Air Astana has commenced a thrice-weekly service from Heathrow to Kazakhstan capital Astana.
The new flight is operated by a Boeing 757-200 with 16 business class and 150 economy seats and also travels onto the city of Almaty.
Its new schedule from Terminal 4 allows better connections to various destinations in Asia and Russia & CIS including Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Tashkent, Uzbekistan) and Novosibirsk, Omsk.
EU restrictions had previously prevented the airline from expanding its European flights although now the country has passed the ICAO safety audit there are plans in place for flights from Paris this autumn and Prague next year.
“We are setting about this expansion in a very careful way,” said Peter Foster, president of Air Astana. “While we are delighted to be able to expand our operations into Europe now, we could not plan for the expansion beforehand because we didn’t have advance knowledge these restrictions would be lifted. The re-alignment of flights away from Almaty to Astana is an important first step.”
The carrier is also looking to join an airline alliance off the back of expanding its fleet including a total of six new aircraft this year; profits of US$51.4 million before taxes in 2013 and a 13.5% increase in passengers to 3.7 million.
It currently has codeshare agreements in place with three Star Alliance carriers, Asiana, Austrian and Turkish Airlines, as well as two SkyTeam members Etihad and KLM.
Plans are also underway for more new aircraft to replace its Boeing 757s, with the airline looking particularly at the Airbus A321 NEO and Boeing 737 Max. A decision is expected to be announced in the autumn.