A new regional airline, Air Kazakhstan is being established in the Central Asian republic and is expected to begin flying early next year. The state investment fund, Samruk-Kazyna and Air Astana will be partners in the formation of a new regional airline, to provide domestic feeder service to Air Astana’s operations. Air Astana ceased its regional operations last year when it retired a fleet of aging Fokker 50 aircraft, which has left a transportation gap in domestic service from airports too small to handle jets.
Air Astana currently serves Almaty, Astana, and Atyrau with an all-western fleet of Airbus A320, Boeing 767-300ER and 757-200, and Embraer E-190 aircraft. The airline is on the EU blacklist, operating only with special conditions, as are all other Kazakhstan operators. Bombardier will assist the carrier with pilot and mechanic training as an element of the deal, and likely establish a presence in the oil-rich country. This transaction was first announced February 26th after a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Bombardier’s CEO Pierre Baudoin, and media reports are emerging that a definitive agreement has now been negotiated. This is good news for the Q400 program, which is well suited to the Kazakhstan environment, with long distances between cities that require a higher speed turboprop for regional operations.