Kazakhstan carrier Air Astana is now free to increase frequencies on existing European routes and also to plan for new destinations following last week’s lifting of restrictions previously imposed by the European Union. The airline’s development in the Continent has been restricted for the past four years due to concerns over the safety of air services in the Central Asian country.
According to the EU’s Air Safety Committee, Air Astana has proved that it has safety systems and procedures fully consistent with international standards and has therefore been released from the frequency restrictions imposed upon it in July 2009, following the failure of the Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee to pass an ICAO audit in April of that year. However, the restrictions remain in place for all other Kazakh airlines.
“All other Kazakh airlines remain banned from Europe until the Kazakh authorities have implemented a sustainable system to effectively oversee the safety of these carriers,” said the European Commission in a statement.
Air Astana, a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund Samruk Kazyna and BAE Systems, currently operates services from Almaty and Astana to London three times a week, Astana to Frankfurt daily, and Atyrau to Amsterdam six times per week, but has been looking to expand its operations across Europe to take advantage of growing business and leisure demand in and out of the former Soviet state.
“We are delighted by the EU Air Safety Committee’s decision, which reflects the enormous amount of hard work that Air Astana staff have put into ensuring that flights are operated safely and in accordance with best international practices,” said Peter Foster, president, Air Astana. “The airline can now plan for more flights to Europe.”
According to Foster, Air Astana’s top priority is to establish links to the French and Czech Republic capitals, Paris and Prague, with flights expected to commence by late 2014 or early 2015. There are currently no non-stop air services between Kazakhstan and Paris, while Czech Airlines has been serving the Almaty – Prague route since May 2008.
Air Astana commenced regular flight operations on May 15, 2002 and currently operates a network of over 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau. It operates an all-western fleet of Boeing 767-300ER, Boeing 757-200, Airbus A320 family aircraft and Embraer E190s. Every year almost two million passengers fly between Kazakhstan and Europe, a market that the airline sees a good potential for further growth in the years ahead having grown 51.3 per cent in the past five years.
In our analysis below we highlight the ten largest O&D markets between Kazakhstan and Europe based on passenger demand in 2013 and compare the traffic levels with levels being reported just five years ago in 2008. Germany is the only market to see a decline in O&D demand, while other markets such as Czech Republic and Ukraine have more than doubled as new air connectivity options have been introduced.