According to chief executive Peter Foster, Kazakhstan’s flag carrier Air Astana is accelerating its growth ambitions to take advantage of a decline in air travel via Russia and the reopening of China.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, many international airlines suspended service to that country. Moscow no longer serves as a hub for flights connecting Europe and Asia as a result, which has allowed Kazakhstan, Moscow’s southern neighbor, to increase its market share.
“Prior to the start of the war in Ukraine, a lot of traffic in general, going in the western direction, whether that was to Europe or to the U.S., was traveling from this region via the Russian Federation,” Foster said in an interview.
“Obviously, that is no longer the case. And so what has happened is there has been a shift of gravity and we are extremely well placed to take advantage of that shift.”
Even though the firm has stopped flying to Russia, Air Astana, which is partially controlled by Britain’s BAE Systems, reported a record profit of $78.4 million last year as its traffic increased 11% to 7.4 million passengers.
According to Foster, the company is speeding its expansion plans for the next years and expects to increase its fleet from its current 44 to 50 aircraft by the end of this year.
“We are making more orders for 2024-27. I think it’s common knowledge now that the 787 Dreamliner will arrive in 2025. So we will continue to expand the fleet both with those aircraft and with more Airbus 320 family aircraft,” he said.
“We see very big opportunities in China, as China has opened again, following COVID, India is doing well.., Pakistan is a growth market.”
Foster claimed that Air Astana was successful in resolving supply chain challenges brought on by Western sanctions on Moscow, which affected numerous Central Asian companies who purchased Western goods and had them transit through Russia.
“Supply chains have a way of finding alternative methods,” Foster said. “And that’s been resolved, we have no problem with accessing spare parts,”
With a 51% share in Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund intends to list the business publicly the following year.
(Adapted from Nasdaq.com)