Kazakhstan’s national flag carrier Air Astana and Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong signed a code sharing agreement on March 5, which will make traveling between the Caspian region, East Asia and Australia easier and more affordable.
The two airlines will share flights on each other’s routes across Asia and Australia, providing passengers with smoother connecting flights via Hong Kong and Almaty – Kazakhstan’s largest city and its former capital.
Starting from this month, Kazakhstan’s flagship will sell tickets for flights linking Hong-Kong with Sidney, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore. Cathay Pacific, in turn, is going to code-share Air Astana’s flights, including those linking Almaty with Hong Kong, Seoul and Bangkok.
As of today, Kazakhstan’s national flag carrier operates flights from Almaty to Hong Kong twice a week, while the company is going to increase this figure up to three flights per week beginning March 25.
“Cathay Pacific has an extensive route network and is ideal for us to expand our presence in Asia and Australia via Hong Kong,” said Richard Ledger, vice president of marketing and sales at Air Astana.
Being the world’s tenth largest airline in terms of sales, Cathay Pacific operates passenger and cargo services to nearly 200 destinations in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe and Africa, using a fleet of more than 140 wide-body aircraft, including modifications of Boeing and Airbus. In 2016, the company carried about 35 million passengers, while aircraft departures totaled 172,000.
Air Astana is considered the largest carrier in Central Asia, and operates flights to about 70 destinations throughout the world. Its fleet currently consists of 31 planes, including Boeing, Airbus, as well as Embraer. In 2017, Astana Air carried about 4.2 million passengers recording a growth in passenger traffic by 12 percent and revenue by 22 percent, after a fall in 2015 and 2016.
In 2017, Cathay Pacific ranked fifth in the “Top 100 Airlines” list released by Skytrax, the leading global guide to airline customer reviews and ratings. Air Astana came in at number 46.
Officials from Cathay Pacific said the agreement signed on Monday will give the company access to the resource-rich emerging economy, which is considered a vital part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“With its vibrant economy, which is set to grow as a result of its integral role in the Belt and Road Initiative, and beautiful natural landscapes, Kazakhstan has many attractions for both business and leisure travelers,” Cathay Pacific commercial director Ronald Lam said, according to a statement issued by Air Astana.
Unveiled in 2013, the BRI is estimated to cost over $900 billion and is expected to connect about 60 percent of the world’s population, or 4.5 billion people, in 65 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa, with a GDP of about $21 trillion.
As Central Asia’s largest country and wealthiest economy, Kazakhstan has been a contributor to its development, and hopes to benefit financially.
The country’s leadership launched a full-scale land reform initiative that became part of what Nazarbayev dubbed Nurly Zhol, meaning “bright path.” Under the initiative, Kazakhstan, together with China, commissioned a logistics terminal in the coastal city of Lianyungang in the east of China, as well as launched the Khorgos Eastern Gate Special Economic Zone, a major overland Silk Road port.