The longer-range variant of the Airbus A321neo will be a “driver of change” for Air Astana, as it looks to expand its international network with the aircraft.
Air Astana chief executive Peter Foster says that the A321LR combines range capabilities with “excellent narrowbody economics”.
“[The aircraft range] covers most of the routes which we aspire to fly in our network,” Foster told reporters.
Two “headline” points it is hoping to add with the A321LRs — of which it has ordered seven — are Singapore and Shanghai.
Other possible destinations include Prague, as well as Jeddah and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
At the moment, Air Astana has one A321LR, flying on Nur-Sultan-Moscow. It presented the aircraft at a ceremony at its Nur-Sultan hangar facility.
The narrowbody will gradually replace its fleet of three Boeing 757s, which currently fly to points such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, as well as Beijing.
The airline has experienced delays in aircraft delivery, as a result of problems with the Pratt & Whitney GTF engines, which power Air Astana’s A321LRs.
Foster discloses that the airline was to have four A321LRs by June, but only received its first last month. Still, he says, it is “better late than never” that the aircraft have arrived.
By the end of October, the airline will be taking delivery of its second A321LR. By next June, it will have four.
Foster has nicknamed the A321LRs the “Super Arrows”, adds that the aircraft will “take…to a different level” Air Astana’s product offerings.
The narrowbodies, configured to seat 166 passengers, feature an updated product in both business and economy classes, including lie-flat seats in business class.
“With seven it means that…[the updated] level of product is extended not only to the entire long-haul network, but also to all of the key regional-haul markets like Moscow, Beijing and Dubai,” Foster says.
Air Astana, which already operates a fleet of 19 Airbus narrowbodies including three A321neos and another three A320neos, is the first Central Asian operator of the A321LR.