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Air Astana
Air Astana logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded29 August 2001; 21 years ago (2001-08-29)
Commenced operations15 May 2002 (2002-05-15)
Focus citiesAtyrau International Airport
Frequent-flyer programNomad Club
Fleet size45
Parent companySovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna (51%)
HeadquartersAlmaty, Kazakhstan
Key people
  • Peter Foster, President & CEO
  • Nurzhan Baidauletov,[1] Chairman

Air Astana (Kazakh: Эйр Астана / Eir Astana) is an airline group based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.[2] It operates scheduled international and domestic services across 64 routes from its two hubs; Almaty International Airport, and Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport.

Air Astana is a joint venture between Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna (51%), and BAE Systems PLC (49%).[3]

The airline was incorporated in October 2001 and started commercial flights on 15 May 2002. It is one of a small number of airlines that has required neither government subsidy nor shareholder financial support to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, thus preserving its central corporate principle of financial, managerial, and operational independence. It was formerly the flag carrier of Kazakhstan.


Air Astana was described by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in January 2012 as having "performed better in its first decade than just about any other start-up carrier".[4] Originally intended to be a purely domestic airline, BAE Systems later agreed in mid-2001 to participate start-up proposed at the request of Kazakhstan's head of state, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in order to facilitate an air radar contract. It was then negotiated with the Government of Kazakhstan.

Sir Richard Evans, BAE Systems' chairman at the time, was considered instrumental to the success of the deal. The radar contract never materialized however, and subsequent senior management changes and strategic reviews at BAE Systems led to the closure of its offices in Kazakhstan. Additionally, despite the support of Nazarbayev, the start-up, initially seen as a foreign entity, faced immediate and vocal opposition from many elements of Kazakhstan's media and political establishment.


Despite facing opposition and a lack of support, Air Astana launched its operations under the leadership of its first president, Lloyd Paxton, a former executive of British Airways. After a few short-lived pre-operational leaders, the airline leased its first three Boeing 737s from the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and started commercial operations on May 15, 2002.

Later in 2003, the airline leased Fokker 50s from Aircraft Finance Trading BV (AFT) and three Boeing 757s from Pegasus Leasing Corp. In its first full year of operations, Air Astana declared a net profit in 2003. When Air Kazakhstan, the previous flag carrier, declared bankruptcy in February 2004, Air Astana expanded its operations from its domestic network to key international routes including Dubai, Istanbul, Moscow, Beijing, Frankfurt, and London.


Early growth pains and disagreements over fleet plans and hub strategy led to tensions between the shareholders and a management change in the autumn of 2005. Peter Foster, a former executive of Cathay Pacific Airways who had led the rehabilitation team at Philippine Airlines in 1999 before a spell as CEO at Royal Brunei Airlines, was appointed as the airline's president on 1 October 2005. Long-term development plans and management structures were established that have remained largely unchanged since then. The airline has been consistently profitable and was listed in the top 20 most profitable airlines in terms of net margin in the world for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012, according to Airline Business and Air Finance Journal, which ranked it 20th in its 2015 survey of global airline financial ratings, with a score of BBB−.[citation needed]

In an article on BAE Systems' offset programmes (10/10/13) the Financial Times stated, "BAE’s 49 percent stake in Kazakhstan’s Air Astana became one of the company’s highest-yielding investments".[5]

Until 8 December 2016, Air Astana was the only Kazakh airline allowed to fly to the European Union.[6]

Air Astana was the "Official Air Carrier of EXPO-2017"[7] and the official carrier and general partner of the 2017 Winter Universiade, which took place from 29 January to 8 February 2017 in Almaty.

As of January 2022, Air Astana airline's fleet consists of 36 aircraft. As a result of the restructuring of the fleet and the replacement of Boeing 757 and Embraer 190s with Airbus A321neo Long Range and Embraer E2s in 2020/2021, the average age of the Air Astana fleet decreased to 3.6 years as of 2022, one of the youngest in the world. The company plans to expand its fleet up to 54 by 2025.


In November 2018, the airline announced plans to launch a low-cost airline, FlyArystan.[8] FlyArystan began operations on 1 May 2019 with a pair of Airbus 320s configured to 180 seats operating a classic low-cost model, on the same Airline Operator Certificate (AOC) as its parent but with separate specialist management. As of January 2022, Fly Arystan operated 10 A320s with a further 7 on firm order through to 2023. The high passenger growth of Fly Arystan (553% 2021 v 2020) has potentially contributed to Kazakhstan becoming the fastest-growing domestic aviation market in the world in 2021.


