Kazakhstan-based Air Astana posted a 2019 first-half $7.2 million net loss, a 61% year-over-year (YOY) improvement compared to a net loss of $18.3 million in the year-ago period. The results were driven by improved operational efficiency.

Air Astana president and CEO Peter Foster said the airline achieved the improved results at a time of general weakness in the industry. “Our cost base remains one of the lowest in the world,” he said.

Interim revenue fell slightly to $372.6 million, down 3.6% YOY from $386.5 million in the year-ago half, while CASK improved 7% YOY to 5.33 cents.

“While revenue was marginally down, the company reported an operating profit of $6.8 million, with EBITDAR up 49% at $50 million, despite a challenging global economic backdrop,” Air Astana said.

During the six months ended June 30, Almaty-based Air Astana carried 2.1 million passengers, up 1% YOY.

However, this “marginally higher” passenger figure masks a 9% domestic traffic increase over the first half—including 20% growth in the second quarter and almost 40% in June alone—driven by the May launch of Air Astana’s new LCC, FlyArystan.

“This trend is expected to accelerate as a result of the strong traffic contributions from FlyArystan,” Air Astana said.

Air Astana hopes FlyArystan will stimulate demand in Kazakhstan’s “largely untapped” domestic and regional market.

“More than 80,000 FlyArystan tickets priced below KZT10,000 ($26) have been sold during the peak season, which has contributed to traffic through the hubs in Almaty and Nur-Sultan growing by 30%, and doubling from regional cities,” Air Astana said.

Air Astana, which operates a fleet of 36 aircraft on 66 routes from its hubs in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, took delivery of one Airbus A320neo and two Embraer E190-E2s during the first half.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@informa.com