Central Asia sees air traffic recovery driven by lowcosters

By bne IntelliNews October 2, 2023

Central Asian nations, including those in the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) region, have seen a significant recovery in air traffic, particularly driven by low-cost carriers (LCCs) following the COVID-19 pandemic, FlightGlobal reported, citing an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study. 

According to the report by the ADB, the CAREC region, which includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Georgia and Pakistan, has surpassed pre-pandemic seat capacity levels, with Central Asian nations being the only region in the world to do so.

FlyArystan, the low-cost subsidiary of Kazakhstan's Air Astana, has played a significant role in this recovery, flying 3.3mn passengers in 2022, compared to 700,000 in 2019, the report noted. Other LCCs like Uzbekistan Express have also contributed to the region's traffic growth.

However, the ADB suggests that there is still much more potential for growth and development in the region's aviation sector, the report said.

The ADB highlights the importance of rapid growth in LCCs for the CAREC region to achieve its goals of improving connectivity and boosting tourism, FlightGlobal reported. LCCs offer economic benefits by making air travel more affordable, stimulating demand in domestic and international markets, increasing tourism-related activities, and supporting the expansion of airports and job creation.

To foster LCC growth, the ADB recommends the implementation of more liberal open skies policies to create new route opportunities for airlines. Additionally, reducing visa requirements and addressing high airport costs, which are often above global averages, is essential. Lowering these costs can help LCCs stimulate demand by keeping fares competitive and affordable for passengers.

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