Kazakhstan’s flag carrier Air Astana intends to launch a low-fare airline, FlyArystan (“FlyLion”), in the first half of 2019.
The initial aim is to increase domestic connectivity—however, Air Astana hopes to eventually expand FlyArystan’s regional and international links as well. Most Kazakhs among Kazakhstan’s population of 18.3mn cannot afford to take flights to travel between different parts of their country—the ninth largest in the world at 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 square miles)—and so often resort to using train services instead. Travelling between certain Kazakh cities can take up more than a few days.
FlyArystan’s fares would be “approximately half of what Air Astana offers today”, Almaty-based Air Astana said, adding that the low-cost model would follow “examples of highly successful airlines such as Easyjet, Indigo, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia”.
Meanwhile, an IPO of a 25% stake in Air Astana is to be scheduled for some time in 2019 or 2020 in an attempt to attract foreign investors.
The airline, launched in 2002, is a 51:49 joint venture of Kazakh sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna and the UK’s BAE Systems.
Confirmed routes for the airline’s low-cost carrier (LCC) are yet to be announced.
Four all-economy A320s
The new carrier will initially operate a fleet of four Airbus A320 aircraft, configured as all-economy class service with 180 seats on offer per flight.
“FlyArystan is the result of much serious thought and internal business planning and comes as a result of a rapidly changing local and regional airline business environment,” president and CEO of Air Astana, Peter Foster, said.
“It will be good for the mid to long-term prospects of Air Astana, and we hope, very welcome to the Kazakhstan travelling public, who will be able to benefit from significantly cheaper airfares on domestic and regional routes,” he added.
The airline won’t require any capital shareholders and will be entirely privately funded by Air Astana, Foster noted. No state subsidies or external financial support of any kind would be necessitated either.
“Classic LCC model”
The new airline would operate a “classic LCC model” led by British-Australian national Tim Jordan, who has over 15 years of experience in senior LCC management at Cebu Pacific and Virgin Blue, Foster added.
In June, Air Astana upgraded its Astana-London Heathrow service to daily.
The airline has also launched two routes to Germany over the past year thanks to a new codesharing partnership with Lufthansa. It allowed Air Astana to operate four Kazakhstan-Germany routes in summer 2018, with Lufthansa operating a fifth route, CAPA added.
Air Astana had more than 22,000 weekly one-way seats to Europe in July 2018 and August 2018, up by 10% compared to the peak summer months in 2017 and 30% compared to the same period of 2016.