Kazakhstan will establish a new regional airline, called Air Kazakhstan, to serve domestic routes with up to 10 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft. Kazakhstan is located in central Asia.
“We must register the new company by May, attract an operator—and we already know who it will be—buy these planes and deliver them by the end of this year,” Umirzak Shukeyev, head of the Samruk-Kazyna state investment fund, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“We will probably start flying early next year,” he said, adding that Air Astana and Air Kazakhstan are expected to be close partners.
Air Astana president Peter Foster said in a statement that “Air Astana has been involved in the discussions of the formation of a regional airline with our majority shareholder, Samruk-Kazyna, since we retired the Fokker 50 fleet last January.”
Many domestic airports cannot serve Air Astana’s all-jet fleet and the company needed to take steps to serve these cities with modern turboprops operating to internationally compliant standards. “We welcome the decision, and expect to work closely with the new airline to jointly develop these markets for the benefit of both airlines and of the traveling public,” Foster added.
The creation of Air Kazakhstan should allow Air Astana to focus mainly on international routes.
In 2001, Kazakhstan and Britain’s BAE Systems established Air Astana; Samruk-Kazyna owns 51% and BAE owns the rest. It offers a network of more than 60 international and domestic routes and operates an all-Western fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft, Boeing 767-300ERs, 757-200s and Embraer E-190s.