ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s international flagship carrier, Air Astana, is celebrating its 11th year in the skies. On May 15, 2002, Air Astana completed its first flight from Almaty to Astana.
Currently, Air Astana’s network of flights includes 63 destinations in Kazakhstan and abroad and its fleet consists of 26 modern, Western-built aircraft. In the 11 years of its existence, the airline has completed more than 230,000 flights and carried more than 20 million passengers and 112,000 tons of cargo.
Air Astana has become the first carrier based in Russia, the CIS and Eastern Europe to be awarded the prestigious 4-star rating by Skytrax. Air Astana was also named Best Airline in Central Asia and India at the 2012 World Airline Awards held at the Farnborough Air Show. Air Astana now ranks amongst the world’s best airlines for passenger service both in the air and on the ground.
On May 6, Air Astana received its first A320 aircraft equipped with Airbus’s Sharklet fuel-saving wing-tip devices.
The aircraft is one of six Air Astana has purchased of the Airbus A320 family. The purchase agreement was signed during the official visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to France in 2008. Air Astana’s first Airbus A321 was included in its fleet in November 2012. Air Astana is currently operating one A319, seven A320s and four A321s.
The new Airbus A320 will fly to Astana, Aktau, Kiev, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and other destinations.
“We are delighted to receive our first A320 Sharklet-equipped aircraft, which will optimise our operating costs significantly while reducing the environmental impact,” Peter Foster, president of Air Astana, said.
“With the delivery of the first Sharklet-equipped aircraft, Air Astana can benefit from lower operation costs and an extended range. Further A320 family arrivals later this year will contribute to the airline’s expansion and growth plans,” Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said.
On April 1, Air Astana launched a new non-stop service from Atyrau to Moscow. The service operates three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) and takes two hours 40 minutes on an Embraer 190 configured in a 97-seat, two-class configuration. The minimum cost of a round-trip economy class ticket from Atyrau to Moscow, including all fees, is $316; a business class ticket is $1,840.
“The Russian Federation is a strategically important economic, industrial and political partner of Kazakhstan. Given these strong and long-standing relationships within the Customs Union and other initiatives between the two countries, it is a very significant step for Air Astana to link Atyrau, the economically promising oil region of Kazakhstan, to Moscow, the business, finance and transport centre of Russia,” Air Astana’s Senior Vice President for Government, Regulatory Affairs and Security Yerbol Ospanov said.
The launch of the new flight provides passengers traveling from Europe with a convenient connection via Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport to Western Kazakhstan, adding to existing flights from Amsterdam and Istanbul.
In addition, Air Astana launched a new nonstop flight from Astana to Orenburg, in Southern Russia, on April 16. The new service links Kazakhstan’s capital with one of the major cities of the Ural region on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The two-hour flight is operated on an Embraer 190 in a two-class, 97-seat configuration.
“The new service between Kazakhstan’s capital and Orenburg will allow the largest Kazakh diaspora in Russia, business executives and government officials to travel directly and comfortably between the two countries. The continuing expansion of direct services from Astana is part of the airline’s strategy to develop Kazakhstan as the leading transit hub for Eurasia,” Air Astana’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing Ibrahim Zhanliel said.
The minimum cost of a round-trip economy class ticket from Astana to Orenburg, including all fees, is $125; a business class ticket is $836.
As for the Central Asian region, Air Astana launched a new nonstop flight from Astana to Bishkek on April 23. The new two-hour flight linking the capitals of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan flies on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays in an Embraer 190 configured with nine business and 88 economy seats.
“The launch of the new services between Astana and Bishkek is the next step in Air Astana’s strategy for regional expansion. The new thrice-weekly services between Astana and Bishkek in addition to the existing five-days-a-week service from Almaty will contribute to boosting business ties between the two capitals. The schedule of new flights has been planned to provide good connections for passengers travelling from Bishkek via Astana to destinations in Russia, such as Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg, Omsk and Moscow. The new flight will also enable passengers from Kyrgyzstan to travel on to Air Astana’s European network, with destinations including Istanbul and Frankfurt. Air Astana is using the new Embraer 190 regional jet for the new route to Bishkek, with customers enjoying Skytrax 4-star award-winning comfort and cabin service,” Richard Ledger, Air Astana’s worldwide sales director, said.
