Air Astana plans to treble fleet to over 60 aircraft by 2022 to help put Kazakhstan on the global map

Map: Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan owns most of the Caspian Sea’s biggest oil fields – the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East. It hopes to double its oil output to three million barrels a day by 2015.

Covering an area about five times the size of France, but with a population of just 15 million people, Kazakhstan’s population density is among the lowest on earth, although still higher than Australia or Canada. According to OAG data it has 15 airports with Almaty airport, accounting for almost half of all scheduled capacity.

Chart: Kazakhstan’s top 12 airports
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 11 August 2008

Logo: Almaty International Airport / Astana estimates that Kazakhstan’s airports handled between five and six million passengers in 2007. The only published data come from Astana airport, (owned by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad) which reported passenger numbers of 1.17 million in 2007. Since scheduled capacity at Almaty is roughly twice that at Astana, it can be assumed that Almaty’s traffic in 2007 was between 2.3 and 2.4 million passengers.

Image: Air Astana take delivery of a new A320 Image: Air Astana plane on runway
On 17 June 2008 Air Astana took delivery of a new A320. The aircraft will be based in Astana and will service routes such as Astana – Aktobe – Astana (4 times per week) and Astana – Oskemen – Astana (3 times per week). Air Astana will soon take delivery of its first A319. It has placed an order for six further A320 family aircraft with deliveries due to commence in 2012. By 2022 the airline hopes to have trebled its fleet to over 60 aircraft.

Flag carrier Air Astana is half-owned by BAe Systems

Logo: Air AstanaAfter Air Kazakhstan was closed down in 2004, Air Astana became the de facto flag carrier. Set up just three days after ‘9/11′ it began operations in 2002 and now operates a fleet of 20 aircraft. It is 49% owned by UK’s BAe Systems, with the rest belonging to the government and has been consistently profitable.

Air Astana is the dominant carrier in the domestic market and operates 24 routes. The route between the new and old capitals (Astana and Almaty) accounts for almost one-third of domestic capacity, with 49 weekly flights.
Air Astana saw passenger numbers grow by 46% in 2007 to 2.13 million on a fleet that currently comprises seven A320s, two A321s, four 757s, two 767s and five Fokker 50s. Half a dozen additional A320s have been ordered from Airbus but deliveries will not start until 2012. The airline hopes to have over 60 aircraft in its fleet by 2022 consisting of a mix of A320s and Boeing 787s.

Last year the airline entered into a partnership with Lufthansa, involving codesharing and better co-ordinated schedules.

Image: Lufthansa & Air Astana sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Astana last summer
Götz Ahmelmann (VP Alliances, Strategy and Subsidiaries of Deutsche Lufthansa), and Peter Foster (President of Air Astana) signing a Memorandum of Understanding in Astana last summer.

Russia and Turkey are top international markets

Almaty still handles around 60% of the country’s international scheduled traffic. There are scheduled services to 20 countries from Almaty, with Moscow and Istanbul the best served cities. Air Astana operates regular flights to: Antalya, Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Dubai, Istanbul, London Heathrow, Moscow and Seoul. Other major western cities are served by bmi British Midland (London Heathrow), Czech Airlines (Prague, which started on 1 May), KLM (Amsterdam) and Lufthansa (Frankfurt). Thanks to Air Arabia, which operates twice weekly to Sharjah, even LCCs are present in Kazakhstan. In December Etihad is planning to launch four times weekly services to Abu Dhabi making it the first of the major Middle Eastern airlines to connect Almaty with one of its hubs.

From Astana there are non-stop International services to eight countries, with Russia and Turkey again leading the way. The only European countries served are Austria (thanks to Austrian’s thrice-weekly flights to Vienna which launched last September) and Germany (Frankfurt and Hannover). Almaty and Astana are responsible for almost 80% of all international flights to and from Kazakhstan.

Image: The Bayterek monument at Astana airport The Bayterek monument at Astana airport provides fantastic views over the growing capital and its many architectural marvels. Bayterek means ‘tall poplar tree’ in Kazakh.

Astana’s appeal to architecture enthusiasts

Astana recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as the new capital of Kazakhstan. Although still something of a building site, the city is rapidly gaining its fair share of iconic buildings, including Sir Norman Foster’s pyramid-shaped Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the Bayterek monument, which resembles an air traffic control tower and the national circus arena, which looks like a flying saucer spaceship. However, tourists should be aware that Astana is dubbed the world’s second coldest capital city where temperatures are typically below freezing for six months of the year. Summers though are moderately warm.


  1. James Pearson says:

    Purely in terms of its geographical location, Astana is well-placed: it could on an as-the-crow-flies basis shave hundreds of miles off routes between Europe and South Asia, the Far East and Australasia than flying via Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Consider, for example:

    London to Sydney: 9196 NM via Astana, 9473 NM via Dubai;
    Frankfurt to Beijing: 4528 NM via Astana, 5780 NM via Dubai;
    Paris to Hong Kong: 5220 NM via Astana, 6034 NM via Dubai;
    London to Lahore: 3765 NM via Astana, 4046 NM via Dubai.

    What about from the East Coast of the USA to South Asia and the Far East?

    New York to Bangkok: 7693 NM via Astana, 8602 via Dubai;
    New York to Singapore: 8434 NM via Astana, 9108 NM via Dubai.

    It obviously isn’t so well placed for Africa and South America, but it could work pretty well on the West Coast of the USA to, for example, South Asia: for example, Los Angeles-Mumbai 7568 NM if it were to operate non-stop, or 7607 NM if it were via Astana.

  2. Baur Safi says:

    I’ve read the comment about Astana as a connection hub for Eurasian cross continental flights and wonder what shall Astana do to attract the airlines to go through Astana airport? replies: Maybe Astana Airport should consider advertisng in The Route Shop, at

  3. Bahard says:

    I think airlines fly from Europe to Asia via Dubai because of jet fuel price. Astana has no options to offer better jet fuel price at the moment. It is a matter of investment and building modern oil refinery factories in Kazakhstan.

    From my point, flying via Astana gives the following advantage for airlines: airlines cross few countries to reach China, Japan, Korea in direct flight. Cost of permission might be lower. Cutting of distance is also one advantage of flying via Astana. Might be better services, because it is known as a present capital of Kazakhstan.

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