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Air Astana Best Airline To Connect India to Kazakhstan, Russia, CIS

By Deepak Arora

Peter FosterALMATY, Sept 20: Peter Foster is one of the best aviation experts in the world. As the President and CEO of Air Astana, he has proved that by taking the national carrier of Kazakhstan to newer heights in the past 12 years. Today, under the dynamic leadership of Peter Foster, Air Astana is not only one of the few profitable airlines in the world, but has bagged top awards like “Best Airline in Central Asia and India” and “Best Airline Staff Service in Central Asia/India” for the past several years in a row.

A meeting with the Aviation Wizard Peter Foster is not only a pleasure, but is also a learning experience, especially for a writer who is as passionate about aviation as he is. His constant endeavor and passion is how to offer the best to his passengers, his staff and make profits for the management. He always keeps thinking on how to further improve efficiency and product quality of the airline.

Air Astana has one of the best business class, in-flight entertainment, onboard dining and impeccable service. However, this pleasurable journey ends soon as the flight hours are short between India and Kazakhstan. In another first, the Kazakh carrier is offering passengers in-flight broadband speed connectivity.

Peter is hyper on constantly increasing its market share in the Indian market by offering not only best services from Delhi to its hubs in Almaty and Astana but also giving passengers good connections to Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (the CIS) and Europe.

Air Astana, which commenced its services from India’s capital city in September 2004, now operates daily flights between New Delhi and Almaty. It launched direct flights three times a week from Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan to New Delhi in July 2017. The airline offers competitive fares and tourism and travel and golf packages to Almaty and Astana.

The President said last year, we flew 70,000 passengers between Kazakhstan and India and this year up to now we have already flown over 50,000, which is an increase of 35 per cent. “We also connect to other cities in India with our code-share partner, Air India. However, our passengers also self connect to Indian cities with Indigo airlines.

He said “the airline expects to launch flights to Mumbai in 2019. When we have more aircraft we will go for daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Astana and Almaty.
He said to increase traffic to India, “we have been lobbying with the Kazakhstan government to relax visa norms for Indians.”

To attract customers, Air Astana offers 4-star hotel accommodation to transit passengers who have over six hours to connecting flights at an attractive price of US $1 (one). If they choose to stay on, they pay the normal tariff.

Peter Foster entered the airline industry immediately after graduating from Cambridge University in 1982, as a management trainee of John Swire and Sons (HK) Ltd, the owners of Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. From 1982-1999 he served in a variety of management and senior management positions with CPA in Hong Kong, Asia, Australia and Europe, and underwent business management training at INSEAD, France. Foster left Cathay Pacific Airways in 1999 to head up the rehabilitation team of Philippine Airlines Inc. He subsequently served as Chief Executive Officer of Royal Brunei Airlines from 2002 to 2005 prior to his appointment as President of Air Astana.

In the 2015 UK New Year’s Honours List Peter Foster was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to British aviation in Kazakhstan.

Peter constantly makes efforts to ensure that the airline has low operating cost as it helps the airline to make profits. And he happily shares the good news that Air Astana has one of the lowest unit cost in the world aviation business.

When asked on Indian Government’s move to privatise its national carrier, Air India, he said “Governments and airlines just don’t mix.” He said “we have been running Air Astana as a private company with tiny amount of capital. We solely rely on our operational revenues to run the airline.”

Peter said “the Kazakh government provides no funds, no subsidy, and all functions are based on profits. The government takes no part in the management of the airline, which operates according to the best international standards. Samruk Kazyna, as the country’s sovereign wealth fund, is a 51% shareholder and exercises its shareholder rights in accordance with international practice of corporate governance standards.”

He believes that efficiency can be guaranteed only “when the government gets out of aviation business.” Otherwise, he says, “There is a massive drain of government funds.”

On economic scenario, Peter Foster said “Kazakhstan’s economy is delivering modest growth after two very difficult years, and we expect this to accelerate as the economy continues to diversify. However international passenger growth is most encouraging, particularly network business. Astana EXPO 2017, further easing of visa restrictions, the new terminal at Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport at Astana, and continued positive developments within the airline are all combining to set up strong traffic recovery.”

Peter adds: “cost pressure, driven by higher fuel prices in Kazakhstan, has increased, however the airline’s unit cost remains very competitive and enables us to increase our share of long-haul major market business. This is helped by increased awareness in foreign markets of the quality of our product, and we have yet again won the Skytrax Award for ‘Best Airline, Central Asia and India’.

He said “we continue to introduce product improvements including the introduction of onboard internet connectivity, and have recently concluded an agreement to acquire five brand new Embraer E2 regional jets from autumn 2018. These fuel efficient aircraft, when combined with the Airbus 320 NEO family aircraft of which we continue to take delivery, will drive continued improvements in efficiency and product quality.”

The airline also plans to float an IPO next year. Samruk Kazyna has already picked investment banks and legal advisers and were undergoing due diligence checks.

The listings scheduled for 2018 will be the first in a series of privatisation deals set to involve the former Soviet republic's leading company.

Dauren Tasmagambetov, head of asset restructuring and privatisation at wealth fund Samruk Kazyna, said that Samruk Kazyna could either sell the shares it holds or the company itself could issue new stock, depending on whether the firms themselves need financing.

