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AS OIL PRICES BEGIN AN UPWARD TRAJECTORY, oil-rich
Kazakhstan is starting to see an economic recovery with real GDP
growing 4.2 percent in early 2017 compared to a 0.1 percent rise in
the same period in 2016 directly a ecting the fortunes of Central
Asia's largest airline Air Astana.
" The past two years have been difficult with the tenge (Ka-
zakhstan's currency taking a freefall but
2017 is looking better...life for airlines (here
remains very tough " said Foster. He ac-
knowledged that competition including
with government-owned SCAT "has got
its act together...while we are not afraid of
competition we have to be conscious that
the domestic market is very limited." As a
result Air Astana is expanding into inter-
national markets. "That is why we are here
(India " said Foster who said the airline
hopes to expand beyond its 46 international
and 20 domestic destinations.
India and Kazakhstan share a strategic
relationship and "we wish to strengthen air
connectivity between the two countries "
said GV Srinivas joint secretary of the Min-
istry of External A airs for India.
Air Astana has been flying to Delhi for
the past 13 years with seven daily flights
to Almaty and three to Astana. Starting in
the summer of next year Delhi is expect-
ed to get two more flights to Astana and
services will start from Mumbai to Almaty
in 2019. Foster did add that there was an
"imbalance" in traveller numbers. " There
is great potential from India. We have only
scratched the surface."
While tra ic rights exist to India the painful issue of slot availability
in Delhi and Mumbai is hurting. Foster said: "Slot allocation has to
be seen as transparent and fair." One of the issues is "grandfathered
rights-slots held by national airlines around the world. That creates
capacity problems." The problem is not confined to India. Two flights
planned to Beijing this summer had to be pulled back due to capac-
ity constraints explained Foster.
Plans for expansion in the Asia-Pacific region include more flights
by 2020 to Bangkok Seoul Chengdu and Xian and to Hong Kong
next year in a codeshare with Cathay Pacific that will soon be signed
Foster said. On whether New York is in the cards Foster said: "If we
decide to it will be using the B-787."
In its home region as Russia bounces back Air Astana is seeing
its fortunes rise. "Russia is one of the most adaptable markets in the
world. When the rouble fell due to sanctions it adjusted its econ-
omy on domestic production and became
self-su icient. Now the banking system is
in good shape and banks are able to o er
credit. This has kick-started the economy
(and travel said Foster.
Air Astana has been quick to realise the
potential of Uzbekistan as well following
the installation of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as
president. He has liberalised rules including
loosening travel restrictions on the return
of people of Uzbek descent settled abroad.
Air Astana pilots are presently training on
the full-flight simulator of the A320 aircraft
of Uzbekistan Airways in Tashkent. The
award of the JAR 66 license to the airline
means "we can now train our own engi-
neers which is a big deal for us" Foster
says. Maintenance of its narrowbody air-
craft is done at Haeco China and Embraer
in Portugal. A new hangar will be inaugurat-
ed this winter at Astana where Air Astana
is moving its operations.
Fleet expansion is mostly being fuelled
by the A320neo family (17 added Embraer
190 NG E2s (five added and three 787s.
The airline wants to increase its fleet from
the present 31 aircraft to 64 by 2025. Air
Astana has had its share of trouble with its
single A320neo having to undergo at least four engine changes
that Foster calls "not a very good track record" while adding "Pratt
and Whitney have been good at getting the replacements and
supporting the engine"
The airline is also planning a public o ering of shares in 2018 and
Foster says the airline will likely have a dual listing in Astana and
London. "We see no reason to delay it. We see a window opening
for October next year. It will be over in six months starting from the
third quarter of 2018 and first quarter of 2019 " Foster says.
Air A ana mov ah ad
Con ri u or Neelam Mathews au h up wi h Air A ana' pr id n and CEO, P r Fo r,
durin a r n vi i o India o di u xpan ion plan for D lhi and Mum ai and hi vi w
on h fu ur of hi dynami airlin .
The t t o e r h e
bee di fic lt ith the
te e t ki ree ll b t
2017 i looki better...li e
or irli e (here) rem i
er to h.
PETER FO TER, AIR A TANA
PRE IDENT AND CEO
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