Kazakhstan’s first budget carrier—Air Astana subsidiary FlyArystan—on Wednesday launched services from its Almaty base to the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan with one of its two Airbus A320s. FlyArystan will initially operate six domestic routes, with journey times from one to three hours to Taraz, Shymkent, Pavlodar, Uralsk, Nur-Sultan (Astana), and Karaganda, most of which lie on the periphery of the country.
Aimed at computer literate first-time travelers, the Kazakh budget model resembles that of successful Indian budget carrier IndiGo, Air Astana president and CEO Peter Foster told AIN.
By mid-October to November, when two more A320s join the fleet, FlyArystan will start to fly regional international routes to neighboring Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations and Russia, said Foster. Plans call for the fleet to grow to 15 airplanes by 2022. Foster revealed the airline would establish bases through joint ventures in neighboring countries “much like Malaysia’s Air Asia,” he added.
“They’ve got the planes, the know-how, and the first mover advantage,” opined Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst at Malaysian consultancy Endau Analytics. “I believe they will make it work within two to three years, if not sooner.”
Foster said exposure to IndiGo’s operations and training at its headquarters and outstations had benefitted his team in a big way. “They [IndiGo] were very accessible and generous,” he explained. “It is a very high-quality product and we will replicate their model here.”
“Operating an LCC anywhere is broadly similar and there is no reason Central Asia would be different; high seat density and high utilization are two of the most important fundamentals,” IndiGo chief commercial officer William Boulter told AIN.
Air Astana, meanwhile, plans to reduce slowly but steadily its domestic operation to a few metropolitan and oilfield airports with a high volume of business travel. Foster also told AIN that Air Astana would fly to New York using a Boeing 767 with “a north European stop” by early 2021. He added that Kazakh government subsidies would likely cover Tokyo and New York.
Foster insists FlyArystan will employ a classic low-cost model, including no premium seats, no global distribution system, no interlining nor alliances, and no free baggage allowances apart from 5 kg of cabin baggage.