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Air Astana Kazakhstan

Posted on July 16, 2016 – 11:22 pm

Air Astana Boeing 767-300ER

Air Astana (Kazakh: Эйр Астана) is the principal airline and the flag carrier of the Republic of Kazakhstan, based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It operates scheduled domestic and international services on 64 routes from its main hub, Almaty International Airport, and from its secondary hub, Astana International Airport. It is a joint venture between Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna (51%), and BAE Systems PLC (49%). It was incorporated in October 2001 and started commercial flights on 15 May 2002.

The exclusive status of "Official Air Carrier of EXPO-2017” was granted to Kazakhstan's flag carrier Air Astana.


Air Astana was described by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in January 2012 as having "performed better in its first decade than just about any other start-up carrier" (CAPA, Airline Analysis, 9 January 2012). Yet its origins represent one of the more intriguing and unlikely stories to have emerged from the airline industry in recent times. Originally conceived as purely domestic airline, BAE Systems agreed in mid-2001 to participate in the proposed start-up at the request of Kazakhstan's head of state, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in order to facilitate an air radar contract it was then negotiating with the Government of Kazakhstan. Sir Richard Evans, BAE Systems’ chairman at the time, was instrumental in and key to the deal. However, the radar contract never materialized, and subsequent senior management changes and strategic reviews at BAE Systems led to the closure of its offices in Kazakhstan. Additionally, notwithstanding the support of Nazarbayev and a number of close advisors, the start-up, initially seen as a foreign entity, was confronted with immediate and vocal opposition from many elements of Kazakhstan's media and political establishment.

2002 – 2005[edit]

In spite of these gloomy auguries the airline took off on the charge. Under its first operational president, former British Airways executive Lloyd Paxton (there had been a brace of short-lived pre-operational incumbents), it leased its first 3 Boeing 737s from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and commenced Commercial operations on 15 May 2002. In late 2002 Fokker 50s were leased from Aircraft Finance Trading BV (AFT) and 3 Boeing 757s from Pegasus Leasing Corp. It declared a net profit in 2003, its first full year of operations. Upon the bankruptcy of the previous flag carrier Air Kazakhstan in February 2004, it moved quickly to expand from its domestic network to key international routes to Dubai, Istanbul, Moscow and Beijing, followed by Frankfurt and London.

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