Activity in Russia

In September 2002 the airline launched flights between Astana and Moscow with a frequency of 3 times a week and daily flights between Almaty and Moscow performed by Boeing 737-700. In 2014, the number of weekly services on the Astana – Moscow route was increased to 9 flights a week, and Almaty – Moscow flights up to 14. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline operated 54 weekly services on 11 routes to Russia: Almaty – Moscow performed by Airbus A321 and Boeing 767, Astana – Moscow, Almaty – St.Petersburg performed by Airbus A320 and Astana – Novosibirsk, Astana – Yekaterinburg, Astana – Omsk, Astana – St.Petersburg, Almaty – Kazan, and Almaty – Samara performed by Embraer 190.

After a pandemic-driven halt from March to May 2020, the airline resumed services from Almaty and NurSultan to Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, and between Almaty and St Petersburg, both operated in code-share with its long-term code-share partner S7 Airlines of Russia. In addition, FlyArystan started operating from Karaganda International Airport to Moscow Domodedovo, and from Almaty to Novosibirsk.

On 11 March 2022, the group suspended all flights to, from, and over Russia due to sanctions and restrictions imposed on a number of essential business partners as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

Activity in the rest of C.I.S.

Air Astana has built on its geographical strength by expanding its network to cover all key cities of the region with short-haul flights. In Central Asia and the Caucasus, the airline flies to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Baku (Azerbaijan), Tbilisi (Georgia), Kyiv (Ukraine) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan) both from Almaty and Astana. Following the global pandemic, all these routes, which were temporarily suspended from March to May 2020, were resumed, and FlyArystan started operating in Kutaisi (Georgia).

Activity in China and Korea

Prior to the pandemic, the airline operated daily flights to Beijing from both Almaty and NurSultan and flights to Ürümqi in western China. Since July 2020 passenger charter flights have been resumed to Chengdu International Airport, in addition to regular all-cargo charters to various points in China with a partially-converted Boeing 767. In reflection of increasing passenger demand, the aircraft was re-converted to a passenger configuration in September 2021.

Following the pandemic, flights that had been operated daily to Seoul (Korea) from Almaty and twice a week from NurSultan have been reduced to a once-weekly flight between Almaty and Seoul because of travel restrictions imposed by the Government of Korea. Flights between Almaty and Hong Kong have been indefinitely suspended.

As of May 2023, all flights to Beijing and Seoul have been restored to their pre-pandemic frequencies.

ICAO and the EU

The airline's international route development was heavily influenced by regulatory factors from 2009 until April 2014. In April 2009, an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), found the Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee (CAC) to be non-compliant in key areas of regulatory oversight. This resulted in, with the exception of Air Astana, a blanket ban of all Kazakhstan-registered airlines from flying to, from, or within the European Union by the EU's Air Safety Committee (ASC), until the ban was lifted on 8 December 2016. Air Astana was exempted from the ban "...taking into account oral and written presentations made...." particularly the registration of its aircraft with the Department of Civil Aviation of Aruba, a Netherlands-dependent dependent territory, and its operations safety management programme as presented to the ASC. However, it was included in the ASC's Annex B, restricting its EU operations to the level of frequencies and fleet operated at the time of imposition of the ban in July 2009. The ASC removed the fleet restriction in November 2012 for the Boeing and Airbus fleets based on the airline's fleet renewal programme but retained the restriction on Embraer aircraft. On 10 April 2014, the ASC lifted the frequency restrictions based on the airline's safety performance, including the Safety Audit of Foreign Airlines (SAFA) monitoring programme results, as well as continuing transparent communications. This allowed the airline to start planning for new destinations in Europe and increases its daily service to Frankfurt from Astana, a 6x weekly service to Amsterdam from Atyrau, and a 4x weekly service to London. The airline subsequently commenced service between Astana and Paris in April 2015. The restrictions on the Embraer aircraft, which were the last to be banned from the EU, were removed in December 2015.[8]

During the global pandemic, the airline was able to maintain flights between Atyrau and Amsterdam (its only international route at that time) in order to transport key oil field workers to and from Western Kazakhstan. Since July 2020 its other EU operations have gradually resumed, and by January 2022 the airlines were operating from NurSultan to Frankfurt (in code-share with Lufthansa German Airlines) and London Heathrow, in addition to its Amsterdam and Frankfurt flights from Atyrau and Urlask.

