Air Astana
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded29 August 2001; 22 years ago (2001-08-29)
Commenced operations15 May 2002; 22 years ago (2002-05-15)
Frequent-flyer programNomad Club
Fleet size50
Parent companySamruk-Kazyna
Traded as
HeadquartersAlmaty, Kazakhstan
Key people
  • Nurlan Zhakupov (Chairman)
  • Peter Foster (President/CEO)
Employees6 184

Air Astana (Kazakh: Эйр Астана) is an airline and the flag carrier of Kazakhstan. Based in Almaty, the airline was founded by the Government of Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk Kazyna (51%) and BAE Systems (49%) and commenced operations on 15 May 2002. In February 2024 it became a dual listed company, being listed on the Kazakhstan and London stock exchanges. It is the largest airline in Central Asia and the Caucasus region with 69% and 40% of market share on domestic and intra-regional routes from 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".[1] Originally intended to be a purely domestic airline, BAE Systems later agreed in mid-2001 to participate in the proposed startup at the request of Kazakhstan's then head of state, President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Their assistance was requested in order to facilitate an air radar contract. This was then negotiated with the Government of Kazakhstan.

Richard Evans, BAE Systems' chairman, 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 15 May 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 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".[2]

Air Astana received its first Airbus A320neo in November 2016.[3] Until 8 December 2016, Air Astana was the only Kazakh airline allowed to fly to the European Union.[4]

Air Astana was the Official Air Carrier of Expo 2017[5] and the official carrier and general partner of the 2017 Winter Universiade, which took place from 29 January to 8 February 2017 in Almaty. Also in 2017, Air Astana took delivery of its first A321neo[6] and in 2018 the first Embraer E190-E2.[7] The E2 aircraft featured a special Snow leopard livery[8] to draw global attention to the threat of extinction faced by this large wild cat, which is a native to the mountain ranges of southern Kazakhstan. Air Astana also made donation to Kazakhstan’s Zoology Association, which is taking urgent action to protect the diminishing numbers of Snow leopards in the country.

In 2018, Air Astana marked its 16th anniversary with the opening of a new Aviation Technical Centre at Astana’s international airport, which enabled Air Astana to undertake all aircraft engineering and servicing requirements up to heavy maintenance level.[9] Air Astana decided to establish a low cost brand in 2018.[10]

In 2019, Air Astana took delivery of the first Airbus A321LR aircraft under an operating lease agreement with Air Lease Corporation and became the first operator of the aircraft type in the CIS.[11] Also in 2019, Air Astana became the first airline in Kazakhstan able to independently perform heavy maintenance C1 and C2 checks on Airbus family aircraft at its engineering bases in Almaty and Astana.[12]


In 2020, due to entry and exit restrictions imposed by a number of countries to limit the spread COVID-19, 95% of Air Astana flights have been cancelled between 22 March and 14 April 2020, with only 140 flights operated instead of almost 2,900.[13] Air Astana CEO in its message to passengers assured that all requests for rebooking and refunds will be managed and that "in 18 years Air Astana has never failed to meet its obligations to customers. That commitment is absolute and will not change".[14] Air Astana gradually restored its domestic flights from May 2020 and international flights from June, 2020.[15]

In 2021, Air Astana received the highest level 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by Skytrax;[16] and became the first airline from the CIS and Southeast Asia to successfully pass an APEX audit, with Diamond status being awarded for minimizing and preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus during flights.[17]

On 28 February and 1 March 2022, Air Astana successfully undertook repatriation flights for Kazakhstan citizens in Ukraine. Flights were operated between Katowice in southern Poland and Almaty/Astana. CEO Peter Foster went to Kyiv on the last international flight into the country on 23 February with Alexander Neboga, a senior colleague, to organize repatriation flights, and returned on the first of those.[18]

On 11 March 2022, Air Astana informed that due the withdrawal of insurance coverage for commercial flights to, from and over the Russian Federation, all flights to the Russian Federation were suspended with immediate effect.[19]

Air Astana signed an agreement with Air Lease Corporation for the long-term lease of three new wide-body Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The leased aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving from the first half of 2025.[20]

In 2023, Air Astana commissioned its new Flight Training Centre at Astana International Airport. The new training centre is equipped with the L3 Harris Reality Seven full-flight-simulator that delivers the most realistic training environment. The simulator is the first one with Air Astana and the first ever installation in Kazakhstan.[21]

In 2023, Air Astana completed its first six-year C-Check at the carrier’s engineering and technical center in Astana.[22]

In 2023, Air Astana Group achieved a record result for nine months of operation, total revenue and other income amounted to about $900.6 million, which is 20.5% more than a year ago, when the result was $747.2 million.[23]

In February 2024, Air Astana completed its initial public offering and was listed on the London, Astana and Kazakhstan stock exchanges.[24][25]

Corporate affairs


Air Astana employs over 6,000 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, the company introduced a general management training program at Cranfield University, since transferring to Henley Business School. The airline's cabin crew consists of over 1,100 flight attendants, all of whom are Kazakhstan nationals. Its management is a combination of Kazakhstani and foreign nationals.[citation needed]


In November 2018, the airline announced plans to launch a low-cost airline, FlyArystan. 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, FlyArystan operated 10 A320s with a further 7 on firm order through to 2023. The high passenger growth of FlyArystan (553% 2021 v 2020) has potentially contributed to Kazakhstan becoming the fastest-growing domestic aviation market in the world in 2021.

