Kazakhstan’s Air Astana Group has registered a net profit of US$4.9 million for the first six months of 2021, recovering from a loss of US$66.2 million for the period January to June 2020. Passengers carried increased by 91% to 2.97 million, of which 2.5 million were carried on domestic routes, an increase of 125%.

Commenting on the turnaround, President & CEO Peter Foster ”The two brands, Air Astana and our LCC FlyArystan, have both performed well on domestic routes. Strong market growth and a preference for air travel over long rail journeys have transformed Kazakhstan into the world’s fastest growing domestic market, with 31% passenger growth over 2019, undoubtedly stimulated by FlyArystan’s ultra-low fares.” FlyArystan was launched in May 2019.

Whilst international capacity remains at 45% of the level of 2019, Foster pointed out that “higher yields on regional routes, coupled with high demand on ‘lifestyle’ routes to The Maldives, Red Sea, Montenegro, Dubai, Turkey, Georgia and Sri Lanka, have also contributed to the turnaround, assisted by regular cargo charters on our converted Boeing 767”.

Foster cautioned on guidance for the remainder of the year however. “Covid case numbers are again moving in the wrong direction in Central Asia and many of the countries to where we are flying. Whether the recovery will be sustainable will come down to a race between covid variants and vaccine take-up.”

Air Astana is a joint venture owned by the Samruk Kazyna Wealth Fund (51%) and BAE Systems PLC 49%). It presently operates 36 aircraft of which 10 A320s are operated by FlyArystan.