Air Astana Takes Delivery Of First Airbus A320neo In The CIS

Kazakhstan To Open Railway Station, Air Terminal In Astana In May

Air Astana has taken delivery of its first Airbus A320neo, becoming the first airline in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to operate the type.

The aircraft, which is Airbus’s 35th of the type, is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engines. It features a two-class cabin layout, seating 16 passengers in business and 132 in economy.

The Kazakhstan flag carrier is the 14th customer of the A320neo, which will join its Airbus fleet of 13 A320 family aircraft.

Air Astana’s first A320neo is on a long-term lease from US-based Air Lease Corp. (ALC), part of a previously announced Farnborough Airshow order. The deal includes 11 A320neo family aircraft, comprising three A320neos, four A321neos and four long-range A321neos—for which it is the launch customer.

Seven of these 11 aircraft are on lease from ALC, and four are being leased from AerCap.

Air Astana president and CEO Peter Foster told ATW the carrier expects to receive its first A321neo in 2017 and the first A321LR from 2019 onward.

“The technology of these aircraft, and especially the range of the A321LR, will bring Air Astana to the next level,” he said.

The carrier is taking advantage of its Almaty and Astana hubs to increasingly focus on transfer passengers flying between Europe and Asia. It has been slowly transforming from a point-to-point operation into a network carrier. “In 2010 we had 0% transfer business,” Foster said. “By 2018 we expect to have 20% of our total passengers—[transfer] passengers—changing aircraft within our system.”

Air Astana A320neo

Air Astana A320neo / Kurt Hofmann

“The A321LRs have a seven-and-a-half hour range, which should enable us to fly nonstop everywhere in our entire network,” he said. “There could be a change to have more A321LRs,” Foster said. He confirmed the A321neo will replace its Boeing 757-200 fleet.

In the first half of this year, there were Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF)-powered A320neo delivery delays related to an engine startup restriction issue that Pratt characterized as “teething problems,” for which the engine manufacturer has provided a fix.

“Pratt worked hard on the engine issue. Our new aircraft will have a modified engine. This [modified] engine is the best level of the [Pratt] engine that we can have at the moment,” Foster said, adding he is confident of the engine’s reliability. The A320neo is expected to deliver 15% less fuel compared to Air Astana’s current A320 fleet.

Foster confirmed Pratt has based a technical team in Almaty.

An Airbus spokesperson told ATW that around 500 A320 family aircraft will be delivered in 2016 and “15% of all of them will be A320neos.”

Air Astana took delivery of its first A320 in February 2006.

Foster said Air Astana operates to more than 60 destinations in around 20 nations.

Kurt Hofmann