Business figures

Year Passenger traffic[26] Profit after tax (million USD )[26]
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


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 Astana 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). However, Kyiv was suspended again in February 2022 due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Activity in China and Korea

Prior to the pandemic, the airline operated daily flights to Beijing from both Almaty and Astana and flights to Ürümqi in Xinjiang. 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 Astana 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.[27]

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 Astana to Frankfurt (in code-share with Lufthansa) and London Heathrow, in addition to its Amsterdam and Frankfurt flights from Atyrau and Uralsk.

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 91 routes include 48 international and 43 domestic destinations. 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".

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. In addition to its existing Almaty-Seoul services, Air Astana launched a service from Astana to Seoul in June 2015. Air Astana operates from Astana to Frankfurt and to London Heathrow. The European services are connected with Air Astana's extensive domestic services as well as regional services in Central Asia and China.

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 travelers, were added in March 2021.[citation needed]

Codeshare agreements

Air Astana has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[28]

Interline agreements

Air Astana has interline agreements with the following airlines:[28]


Current fleet

The Air Astana fleet (excluding subsidiary airline FlyArystan) consists of the following aircraft (as of December 2022):[33][34][35]

Air Astana Group fleet (as of Jan 2024)[citation needed]
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
C Y Total
Airbus A320neo 6 5 16 132 148
Airbus A321-200 2 28 151 179
Airbus A321neo 5 2 28 151 179
156 184
Airbus A321LR 11 5 16 150 166
Boeing 767-300ER 3 30 193 223 Includes last passenger Boeing 767 ever built.[citation needed]
To be replaced with Boeing 787-9.[citation needed]
Boeing 787-9 3
Delivery starts in 2025.[citation needed]
Converted from previous firm orders for three 787-8s.[36]
Embraer E190-E2 5 12 96 108 To be phased out from 2024.[37]
Total 29 5

Fleet history

Air Astana formerly also operated the following aircraft types:[38]

Aircraft Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A319-100 2008 2018
Boeing 737-700 2002 2007
Boeing 737-800 2002 2007
Boeing 757-200 2003 2020
Embraer 190 2011 2020
Fokker 50 2004 2013


An Air Astana business class cabin
An Air Astana economy class cabin


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.

Frequent-flyer program

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.

Accidents and incidents


  1. ^ "Air Astana traffic up over 160% since 2006". 19 July 2016. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  2. ^ Hoyos, Carola (9 October 2013). "Offset side deals spark calls for transparency". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Air Astana takes delivery of its first A320neo". Airbus. 8 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Aviation Safety: Commission removes all Kazakh airlines from EU Air Safety List". European Commission. 8 December 2016.
  5. ^ "Astana Expo 2017 has an official air carrier". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Air Astana website". Air Astana website.
  7. ^ "Air Astana".
  8. ^ "Orders & Deliveries". FlightGlobal.
  9. ^ "Air Astana website".
  10. ^ "Air Astana's FlyArystan: Kazakhstan's new low cost option". CAPA. 28 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Air Astana press-releases".
  12. ^ "Air Astana провела первый C-check самолета Airbus A320 neo на технической базе в Алматы". 3 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Air Astana press-releases".
  14. ^ "Air Astana website".
  15. ^ "Air Astana website".
  16. ^ "Air Astana website".
  17. ^ "Air Astana website".
  18. ^ "Air Astana press-release".
  19. ^ "Air Astana website".
  20. ^ "Air Astana website".
  21. ^ "О новом центре летной подготовки рассказали в Air Astana". Kapital. 24 October 2023.
  22. ^ "Как Air Astana получила сертификат на проведение сложного техобслуживания самолётов". 21 December 2023.
  23. ^ "Kazakh Air Astana increases all types of income to record level". Kazakhstan Newsline. 13 December 2023.
  24. ^ Sekenova, Saniya (15 February 2024). "Air Astana Begins Trading on LSE, AIX and KASE". The Astana Times.
  25. ^ Gopinath, Swetha (9 February 2024). "Air Astana Holds Steady in Market Debut After IPO". Bloomberg News.
  26. ^ a b "Annual Reports". Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ a b "Air Astana Codeshare and Interline Partners". Vistara. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  29. ^ "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.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Liu, Jim (23 April 2019). "Air Astana expands KLM Europe codeshare to Madrid from April 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  32. ^ "Air Astana and Lufthansa Sign Codeshare Agreement |". 15 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  33. ^ "Air Astana Fleet | Airfleets aviation".
  34. ^ "Air Astana Fleet Details and History". 21 January 2024.
  35. ^ Сайдилла, Жанар (14 December 2022). "Air Astana презентовала новый борт на свой 20-летний юбилей ─". (in Russian). Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  36. ^ Waldron, Greg. "Air Astana chief eyes big 2023 after 'spectacularly successful' 2022". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  37. ^ "Air Astana decides to end operation with Embraer E190-E2". Air Data News. 6 July 2023. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  38. ^ "Air Astana Fleet – Airfleets aviation". Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.
  39. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Embraer ERJ-190LR (ERJ-190-100 LR)".
  40. ^ "Air Astana Pilots Receive Hugh Gordon-Burge Award". The Astana Times. 31 October 2022.

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