ANALYSIS: Trade ties to power stronger Chinese, Kazakh air links

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Airlines have doubled capacity between China and Kazakhstan in the last five years, and strong trade flows between the two countries suggest that it could grow further.

Flightglobal’s Capstats database shows that Chinese and Kazakh carriers provided 20,400 seats on outbound routes from China to Kazakhstan during the month of August, up from just 9,720 seats in August 2008.

While this is but a fraction of the 85,129 seats provided on Russia-Kazakhstan routes during August 2013, booming trade flows to China suggest that the lion’s share of air travel growth to the Central Asian republic will come from the east.

According to the UN, China was Kazakhstan’s biggest export market in 2012, when exports to China amounted to $16.5 billion, compared with $6.7 billion worth of exports to Russia. Primary exports include crude oil and other energy-related commodities.

China-Kazakhstan passenger services, August 2013

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In August 2009 – during the aftermath of the global financial crisis when the demand for commodities fell monthly capacity from China to Kazakhstan fell to 9,000 seats, but quickly rebounded to 13,000 seats in August 2010.

FlightMaps Analytics data shows that all the traffic between the two countries is between three Chinese cities – Beijing, Urumqi and Guangzhou – and two Kazakh cities – Almaty and Astana.

Guangzhou, however, lacks passenger services to Kazakhstan. Its only direct linkage is a cargo service operated by Lufthansa 13 times monthly with Boeing MD-11 Freighter.

The sole player on the Beijing-Astana route is Kazakh flag carrier Air Astana, which operates nine services a month using Boeing 757 aircraft.

Outbound capacity on China-Kazakhstan routes, August 2013

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On the Beijing-Almaty route, there are two players – Air Astana dominates with 22 services a month, followed by Hainan Airlines with nine per month. China Southern Airlines and Air Astana divide the Urumqi-Almaty and Urumqi-Astana routes between them.

As measured by capacity, the biggest route is Urumqi-Almaty, where carriers provided 10,000 seats in August, for 49% of total capacity share. This was followed by Beijing-Almaty with 5,318 seats (25% of capacity) and Urumqi-Astana with 4,214 seats (20%).

FlightMaps shows that only three carriers operate between the two countries: Air Astana, with 58% capacity share, China Southern (35%) and Hainan Airlines (7%).

Key carriers on China-Kazakhstan routes, August 2013

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