Air Astana is expanding into Europe, planning to replace its narrowbody fleet and is considering membership into an alliance for future growth.

The Kazakhstan-based carrier has launched 3X-weekly service from London Heathrow to Astana, following the lifting of safety restrictions by the European Union in April.

Air Astana president Peter Foster said the carrier is setting about this expansion “very carefully”; it could not plan for it beforehand “because we didn’t have advance knowledge these [EU] restrictions would be lifted.”

Air Astana is preparing to issue a request for proposal (RFP) this summer to leasing companies as it seeks to replace its Boeing 757-200s. Among the narrowbody candidates are the Airbus A321neo and the Boeing 737 MAX. The carrier hopes to make a decision by October or November, Foster said.

Air Astana plans to widen its European network by adding service to Paris this fall and to Prague in the spring of 2015, complementing established European routes to Frankfurt and Amsterdam. New summer charter routes to Rhodes, Heraklion and Barcelona will also commence from June.

To help the carrier decide on an alliance affiliation, Air Astana said it has enlisted Seabury Group. The airline has codeshare agreements with three Star Alliance carriers, as well as with Etihad Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Air Astana operates 31 aircraft, including the Boeing 767-300ER, 757-200, Airbus A320 family and Embraer E-190 aircraft. It serves 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau.

In 2013, Air Astana’s passenger numbers increased 13.5%, to 3.7 million; revenues were up 10.5% to $967 million.