As of May 2023, all flights to Frankfurt and Amsterdam have been restored to their pre-pandemic frequencies. As of June 2023, flights from Almaty to London, and from Aktau to London, operate 5 times per week, and flights from Almaty to Heraklion operate 4 times per week.


Main article: List of Air Astana destinations

Air Astana's 42 routes include 27 international and 15 domestic destinations.[9] The airline covers most large cities in Central Asia and the Caucasus (and formerly Siberia), which is the result of a decision to implement what its managers refer to as an "extended home-market strategy", to leverage its reputation for high standards of service and air safety compliance in the region's growing air transport markets. Since 2009 it has launched services to Baku, Tashkent, Ürümqi, Tbilisi, Dushanbe, Bishkek, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg, and from the middle of 2012 – Kazan and Omsk. Routes from Almaty and Astana to Kyiv were launched in the spring of 2013.

Its long-haul growth has been towards the south and east Asia, with flights to Delhi, Seoul (operated in code share with Asiana Airlines), Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong (28 August 2012), and Ho Chi Minh City (January 2013). In addition to its existing Almaty-Seoul services, Air Astana launched a service from Astana to Seoul in June 2015. Air Astana operates daily services from Astana to Frankfurt, three weekly services to Heathrow and three weekly services to Paris (launched on 29 March 2015). The European services are connected with Air Astana's extensive domestic services as well as regional services in South Russia, Central Asia, and China. The airline launched a non-stop flight from Almaty to Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran (30 June 2016). Flights to Tehran were suspended in June 2017. Flights to Russia were suspended in the spring of 2022.

Lifestyle Destinations

Air Astana was additionally obliged to cease flights from Kazakhstan to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in March 2020 due to strict COVID-19-driven travel restrictions across Southeast Asia. In October 2020, following the partial withdrawal of travel restrictions for both Kazakhstan citizens and at certain leisure destinations, the airline resumed services to Antalya (Turkey) and Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), and commenced flying to The Maldives (Male International Airport) and Colombo (Sri Lanka). These flights, referred to as “lifestyle routes” by the airline's management due to an increased average length of stay at destinations by travellers, were added to in March 2021. As of January 2022, Air Astana operates the following such routes either on a year-round or seasonal basis:

Codeshare agreements

Air Astana has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[10]

Interline agreements

Air Astana has interline agreements with the following airlines:[10]


Current fleet

Airbus A320neo "Air Astana"
Airbus A320neo "Air Astana"
Boeing 767-300ER "Air Astana"
Boeing 767-300ER "Air Astana"

The Air Astana fleet (excluding subsidiary airline FlyArystan) consists of the following aircraft (as of December 2022):[17][18][9]

Air Astana fleet:
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
C Y Total
Airbus A320neo 5 16 132 148
Airbus A321-200 2 28 151 179
Airbus A321neo 4 28 151 179
Airbus A321LR 10 16 150 166
Boeing 767-300ER 3 30 193 223 Includes last passenger Boeing 767 ever built.
Boeing 787-9 3
Delivery starts in 2025.[19] The order converts Air Astana's previous firm orders for three 787-8s into operating leases for three 787-9s.[20]
Embraer E190-E2 5 12 96 108
Airbus A320-200 10 1 180
Total 45 13

Fleet history

Air Astana's fleet history:[21]

Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A319-100 1 2008 2018
Airbus A320-200 14 2008 2021
Boeing 737-700 2 2002 2007
Boeing 737-800 2 2002 2007
Boeing 757-200 5 2003 2020
Embraer 190 9 2011 2020
Fokker 50 6 2004 2013

Service and branding

The airline has received awards in service quality from Skytrax, Tripadvisor and APEX (see below).

During the ATW's 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards ceremony in Washington, DC on 25 February 2015 Air Astana was awarded the Airline Market Leader of the Year.[22]

Class types

Air Astana operates a 2 class service, Business and Economy, on all aircraft, and Economy Sleeper on its Airbus 321neo Long Range aircraft. All aircraft with the exception of its Embraer E2s are equipped with an individual in-flight entertainment system supplied by RAVE in both cabins.

