boeing 757s and 767s. The Boeing 767 and 757 are equipped with the individual in-flight entertainment system supplied by RAVE in both cabins. It offers hand-held personal entertainment systems (“KCTV”) in the business class of all flights longer than 3 hours. Hot meals and alcoholic beverages are offered on all flights in both Business and Economy Class. Its "Nomad" frequent flyer club consists of Gold, Silver and Standard membership tiers, and has a reciprocal agreement with Lufthansa’s “Miles & More” program. A new uniform for cabin and ground staff, designed by local Kazakh designers, were introduced in the beginning of 2013.

Air Astana has recently opened its exclusive lounge "The Shanyrak", the only airline lounge at the Astana International Airport.

Moreover, following an audit conducted by Skytrax in May 2012, the airline became the first carrier from Russia /CIS /Eastern Europe to be awarded the prestigious 4-Star rating in the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2012 and remains the only carrier in the region achieving this status.


Air Astana numbers more than 4,000 people. Despite the fact that the company directly hires staff for international offices, most of the employees are citizens of Kazakhstan. It employs 320 pilots, about a third of whom are non-Kazakhstan nationals recruited principally in Europe. In 2012 company has introduced a general management training program at Cranfield University, England. The airline’s cabin crew consists of over 1,100 flight attendants with the citizenship of Kazakhstan, most of them are women. Its management is a combination of Kazakhstan and foreign nationals.

Activity indicators[edit]

Number of passengers transported:

  • 2006 - 1.5 mln;
  • 2007 - 2.1 mln;
  • 2008 - 2.3 mln;
  • 2009 - 2.2 mln;
  • 2010 – 2.6;
  • 2011 - 3 mln;
  • 2012 – 3.3 mln;
  • 2013 - 3.7 mln


Skytrax 4 Star Airline, 2010 to present

Skytrax World Airline Awards, Best Airline Central Asia and India, 2012, 2013, 2014

Skytrax World Airline Awards, Best Staff Service Central Asia and India, 2013, 2014

Air Transport World Industry Awards, Global Market Leadership Award, 2015

UK New Year’s Honours List 2015, Peter Foster appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to British aviation in Kazakhstan.


  1. ^ "Head Office." Air Astana. Retrieved on 21 December 2010. "Registered office 4A, Zakarpatskaya Street, Almaty, 050039, Kazakhstan"
  2. ^ Hofmann, Kurt (11 April 2014). "Air Astana eyes Paris and Prague services after EU lifts safety ban". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Air Astana repeats success as it is named the Best Airline in Central Asia and India award". 
  4. ^ "[1]."Retrieved on 10 October 2013." Offset side deals spark calls for transparency "
  5. ^ Air Astana Fleet
  6. ^ a b Air Astana announces $1.3 billion 767–787 order, retrieved 10 February 2012.
  7. ^ Website, Boeing. "767 Model Summary". Boeing Company. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Air Astana takes delivery of first Embraer 190, retrieved 10 February 2012.
  9. ^ Fleet Air Astana
  10. ^ "Etihad Signs Codeshare Deal with Air Astana". Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Turk Hava Yollari AO : Air Astana and Turkish Airlines sign a codeshare agreement". 4 June 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 

External links[edit]