Kazakhstan’s air carrier Air Astana has unveiled plans to restart direct flights from Astana to China’s capital Beijing.
Starting from March 25, flights between the Kazakh and Chinese capital cities will run three times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
According to the company’s statement, Air Astana will service the route with an Airbus A321XLR, a narrow-body, commercial passenger twin-engine airliner with 166 seats in two classes.
Tickets for the new route have already gone on sale on the carrier’s website. The cost of an economy class round-trip ticket starts at 506,603 tenges, or about $1100.
The national air carrier also plans to increase the number of Almaty-Beijing flights from the planned one to five flights per week starting from February 13 this year to seven flights per week during the later spring-summer period.
“More flights between Kazakhstan and China will help speed up the development of trade and economic, investment, tourist, cultural, and business cooperation between two friendly countries,” ProfiTravel quoted Kazakhstan’s Civil Aviation Committee on Tuesday.
Under the company’s rules, passengers travelling to China must present a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken 48 hours before entering the country. All passengers travelling to China are required to provide a paper or printed PCR test result in the official language of the country of departure or in English.
A country of slightly more than 19 million people, Kazakhstan has reported 1,405,848 cases of Covid-19 infections with 13,695 deaths since March 2020.
Harsh restrictions imposed by the government to curb the coronavirus outbreak halted most economic activities in Kazakhstan in 2020. Such industries as mining, wholesale and retail trade, professional, scientific, and technical activities, and construction saw sharp declines in revenue compared to the previous year, with the airline industry among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Kazakhstan sealed off its borders on March 16, 2020, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, while Air Astana cancelled all of its international flights starting from March 29.
Due to a complete or partial lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Kazakh flag carrier flew roughly 3.7 million passengers in 2020, recording a decrease in passenger traffic by 28 percent.
The airline’s revenues for the same year decreased by 55 percent, while its EBITDAR stood at $33.1 million, down 81 percent compared to the same period in 2019. The airline has temporarily retired Boeing 757 and Embraer 190 aircraft and now operates Airbus 321 Long Range and Boeing 767 on the main international routes. A total of 499 employees left Air Astana in 2020, while the biggest turnover was at Almaty International Airport, where 312 people left the company. Meanwhile, the company hired 338 new employees during the same period.
In 2021, the number of air passengers in Kazakhstan increased by 79 percent, reaching a total of 6.6 million people. With airline revenues increasing by 92% to $756 million, Air Astana recovered from a loss-making 2020 to declare a profit after tax of $36.1 million in 2021.