Air Astana Seeks Stronger Link

Air Astana Seeks Stronger Link Air Astana wants to strengthen the connection between Thailand and its Kazakhstan home base.

The airline intends to ramp up its frequencies on the Bangkok-Almaty and Bangkok-Astana routes, now at five and two flights a week, respectively, to a daily basis by the end of 2019 or mid-2020.

The move is consistent with the airline’s plan to introduce a new fleet of the A321neo Long Range, the long-distance version of the single-aisle Airbus jetliner A320-321 family, the first of which is due to arrive around June 2019, said Peter Foster, the airline’s chief executive.

The planned increase in frequencies and introduction of new aircraft reflects the importance of Bangkok as a top destination in Southeast Asia to Kazakhstan’s flag carrier. The country became independent from the former Soviet Union 25 years ago.

The airline, which first took to the skies in May 2002, started serving the Thai capital 11 years ago from Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty, making Bangkok one of its first international destinations.

Air Astana has a load factor of 80-90% in the high season and 70% in the low season for its Bangkok-bound services, said airline officials.

Mr Foster said the airline’s traffic from Southeast Asia as a whole is largely moving in one direction: north to south. Southeast Asian destinations are very popular among travellers from Kazakhstan and the entire region of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), he said. But traffic from Southeast Asia to the CIS still needs to be developed.

Air Astana flies to three Southeast Asian cities — Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City — making up 6% of its total traffic. The airline hopes to raise the figure to 10% by the end of next year by leveraging its host airline role for Expo 2017, which will be held in the Kazakh capital Astana from June to September.

Mr Foster realises it takes time to attract traffic from Southeast Asia to Kazakhstan as a tourist destination. Air Astana’s strategic plan is to instead grow transfer passenger traffic from the region through Kazakhstan to other destinations it serves.

He said Air Astana’s low-cost structure, at only 4.5 US cents cost per available seat mile, is the lowest among full-service airlines and comparable to the best-performing low-cost carriers. This will help the airline to compete and drive growth.