Qatar to launch first Kazakhstan routes

Qatar Airways will launch its first passenger services to Kazakhstan in March, less than five months after the Central Asian country introduced an open skies policy at 11 airports to help open new international routes.

Qatar Airways is adding Kazakhstan to its route network with the launch of two non-stop routes this spring.

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development confirmed the Oneworld member will begin a 2x-weekly Doha-Nur-Sultan service from March 30, 2020 on board Airbus A320 aircraft.

The carrier will also open a 2x-weekly route to Almaty starting April 1, also using A320 equipment, increasing to 4x-weekly from May 25.

However, the ministry said the inaugural flights would be made on Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Ticket sales are expected to begin on Jan. 16.

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Accra in Ghana, Cebu in the Philippines and Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan are all set to be added to Gulf carrier Qatar Airways' network later this year. The three destinations hosted Routes Africa 2018, Routes Asia 2019 and Routes Silk Road 2019 respectively.

The planned launch of Qatar’s inaugural passenger routes to Kazakhstan comes just months after Talgat Lastayev, the head of the civil aviation committee at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development, held talks with Qatar Civil Aviation Administration’s president Abdullah Nasser Turki al-Subai.

The discussions followed Kazakhstan's decision to introduce an open skies regime at 11 airports from Nov. 1, 2019. The regime covers the airports of Almaty, Aktau, Karaganda, Kokshetau, Nur-Sultan, Pavlodar, Petropavl, Semey, Shymkent and Taraz.

It is valid for three years, with the possibility of an extension, and allows foreign carriers to operate with fifth freedom rights on routes not operated by Kazakh carriers. It also lifts restrictions on frequency.

Kazakhstan's government hopes the move will increase traffic, attract new foreign carriers, promote tourism, allow for the launch of new services and decrease airfares.

Since Routes Silk Road 2019 took place in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan in July 2019, a number of new international routes have been launched. They include SCAT Airlines’ Nur-Sultan-Tokyo Narita and Almaty-Madinah services.

Although the Doha-Nur-Sultan and Doha-Almaty routes are Qatar’s first non-stop passenger services to Kazakhstan, Qatar Airways Cargo began 2x-weekly freighter operations to Almaty in early 2019.