Kazakh flag carrier Air Astana is today (May 1) celebrating the first revenue flight of its new low-cost subsidiary, FlyArystan. Positioned as a “low fare, high quality” airline, it marks the latest commercial escalation the increasingly competitive CIS market. The budget firm is based at Almaty International, and starts with six domestic routes: Taraz; Shymkent; Pavlodar; Uralsk; Nur-Sultan (Astana) and Karaganda. Due to the enormous size of Kazakhstan, some sectors have scheduled journey times of up to three hours.
A 160-strong workforce supporting the new business has been established in Almaty, the former Kazakh capital, and home to Air Astana’s headquarters. According to the airline, this figure includes 25 pilots and 45 flight attendants, with many seconded from the parent company. The remainder are new recruits who, in addition to undertaking call centre reservations work, “are being trained to assist in ambassador roles at check in as part of the FlyArystan ground services team across the seven initial cities served”.
Fleet-wise, an initial two Airbus A320 jets have been supplied by Air Astana under its Air Operator’s Certificate. Both sport a bold red and white livery, emblazoned with the FlyArystan brand. A further two examples are due to follow in the Q4 of the year, by which time FlyArystan hopes to “be operating at least 12 routes and will be looking at obtaining an AOC in its own right” according to a statement from the carrier.
In addition to the new paint scheme, the narrowbodies have been retrofitted with 180 blue leather Recaro slimline seats, with a pitch of 29in (73.7cm) featuring red head-rests, the same colours as the cabin crew uniforms, designed by a local fashion house, working closely with Air Astana’s inflight team.
Speaking at the launch, Tim Jordan, head of FlyArystan said: “With this exciting new airline we are courting a new generation of travellers. People who typically get around our large country using the train or bus, or those who don’t travel at all. We are pitching FlyArystan at the visiting friends and relatives market, primarily. In turn this will stimulate the leisure market as a second strand, together with an element of business travel. A number of destinations handed over to us by Air Astana will suit a different, more price-conscious demographic.”
With ‘arystan’ translating to ‘lion’ in Kazakh, it is unsurprising that the animal forms the airline’s new corporate identity. “What we are doing with this new airline is delivering something new and different for the people of Kazakhstan. With our super low fares we are being brave and courageous – just like the lion – a popular and revered animal in Kazakhstan and central Asia,” Jordan continued.
Passengers travelling with up to 11lb (5kg) of hand or cabin baggage will not be charged, while those with 22lb (10kg) of luggage will incur a fee– dependent on whether the route is classed as “short, medium or long”. The ability to charge passengers for luggage is a relatively new development in the central Asian country, and was made possible due to the implementation of legislative changes.
In the medium term, FlyArystan plans to expand onto regional international routes, supported with a fleet growing to at least 15 by 2022.