Kazakh carrier Air Astana has highlighted the uncertain potential impact from the Chinese coronavirus outbreak on its operations, after unveiling a strong rise in full-year net profit.
Air Astana says its net profit for 2019 reached just over $30 million, a substantial improvement on the previous figure of $5.3 million.
It is attributing the increase to “considerably” improved passenger demand, notably on domestic routes and within the charter sector, as well as the launch of its low-cost division FlyArystan.
“While yields have been affected by increased competition on international routes, reduced average domestic ticket prices and the lower value of the [Kazakh currency], this was more than offset by increased demand and lower unit cost,” says the carrier.
But chief executive Peter Foster cautions that, although the airline is optimistic over its prospects for 2020, the emerging situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak in China amounts to a “significant unknown”.
Air Astana operates to both the Chinese capital, Beijing, and the city of Urumqi.
Both routes will operate with lower frequency, says the airline, in the event that restrictions on outbound group traffic from China remain in place for an extended period.
Air Astana says it is looking to benefit from strategic changes including the switch to Moscow Domodedovo, linked to a codeshare with Oneworld carrier S7 Airlines, as well as the replacement of Boeing 757-200s with Airbus A321LRs.
”FlyArystan continues to grow ahead of expectations,” adds Foster.
Air Astana’s revenues last year rose by 6% to $893 million. The carrier transported 17% more passengers, a total of over 5 million, while unit costs fell.