Nomad Club

The Nomad Club frequent flyer program consists of Diamond, Gold, Silver and Blue membership tiers, and has reciprocal agreements with Lufthansa's Miles & More and Asiana Airlines's "Asiana Club" programs.


Air Astana employs 5,600 people, mostly in Kazakhstan, supplemented by local employees at its foreign offices. It employs 460 pilots, of whom 64 are foreign nationals. All of its pilots hold EASA-European licenses. Since 2008 it has operated an ab-initio pilot training program for Kazakhstan nationals at flight training schools in the US and EU. As of January 2022, 320 of its operating pilots were graduates of this scheme. In 2012 company introduced a general management training program at Cranfield University, UK, since transferring to Henley Business School, UK) The airline's cabin crew consists of over 1,100 flight attendants, all of whom are Kazakhstan nationals. Its management is a combination of Kazakhstan and foreign nationals.

Activity indicators

Number of passengers transported:

Year Passenger traffic[23] Profit after tax (million USD )[23]
2006 1,5 m 32.0
2007 2,1 m 35.4
2008 2,3 m 17.1
2009 2,2 m 48.0
2010 2,6 m 77.1
2011 3 m 61.3
2012 3.3 m 61.1
2013 3.7 m 51.4
2014 3.8 m 19.5
2015 3.9 m 48.7
2016 3.7 m (39.9)
2017 4.2 m 39.3
2018 4.3 m 5.4
2019 5,1 m 30.0
2020 3,7 m (93.9)
2021 6,6 m 36.2
2022 7.4 m 78.4


Accidents and incidents


  1. ^ "Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 4 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Head Office". Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  3. ^ Hofmann, Kurt (11 April 2014). "Air Astana eyes Paris and Prague services after EU lifts safety ban". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014.
  4. ^ "Air Astana traffic up over 160% since 2006". 19 July 2016. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  5. ^ Hoyos, Carola (9 October 2013). "Offset side deals spark calls for transparency". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Aviation Safety: Commission removes all Kazakh airlines from EU Air Safety List". 8 December 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Astana Expo 2017 has an official air carrier". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  8. ^ "European Commission clears Air Astana and adds Iraqi Airways to EU air safety list | CAPA - Centre for Aviation". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b Сайдилла, Жанар (14 December 2022). "Air Astana презентовала новый борт на свой 20-летний юбилей ─". (in Russian). Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Air Astana Codeshare and Interline Partners". Vistara. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Cathay Pacific and Air Astana Announce Codeshare Agreement". Aviation Tribune OÜ. 5 March 2018. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  12. ^ Liu, Jim (19 March 2018). "KLM / Air Astana expands codeshare service from late-March 2018". Routesonline. Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  13. ^ Liu, Jim (23 April 2019). "Air Astana expands KLM Europe codeshare to Madrid from April 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Air Astana and Lufthansa Sign Codeshare Agreement |". 15 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  15. ^ Liu, Jim (15 July 2019). "Air Astana / S7 Airlines begins codeshare partnership from July 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  16. ^ Liu, Jim (15 June 2019). "Ukraine International / Air Astana begins codeshare partnership from June 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Air Astana Fleet | Airfleets aviation".
  18. ^ "Air Astana Fleet Details and History".
  19. ^ "Air Astana Expecting Its 1st Leased Boeing 787 13 Years After Ordering The Dreamliner". Simple Flying. 12 November 2022.
  20. ^ Waldron, Greg. "Air Astana chief eyes big 2023 after 'spectacularly successful' 2022". Flight Global. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  21. ^ "Air Astana Fleet – Airfleets aviation". Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.
  22. ^ "Air Transport leaders celebrated at ATW Achievement Awards". Air Transport World. 26 February 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2015.
  23. ^ a b "Annual Reports". Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  24. ^ "A-Z Airline Quality Rating". SKYTRAX. Archived from the original on 26 January 2015.
  25. ^ "A-Z of the 2021 World Airline Award Winners".
  26. ^ "ATW's 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards". Archived from the original on 6 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Diplomatic and Overseas Honours List" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  28. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Embraer ERJ-190LR (ERJ-190-100 LR)".

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