Air Astana is planning to place an initial order for up to nine long-haul aircraft, as well as up to nine Airbus A320-family jets. The carrier will make a formal decision on the widebody type in early December.

The Kazakh airline will hold a board meeting on 6 December to make the recommendation. Although the carrier has not disclosed whether it intends to acquire the A350 XWB or Boeing 787, there are some early indications that the latter is the more likely choice.

Air Astana president Peter Foster says the widebody order would comprise three firm aircraft and "purchase rights" on another six. Deliveries will begin in 2016.

Air Astana has an all-Boeing long-haul fleet - comprising two 767s and four 757s - while its short- and medium-haul operations are conducted with five A320s, two A321s and five Fokker 50 turboprops. The airline is adding a further 757 next year along with two A320s and an A319, taking its fleet to 22.

Air Astana leases its current fleet from a variety of sources. The forthcoming order will mark the airline's first aircraft purchase. The narrowbody renewal will include six firm A320-family aircraft and three options, with the first aircraft arriving in 2012.

"This initial order is just to get the ball rolling," says Foster. Air Astana is aiming to have a fleet of 63 aircraft by 2022, of which 46 will be A320-family twinjets and the remaining 17 will be either A350s or 787s.

The airline's Fokker 50s will be phased out from 2010, and will probably switch to using A319s on these routes. In addition, Air Astana is seeking further interim long-haul caoability and is in negotiations for more 767s for introduction from late next year or early 2009.

Source: Flight International