Air Astana puts write-up-crisis emphasis on to domestic and leisure markets | Interview

Strong company in the Kazakh domestic current market and an improved emphasis on point-to-level and leisure routes are critical to revamped exercise at Air Astana as the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshape the airline sector.

Air Astana’s key traveling action at the top of the crisis involved services from Kazakhstan’s western oil fields to Amsterdam with an Airbus A321neo, together with some advert-hoc repatriation and cargo constitution work.

Peter Foster - President and CEO, Air Astana

But since scheduled passenger solutions resumed in May possibly as journey restrictions began to relieve, domestic services have grow to be a mainstay of the group’s activities.

“Our domestic market place is undertaking completely wonderful – that’s been a life-saver,” Air Astana main govt Peter Foster describes in an interview with FlightGlobal. “We are earlier mentioned where we were being final 12 months.”

That in section demonstrates the continued growth of its lower-price operation FlyArystan – which Air Astana released in Could 2019, initially running domestic flights from Astana.

“The domestic industry is exceptionally resilient,” suggests Foster. “On domestic there is an interesting phenomenon here. Kazakhstan is a quite substantial nation and has this very nicely made rail network so a massive amount of travel has been completed by rail, which has intended domestic air journey has been quite reduced – which is the cause why we released FlyArystan.

“What appears to be to be occurring, is men and women don’t want to go by rail,” he says, highlighting the shorter journey moments in an aircraft, alongside one another with the obvious enforcement of measures these kinds of as necessary wearing of masks on board.

“So it looks a lot of folks have migrated from the teach, notably to FlyArystan, driven by that phenomenon. That is a thing we hadn’t expected and that’s a single of the key explanations why the domestic routes are performing so effectively.”

But international functions, where by a swathe of vacation restrictions keep on being in drive, are a “completely different” tale. “We have some international routes going – Turkey, Germany and Dubai – and they are executing quite properly, but in basic the very long-haul marketplaces, the hub and spoke markets, they are dead in the h2o,” Foster states.

FlyArystan Airbus A320 side livery

Before the disaster, global functions accounted for around 60% of Air Astana’s organization, but domestic expert services now signify 80%.

“For us the two largest marketplaces are Russia and China. In Russia we can only do a single flight a 7 days and we generally do 54 flights, and China we are not permitted to do just about anything however – despite the fact that we imagine we will probably be functioning all over again on a quite restricted frequency to China with any luck , subsequent thirty day period.

“And southeast Asia is wholly moribund because the southeast Asian governments have long gone for suppression of the virus as opposed to containment: very little in and out.”

The airline in August resumed Frankfurt companies. Although Foster suggests this route is undertaking high-quality, he notes that right before the disaster Air Astana and Lufthansa were being serving it with 16 weekly frequencies in between them. ”Now there are only 5 [flights] and even on that foundation the load element is hovering involving 50% and 70% at most effective. So even that marketplace, which is a solid 1 customarily for us, is significantly lessened,” he states.

“What people really do not appear to want to do anymore is vacation via major hubs, particularly if they are leisure travellers,” Foster observes. ”People really clearly want to get on a airplane in place A and get off in stage B and not hang all-around in fast paced airports and chaotic cities.

“So we are heading to be undertaking a ton much more traveling place-to-level to leisure places, like Dubai – in our circumstance its a leisure place – Sharm el-Sheikh, De Nang in Vietnam, we are searching Nha Trang, we are hunting at the Maldives. We are heading to be doing a ton a lot more of that form of traveling in the future, particularly to the leisure marketplaces.

“When we opened up Turkey and Dubai once again about a thirty day period in the past, the demand for individuals routes was massive. Leisure desire has not diminished. Organization site visitors has been completely pulverised.”

Provider Geared up FOR Hard Winter

Alongside the community shift, the airline has taken measures to tackle its charges in the course of the crisis, taking away 8 plane from its fleet and with roughly 50 percent its workers on decreased several hours.

“It’s been important to retain the workforce alongside one another, that has been the one most important management challenge,” suggests Foster. “We have had to continue to keep in frequent conversation with individuals just so they know we are doing the job on a restart and will be welcome back as points boost.

”Our liquidity is excellent. We didn’t request for or get any money from our authorities, and so much its been fantastic. We have been equipped to protect liquidity and raise funds on industrial fiscal marketplaces and through business banking companies without any federal government involvement, which is the way we like it. So at the minute, we really feel in a somewhat stable predicament.”

But he is mindful that could adjust if a second wave of the virus this winter season proves as disruptive as the initially stage of the pandemic.

”Looking at our revised product, which is very a lot exclusively level-to-level, tons of leisure locations internationally, some critical regional routes wherever there is proven and sustainable targeted visitors, and the domestic market place – if we search at the new way the airline is expected to run, I assume 2021 could possibly not be such a poor 12 months for us if there is no major next wave.

“Now that is a extremely major if, a substantial elephant in the space, but if it proves to be significantly less remarkable then we are all fearing, then we imagine 2021 may possibly be alright for us – albeit with very a radically distinctive product,” Foster claims.