Samruk Kazyna is willing to allocate the bulk of the flotations to the domestic Astana International Financial Centre stock exchange, set to launch early next year, but that will depend on how much liquidity the bourse manages to attract, Tasmagambetov said.

Air Astana operates flights to over 60 domestic and international routes from hubs in Astana and Almaty. The company was incorporated in late 2001 and commenced operations on May 15, 2002. Air Astana fleet consists of Boeing 767, 757, Airbus A319, A320, A320neo, A321 and Embraer 190 aircraft.

Air Astana Brings Internet Onboard

ALMATY, Sept 13: Passengers flying on Air Astana can now experience high-speed broadband In-Flight connectivity, with the airline’s first Boeing 767 featuring the service. The award-winning Kazakh air carrier has installed the Rockwell Collins cabin system that utilises Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Aviation capabilities to provide In-Flight connectivity.

The new service enables Air Astana passengers to surf the Internet, use various instant messenger applications, social networks, listen to audio and check e-mails via personal computers, tablets and smartphones. Broadband speed connectivity will be available to Business and Economy class passengers on all three of Air Astana’s Boeing 767s.

Depending on their individual needs, Air Astana passengers will be able to choose from three connectivity packages: The Light option will cover 15 Mb, the Business option will cover 50 Mb, and the Super option will cover 100 Mb. All services are estimated to operate at an average speed of 2 to 5 Mbps.

Andrey Gulev, Manager Commercial Engineering at Air Astana commented, "One of our core missions at Air Astana is to be on the cutting-edge of technology and constantly enhance our passengers’ experience whether it’s on board or on the ground. We proved this in 2016, when we became one of the first airlines to commit to Inmarsat's Global Xpress high-speed in-flight connectivity system with Rockwell Collins. We're delighted the service is now ready to launch and we are looking forward to hearing what our passengers think of being able to continue sending work emails throughout their flight or chatting to their friends on social media."

“Air Astana is leading the way by adding broadband connectivity to its fleet, creating new attractive services for its passengers,” said David Nieuwsma, Senior Vice President, Information Management Services at Rockwell Collins. “Passengers on Air Astana’s retrofitted fleet of Boeing 767s will have access to the latest technology in global inflight connectivity that is highly reliable and offers great performance.”

Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, said: “GX Aviation is the only solution in the market today that has been specifically designed for in-flight broadband, offering unprecedented speed, reliability and consistency. Air Astana is the first airline in the world to offer GX Aviation on wide body aircraft, reinforcing their focus on technology innovation and passenger service excellence. We are delighted to celebrate this milestone with Air Astana and our partner Rockwell Collins.”

The new service is available to passengers on the first of Air Astana’s Boeing 767s, with system installation on its second aircraft planned to be completed in October.

Air Astana Bags Best Airline Award For Sixth Consecutive Year

By Deepak Arora

ALMATY, Sept 12: Air Astana, the flag carrier of Kazakhstan, has once again been recognised for 4 Star service excellence, retaining the accolade of ‘Best Airline in Central Asia and India’ in the Skytrax World Airline Awards for the sixth consecutive year.  The airline also scooped the prize for ‘Best Airline Staff Service in Central Asia/India’ for the fifth time. The prestigious awards ceremony took place at the 52nd edition of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget earlier this year.

The Skytrax World Airline Awards are recognised throughout the world as a valued benchmarking tool that measures passenger satisfaction among business and leisure travellers, across all cabins (First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy Class and Economy class).

Air travellers were surveyed by telephone, questionnaires and online about their experiences with airlines on the ground and in the air over a 10-month period. The survey measured passenger satisfaction across a wide range of performance indicators of airline front-line product and service, including check-in, boarding, on-board seat comfort, cabin cleanliness, food, beverages, in-flight entertainment and staff service. The survey covered over 200 airlines, from the largest international airlines to smaller domestic carriers.

“Each one of our staff is dedicated to consistently providing service excellence and therefore we are honoured to receive these prestigious Skytrax awards,” said Peter Foster, President and CEO of Air Astana. “We deeply appreciate the enormous support shown by our customers in the Skytrax survey and will continue to strive for even higher standards in the future.”

14-year-old Indian-origin boy youngest to fly single-engine plane

SHARJAH, Sept 7: An Indian-origin teenager based in Sharjah has become one of the youngest pilots to fly a single-engine aircraft, a media report said.

Mansour Anis, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student at Delhi Private School in Sharjah, received a certificate for his first solo flight from an aviation academy in Canada last week, Gulf News reported on Wednesday.

"Let it be known throughout the aviation world that Mansour Anis at the age of 14 years successfully took off and landed from Langley Regional Airport thereby accomplishing his first solo flight," the solo flight certificate issued by AAA Aviation Flight Academy on August 30 stated.

Back in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after his achievement, Anis claimed that he had also set a record of being the youngest pilot to fly solo with the least number of training hours, the newspaper reported.

"He broke the previous record of a 15-year-old German pilot and a 14-year-old US pilot who took 34 hours of training. Mansour flew solo just after 25 hours of training," said Anis' father Ali Asgar.

Anis, who flew a Cessna 152 aircraft during his solo flight, now has a student pilot permit. Apart from the flying test, he also passed a radio communication test and scored 96 per cent in the PSTAR Test, an eligibility test for Transport Canada.

His solo flight was about 10 minutes long, during which he taxied the aircraft from the parking bay to the runway, took off for a flight of about five minutes and landed back.



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