Kazakhstan’s Air Astana Group posted a net profit of $4.9 million for the first six months of 2021, swinging from a loss of $66.2 million in the same period in 2020.

The group, consisting of full-service carrier Air Astana and its low-cost subsidiary FlyArystan, says it carried 2.97 million passengers, an increase of 91%. The number of passengers on domestic routes grew 125% to 2.5 million.

Air Astana

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Air Astana aircraft parked at Almaty International airport

President and chief executive Peter Foster states: “The two brands, Air Astana and our LCC FlyArystan, have both performed well on domestic routes. Strong market growth and a preference for air travel over long rail journeys have transformed Kazakhstan into the world’s fastest growing domestic market, with 31% passenger growth over 2019, undoubtedly stimulated by FlyArystan’s ultra-low fares.”

International capacity remains at 45% of the level of 2019, it adds.

Foster says higher yields on regional routes, coupled with high demand on lifestyle routes to the Maldives, Red Sea, Montenegro, Dubai, Turkey, Georgia and Sri Lanka, have also contributed to the turnaround, assisted by regular cargo charters on its converted 767.

While remaining cautious on guidance for the remainder of the year, Foster adds: “Covid case numbers are again moving in the wrong direction in Central Asia and many of the countries to where we are flying. Whether the recovery will be sustainable will come down to a race between Covid variants and vaccine take-up.”

Air Astana presently operates 36 aircraft of which 10 Airbus A320s are operated by FlyArystan.