The minimum cost of a round-trip economy class ticket from Astana to Bishkek, including all fees, is $246.31; a business class ticket is $584.31.
Within the CIS, Air Astana has become one of the first operators of A320s equipped with Sharklet winglets.
Sharklets are newly designed 2.4 metre tall wingtip devices made from lightweight composites that improve the aircraft’s aerodynamics. Sharklets are an option on new A320 family aircraft, of which Air Astana is the 13th operator worldwide and first in the region. By operating the aircraft, Air Astana will be offering an environmentally friendly service by reducing its fuel burn up to four percent on longer sectors and carbon emissions by 1,000 tons per year for one aircraft. Moreover, Sharklets offer the flexibility of either adding around 200 kilometres more range or allowing an increased payload capability of up to 450 kilogrammes.
Air Astana’s A320, powered by IAE V2500 engines, features a comfortable two-class cabin layout, seating 148 passengers, 16 in business class and 132 in economy.
The A320 family (composed of the A318, A319, A320 and A321) is the world’s best-selling and most modern single-aisle aircraft family. According to Airbus, over 9,400 aircraft have been ordered and over 5,500 delivered to more than 385 customers and operators worldwide to date.
The A320 single-aisle jetliner family is considered the world’s most eco-efficient single-aisle product line. It is used in a full range of services, from very short-haul airline routes to intercontinental segments, on operations from challenging city airports to high-altitude airfields and an Antarctic ice runway.
At present, Airbus is continuing to invest in improvements across the product line, including developing the A320neo new engine option, enhancing the jetliner’s aerodynamics with modifications like the Sharklets wingtip devices, upgrading to the widest passenger cabin in its class and extending service intervals for the airframe.
The A320 family offers all of the benefits of Airbus’ advances in innovation and technology. Since the introduction of the A320’s in 1988, this highly capable jetliner product line has transported approximately 90 percent of the world’s population in total numbers, carrying some six billion passengers.
By totally redefining the level of comfort for passengers and delivering unmatched efficiency plus the best in technology for operators, the A320 family has won a majority market share in segments that range from mainline network carriers and low-cost airlines to charter operators and leasing companies. It also has become an aircraft of choice for VIP and government transportation with its Airbus Corporate Jetliner versions. Airbus invests more than 100 million euros annually in keeping the aircraft highly competitive and efficient.
In addition to the A320neo and Sharklets, Airbus has continuously improved payload and range in the A320 family, while various aerodynamic refinements have brought additional reductions in drag for better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. To meet the A320 family’s growing worldwide demand, Airbus increased its output to 42 aircraft per month in 2012, the highest-ever rate for any commercial aircraft.
The A320 family is produced on two Airbus assembly lines in Europe, in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany, which have been complemented by an additional facility in China. Toulouse is home to the initial assembly line and builds A320s; Hamburg has responsibility for the A318, A319 and A321; Tianjin assembles A319s and A320s.
Advanced navigation technology contributes to the A320’s operational flexibility. This includes the Required Navigation Performance (RNP) capability, which reduces approach distances for landing while reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions; and the Global Position (GPS) landing system, allowing instrument-type approaches where ground stations are not available. The Microwave Landing System (MLS) for increased approach capability in low visibility conditions and the Future Air Navigation System (FANS) for optimised flight path and reduced aircraft spacing are also offered.
Airbus has developed a new interior for the A320 and its other family members that brings a fresh new look to the cabin, a significant increase in overhead stowage, a noticeable reduction in noise and new options for ambience lighting. An added advantage is this updated interior’s lower weight.