Kazakh flag-carrier Air Astana has confirmed selection of the Embraer 190 for its new regional jet operation, and will take delivery of a pair of leased aircraft in 2011.

The airline had been evaluating the use of regional jets to complement its short- and long-haul jet operation.

Air Astana is acquiring the Embraers after embarking on a programme to expand its Central Asian network.

It is extending its network from Almaty, the Kazakh commercial centre, to cities such as Baku, Bishkek and Urumqi.

"After detailed market analysis we have identified enormous opportunities to expand further over the next five years with a new network of services to neighbouring countries," says Air Astana president Peter Foster.

Foster says that the airline will use Embraer 190 aircraft on these routes, although the services will be operated by Airbus A320s in the interim period.

Board chairman Nurzhan Baidauletov indicated in April that Air Astana would source the regional jets through a newly-created lessor, KazAviaLizing, which would oversee the purchase. He also said that up to another 10 similar aircraft could follow.

Air Astana has a fleet of 10 A320s as well as two Boeing 767s, four 757s and five Fokker 50 turboprops.

Its expansion plans involve taking the fleet to 28 aircraft by 2013. The airline operates to 21 international and 22 domestic destinations from its main stations at Almaty, Astana and Atyrau.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news