Air Astana

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Air Astana
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 29 August 2001 (2001-08-29)
Commenced operations 15 May 2002 (2002-05-15)
Frequent-flyer program Nomad Club
Fleet size 30
Company slogan From the Heart of Eurasia
Parent company Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk Kazyna (51%).
Other Shareholder: BAE Systems PLC (49%)
Headquarters Almaty, Kazakhstan
Key people
  • Nurzhan Baidauletov, Chairman
  • Peter Foster, President & CEO

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 64 routes from its main hub, Almaty International Airport, and from its 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.


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, which ranked it 20th in its 2015 survey of global airline financial ratings, with a score of BBB-.

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".[3]

A key reason for its consistent profitability has been its acknowledged attention to delivering high quality customer service and operational reliability, unusual for airlines in the CIS. This has resulted in a series of Skytrax World Airline awards, for Best Airline Central Asia and India, for the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and Best Staff Service for the same region, from 2013 to 2015. It is the only Skytrax "4 Star" airline in the CIS. It was awarded "Global Market Leader" at the Air Transport World annual award ceremony in Washington DC in February 2015.


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 2014, the number of weekly services on the Astana - Moscow route was increased up to 9 flights a week, and Almaty - Moscow flights up to 14. The airline operates 54 weekly services on 11 routes to Russia: Almaty - Moscow performed by Airbus A321 and Boeing 767, 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 in Moscow city 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), Tbilisi (Georgia) both from Almaty and Astana. Services to Dushanbe (Tajikistan) are currently performed from Almaty and will be extended from Astana starting IATA Summer 2016 navigation season. Air Astana closed its last gap in the region in 2013 by launching services to Kiev (Ukraine) from Almaty with 3 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, Dubai, 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 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, Paris 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.

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 10 April 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. The airline commenced a thrice weekly service between Astana and Paris in April 2015.


Air Astana's 65 routes 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 (28 August 2012) and Ho Chi Minh City (January 2013). In addition to its existing Almaty-Seoul services, Air Astana launched direct services from Astana to Seoul in June 2015. Air Astana operates daily services from Astana to Frankfurt, three weekly services to Heathrow and three weekly services to Paris (launched March 29, 2015). The European services are connected with Air Astana’s extensive domestic services as well as regional services in South Russia, Central Asia and China.

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Air Astana has Codeshare agreements with the following airlines:


Current fleet[edit]

Air Astana Airbus A320-200
Air Astana Boeing 757-200
Air Astana Boeing 767-300ER

The Air Astana fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of April 2014):[7]

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 A320neo 2
to be delivered from 2016[8]
Airbus A321-200 4 28 151 179 Kazakhstan, CIS, Europe, Asia
Airbus A321neo 5
to be delivered from 2018[8]
Boeing 757-200 5 16 150 166 Kazakhstan, Europe, Asia to be replaced by Airbus A321neo from 2018[8]
Boeing 767-300ER 3 [9][10] 30 193 223 Kazakhstan (Almaty - Astana flights), Europe, Asia
Boeing 787-8 3
Kazakhstan (Almaty-Astana flights), Europe, Asia, USA, Africa to be delivered from 2017
Embraer 190 9 [11] 9 88 97 Kazakhstan, CIS, Asia
Total 30 10

Fleet development[edit]

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 1 December 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. At the Paris airshow in June 2015 Air Astana announced that it would be the launch customer for the A321 NEO Long Range, 4 of which will be acquired from Air Lease Corp Inc of the USA in 2019, in addition to 3 short range NEOs to be acquired from 2016.

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 6 years as of 2015. The company plans to expand its fleet to 34 aircraft by 2016 and up to 43 by 2020. And it is also planned to make flights to USA when the Dreamliners arrive.

Fleet history[edit]

Air Astana’s fleet history:[12]

Aircraft Put into operation Out of operation Number of out of service
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

Service and branding[edit]

During the ATW's 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards ceremony in Washington, DC on 25 February 2015 Air Astana was awarded the Airline Market Leader of the Year.[13] At the 2015 World Airline Awards Air Astana was named the Best Airline in Central Asia and India for the fourth time running. At the same ceremony Air Astana received the award for Best Staff Service in Central Asia and India for the third time. 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 with this status.

Class types[edit]

Air Astana operates a 2 class service, Business and Economy, on all aircraft, and Economy Sleeper on its Boeing 757 fleet. The Boeing 767 and 757 are equipped with the individual in-flight entertainment system supplied by RAVE in both cabins. On other aircraft 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 Business, Economy, and Economy Sleeper.

New products[edit]

In Feb 2015, Air Astana started offering a new class type: the Economy Sleeper. Passengers of the Economy Sleeper Class get to enjoy a row of three Economy Class seats, turn-down service, Business Class amenity kits and KCTV, along with various privileges at the airport, including access to Business Class lounges. The new product is currently featured exclusively on the Boeing 757-200 on routes from Astana to London, Frankfurt and Paris, and from Almaty to Hong Kong.[14]

Nomad Club[edit]

The "Nomad" frequent flyer club consists of Gold, Silver and Standard membership tiers, and has reciprocal agreements with Lufthansa's 「Miles & More」and Asiana Airlines' "Asiana Club" programmes. A new uniform for cabin and ground staff, designed by local Kazakh designers, were introduced in the beginning of 2013.

Shanyrak Lounge[edit]

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


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:[15]

  • 2006 - 1.5 mln
  • 2007 - 2.1 mln
  • 2008 - 2.3 mln
  • 2009 - 2.2 mln
  • 2010 - 2.6 mln
  • 2011 - 3 mln
  • 2012 - 3.3 mln
  • 2013 - 3.7 mln
  • 2014 - 3.8 mln


  • Skytrax 4 Star Airline, 2010 to present.[16]
  • Skytrax World Airline Awards, Best Airline Central Asia and India, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.[17]
  • Skytrax World Airline Awards, Best Staff Service Central Asia and India, 2013, 2014, 2015.[18]
  • Air Transport World Industry Awards, Global Market Leadership Award, 2015.[19]
  • 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.[20]


  1. ^ "Head Office". Retrieved December 21, 2010. 
  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. ^ "Offset side deals spark calls for transparency". Financial Times. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Bangkok Airways and Air Astana announce Codeshare agreement". Bangkok Airways. 2015-08-19. Retrieved 2015-08-21. 
  5. ^ "Etihad Signs Codeshare Deal with Air Astana". Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "Turk Hava Yollari AO : Air Astana and Turkish Airlines sign a codeshare agreement". 4 June 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "Air Astana -". ch-aviation. 
  8. ^ a b c - PARIS: Air Astana takes long-range A321neo to replace 757s 16 June 2015
  9. ^ Air Astana announces $1.3 billion 767–787 order, retrieved 10 February 2012.
  10. ^ Website, Boeing. "767 Model Summary". Boeing Company. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Air Astana takes delivery of first Embraer 190, retrieved 10 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Air Astana Fleet - Airfleets aviation". 
  13. ^ "Air Transport leaders celebrated at ATW Achievement Awards". Air Transport World. 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  14. ^ "Air Astana Introduces Economy Sleeper": New Economic Business Class Concept". >talkairlines. >talkairlines. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Annual Reports". Retrieved 2015-06-17. 
  16. ^ "A-Z Airline Quality Rating". SKYTRAX. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "ATW's 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards". 
  20. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to Air Astana at Wikimedia Commons