Air Astana upbeat of Ukraine long-term potential

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Chief executive of Kazakhstan carrier Air Astana, Peter Foster, remains optimistic about the long-term potential of the Ukrainian market despite the current political turmoil in the country.

Air services in the Ukraine have been hit by the political dispute and unrest around the Crimea, with passenger numbers through Simferopol, in Crimea, down nearly a quarter during the first three months of this year.

"Long term we are rather optimistic about Ukraine," says Foster. "Temporarily we have had to scale back. We have had to cut back on routes which were hugely promising until a couple of months ago. So its disappointing. But not withstanding that, we see that being an extremely good medium and long-term prospect.

The airline began operating thrice weekly flights from Almaty and Astana to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine just over a year ago. "We started flying to the Ukraine when [local carrier] Aerosvit ceased operations and that market went off at a cracking pace and we found very quickly we were carrying a lot of business from the Ukraine into east Asia and south-east Asia. So a lot of business over Almaty and Astana to places like Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangkok," says Foster.

"All of those traffic flows have been affected by present events, but they will come back," he says. "Sooner or later things will stablise and it will be interesting to see what is left in terms of Ukraine’s aviation industry and what opportunities there will be as a result of it."