An attempt by the government of Kazakhstan to stave off an exodus of foreign investors this past February not only saw the abrupt devaluation of the country’s currency, it meant that national carrier Air Astana would have to curtail its ambitious growth plans. “The devaluation forced us to slam on the brakes on new aircraft orders,” said company president Peter Foster during a recent press conference in London.
The European Commission has lifted flight restrictions into Europe imposed on all operators from Swaziland, as well as for Cebu Pacific in the Philippines and Kazakhstan’s Air Astana with the latest revision of the EU air safety list, or so-called blacklist. The EC said it based its decisions on various sources and hearings before the EU Air Safety Committee, which met from March 25 to 27.
The Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan plans to launch a domestic airline, Air Kazakhstan, in early 2015 with a fleet of 10 new Bombardier Q400 twin turboprops.
Resolved on tapping the booming Central Asian market, global alliances SkyTeam, OneWorld and Star Alliance have approached Kazakhstan national carrier Air Astana with offers to join their ranks. In response, the airline recently commissioned U.S.-based Seabury Group to prepare a report on whether it should enter an alliance “and which one, because all alliances want us to join them,” Air Astana president Peter Foster told AIN in Astana recently.
As oil and gas wells overflow in Kazakhstan, Air Astana–the national carrier of the newly enriched former Soviet republic–is looking deep into Asia to expand its network. Its inclusion on the European Union blacklist, which frustrates its ambitions to expand west, lies at the heart of its strategy. Air Astana’s discussions over a code-share partnership with Royal Jordanian, which follows an analogous strategy, is no coincidence.
The European Union’s so-called safety blacklist, which bans carriers from specified countries deemed to have inadequate safety regulation standards, has been condemned as “misguided” by Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). During last month’s Central Asian summit on aviation safety, Tyler highlighted the bans on summit host Kazakhstan and its neighbor Kyrgyzstan. Carriers from these countries are banned from operating in EU airspace, with the partial exception of Kazakhstan’s Air Astana, which can operate only some of its fleet.
Robert Bryant has joined UK-based International Bureau of Aviation as manager of technical projects. He joins the firm from SpiceJet in India, where he was vice president. He has also held senior positions at Air Astana and Al Salam Aircraft and has worked with carriers such as British Airways and Saudia. An IBA spokesman said the consulting firm has seen demand for expert-witness testimony in the field of aircraft maintenance increase 400 percent over the last two years. IBA advises commercial and business aviation clients, aircraft engine manufacturers and operators.
In late May Embraer celebrated the entry into service of the first of two E190s with Air Astana, the national flag carrier of Kazakhstan, in a ceremony at the airline’s headquarters, in Almaty. The airline operates the airplane on a lease agreement from Florida’s Jetscape. Air Astana also signed a lease deal with Steven Udvar Hazy’s Air Lease Corp.