ASTANA – Paris has long been one of the most-favourable travel destinations and the increasing number of tourists from Kazakhstan highlights its desirability. Convenient opportunities for travelers, such as a direct flight between Astana and the City of Lights, could further help to encourage the tourist trade.
Kazakh and French transport authorities signed a protocol to launch a three-time-a-week direct service between Astana and Paris during Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s official visit in June 2011. Despite some restrictions on Air Astana’s flights to Europe since 2009 due to the decision by the European Union air safety commission, the airline is able to increase its number of flights to Europe.
A new service from Almaty to Paris via Astana began March 29 on a Boeing 757, which can carry 228 passengers and is configured with 16 business and 150 economy class seats. Moreover, passengers to and from Paris have the opportunity to choose the economy sleeper class, benefited by three seats in a separate cabin and a mattress and pillow for a comfortable trip.
Carrying a full planeload of passengers, the inaugural flight left the Kazakh capital at 2 p.m. on March 29, and arrived 5:05 p.m. local time at Charles de Gaulle Airport. More than 20,000 passengers are expected to take advantage of this direct flight by the end of the year, said Air Astana President Peter Foster.
“The new service to Paris is a major step in developing Air Astana’s European network and serves to strengthen economic, diplomatic, cultural and tourism links between France and Kazakhstan,” he added in comments carried over by Air Astana and at the press conference to announce the new flight on April 1 at Astana’s Radisson Hotel. “If we take into account the fact that the development of tourism is one of the main priorities of Kazakhstan, the comfortable direct flights play a crucial role in terms of encouraging tourist attraction.”
His comments were echoed by Francis Etienne, French ambassador to Kazakhstan.
“The beginning of direct flights between the two capitals will improve relations and cooperation between the two nations,” he said elaborating on how this will impact not only tourism, but also cultural and educational ties. “Sixty-five million people in France and 17 million people in Kazakhstan are the millions of reasons for this flight,” he said at the press conference with Foster.
Travel has also been aided by the decision of the Kazakh government to provide a visa-free regime from July 15, 2014 to July 15, 2015. Citizens of the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Korea and Japan and holders of valid diplomatic, official and national passports can repeatedly enter, exit and fly through Kazakh territory without visas up to 15 calendar days after crossing the state border. As a result, French tourists can easily go to Kazakhstan using the direct flight.
In addition, Air Astana is planning to open new international routes this summer from Astana to Seoul and Tbilisi. The direct connection between the capitals of Georgia and Kazakhstan will begin operating June 2 and a month later the airline will link the Kazakh capital with its Korean counterpart.
Air Astana celebrated triple success at the 2014 World Airline Awards held at the Farnborough International Airshow, where the company was named the Best Airline in Central Asia and India for the third consecutive time and received the award for Best Staff Service in Central Asia and India for the second consecutive time. Since 2012, Air Astana has been rated as a Four Star carrier by Skytrax, the only airline in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States to achieve this honour.