ASTANA – In paying closer attention to technology trends and, perhaps, the sky, capital and Almaty residents may have noticed air services operating at an increasing pace. Aue Taxi, Kazakhstan’s first and only air taxi service, allows passengers to travel on demand in the comfort of a helicopter.
Launched by Astana Business Aviation in 2014, the taxi service also conducts passenger and cargo charter flights. In an interview with The Astana Times, company director Kaisar Shynybayev spoke about what drives him, his business and his clients.
A Satbayev Kazakh National Technical University graduate, Shynybayev majored in engineering and pursued entrepreneurship after his studies.
“At the beginning of my career, I was engaged in various business areas,” he said. “This experience has taught me to build relationships with clients and partners, monitor the market, set goals and understand that the outcome ultimately depends on you alone. Perhaps, this is what determined the fact that I started my own business.”
Shynybayev launched Aue Taxi in response to a natural demand for helicopter flights.
“The helicopter is a more mobile vehicle than most and it has a number of advantages over the airplane when it comes to short distances,” he noted. “For example, when the highway is closed off due to bad weather, a helicopter is an excellent alternative to a car. When you need to fly to a hard-to-reach place or where there is no runway at all, a helicopter is what comes to your rescue.”
Initially, the taxi service transported passengers and cargo on Kazakh territory on an individual application basis.
“As in any business, when you enter the market you inevitably face issues such as tough competition, unscrupulous suppliers and minor technical hiccups. All these factors may contribute to losses in investment, customers and reputation,” said Shynybayev. “Therefore, we had to work hard, frequently check on suppliers, personally meet and attend to every client and find problem-solving people to provide the necessary support for our clients.”
His entrepreneurial nature soon drove him to make helicopter flights more accessible to the average consumer. The idea to organise excursion flights, where anyone could purchase a place on board rather than rent an entire helicopter, came in the months prior to EXPO 2017. Before long, Aue Taxi’s efforts were recognised with the Partner of Astana City award.
The cost depends on the distance, number of passengers and hours in flight. A group flight is 55,000 tenge (US$152.79) per person and a private trip will set customers back 340,000 tenge (US$944.52). To date, the taxi service has served more than 300 passengers and conducted in excess of 100 flights.
A variety of people choose to sightsee via helicopter. Sometimes, a gift certificate from a friend or colleague nudges individuals to seek such a unique experience. Clients who value their comfort and time are the ones who usually rent helicopters across a customised route, such as to visit production facilities. Celebrating wedding anniversaries or making marriage proposals in the air have also become popular activities.
Opting to journey by helicopter, rather than by a ground or water vehicle, allows passengers to have a bird’s eye view of the capital’s architecture and scenery. A typical route includes impressive sights of its parks, shopping and entertainment centres, sports stadiums, universities, theatres and famous monuments. An Almaty route tours above more natural landscapes such as Medeo Skating Rink, Shymbulak Ski Resort, Turgen Waterfall and Charyn Canyon. Sightseers may also embark on a flight over Burabai resort, Elikty Park ski and recreation centre, ALZHIR memorial museum and site and even glaciers, which are otherwise closed to regular modes of transport.
“First, it is a beautiful experience. Astana is a very beautiful city with unusual architecture, but you can only truly appreciate its beauty from a bird’s eye view,” noted Shynybayev. “From the helicopter’s large window, you may admire the ornaments shaped by flower gardens, the winding paths of parks and the sheer height of buildings. In Almaty, onlookers are impressed in a distinctly different way by the indescribably beautiful nature. Secondly, unlike an airplane, a helicopter soars at a height of 200 metres above ground and thus conveys the feeling that if you were to stretch out your hand, you could touch the top of Khan Shatyr or a mountain.”
The helicopters take flight any time of the year, promising both comfort and safety during the winter.
“If the purpose of your trip is an excursion, a photography trip or you just want to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, then summer is undoubtedly the best period to go,” he added.
Aue Taxi will continue expanding its services. Having recently obtained permission for new routes, the business will continue developing its presence in Almaty and, at a later point, other Kazakh cities.
“For each person, flying is something personal. For me, above all, it involves a conviction that everything is possible in life. After each flight, you come to understand that your limits rest in your head alone and seek to set more ambitious goals, reach new heights and sense an inner freedom,” said Shynybayev.