A new Kazakh airline Air Kazakhstan that is expected to make its first flight this year has been renamed to Kazakh Air, tengrinews reports citing Beken Seidakhmetov, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Committee of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Investment and Development.
According to the Chairman, the new airline created specifically for domestic flights, is still in the making. “Samruk Kazyna Fund is working on establishing the new airline. The second shareholder failed to provide the required funding, and a decision was made to make the airlines 100% owned by Samruk Kazyna National Fund. At the meeting of the Board of Directors of Samruk Kazyna, it was decided to rename Air Kazakhstan to Kazakh Air,” Beken Seidakhmetov told a Tengrinews journalist in an exclusive interview. “The terms will remain the same (…). The airline will start operating flights this year,” he said.
The idea to launch the new airline was suggested by Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in February 2014 during his talks with Pierre Beaudoin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bombardier Inc., the world's only manufacturer of both planes and trains. “We are interested in Bombardier’s entering the Kazakh market. In this context we plan to launch Air Kazakhstan airline to perform domestic flights,” the President then said.
In July 2014, Air Kazakhstan signed an agreement with Bombardier on purchasing 10 airplanes.
In addition, President of the new airline Nurzhan Shakirov then said that pilots for the new airline would be trained in Canada. “We will hire foreign pilots to begin with due to a shortage of local pilots. But we will be gradually introducing our local pilots into the company. In the first year, part of the cabin crew will also be local,” he said.
In fact, Air Kazakhstan is not an entirely new airline. It is a revitalised version of the company that went bankrupt in 2004 because of huge debts. Air Kazakhstan, once the country's flag carrier, was succeeded in 2001 by Air Astana as the Kazakh air market leader.
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport and Communication suggested that the reformed airline could use low-cost flights as a foundation for recovery. “However, at the current stage it is too early to assert anything. Today, the demand for domestic air routes has not reached the point where traditional carriers can coexist with low cost airlines on the same route," the Ministry said. Certainly, low cost of flights is a huge advantage, but at the same time it has some drawbacks such as low level of service on board, restrictions on free baggage allowance and hand luggage, and a sharp rise in the cost of the ticket 2-3 days before the departure date.