Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s principal airline, is marking its ninth anniversary by officially presenting the first new Embraer E-190 airliner at a ceremony attended by VIPs, government officials and the media in Almaty today. The Embraer E-190 has been selected to increase domestic and regional services from Almaty, the carrier’s hub for Central Asia, with new services to Tbilisi, capital of Georgia and Samara in southern Russia starting on 2nd June 2011.
The first aircraft arrived in Almaty on 30th April and has already started operating on domestic routes from Almaty to Karaganda, Pavlodar, Aktau and Atyrau, as well as on regional routes from Almaty to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan and Bishkek, capital of Kyrgystan.
Air Astana is committed to an initial fleet of six Embraer E-190s, with three leased aircraft being delivered in 2011 and two purchased plus one further leased aircraft arriving in 2012. Air Astana’s E-190s are configured with 97 seats in a two-class layout and will operate alongside the existing fleet of Airbus A320 Family aircraft on the regional/domestic network. The new aircraft will also gradually replace the fleet of six Fokker 50 turboprops, that will all be retired by the end of 2012.
A total of 23 Air Astana pilots have been trained to fly the Embraer E-190 at Flight Safety International in Paris, with more crews for the next two aircraft already under training at the same facility. Pilot training for the E-190 will be brought in-house following the installation of an Enhanced Virtual Procedures Trainer (EVPT) at Air Astana’s in-house training facility in Almaty in early 2012. The airline already has Airbus and Boeing EVPT capability. Air Astana has additionally trained cabin crew and engineers for Embraer E-190 operations.
“The Embraer E-190’s range, efficiency, size and passenger comfort is ideal for Air Astana and will enable us to further grow our network within Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the CIS, as we continue to develop our position as the region’s airline of choice in terms of network and service. We expect to expand our E190 fleet in the future as more traffic flows onto our long haul Asian and European services out of Almaty,” said Peter Foster, President of Air Astana.
The Embraer 190 was selected for its advanced design, passenger comfort and operating efficiency, with low maintenance costs and fuel burn. The twin-engine jet is optimised for medium range flights, with a maximum capability of flying 4,500km.
Air Astana achieved a record net profit of US$ 77.71 million (audited) in 2010, up 61% over 2009, on sales of $656 million. Total seating capacity increased by 4% to 7.4 million RPKs and the number of passengers carried increased by 17% to 2.59 million. Service highlights during 2010 included the launch of several new regional services from Almaty and Astana, the introduction of KCTV in Business Class on long-haul services, and the installation of flat beds in Business Class on the Boeing 757.
Air Astana is a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna (51%) and BAE Systems PLC (49%). It operates 24 aircraft on 23 domestic and 31 international routes.