Air Astana, the national flag carrier of Kazakhstan, has agreed to order four new Boeing 767-300ERs and three Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, in a deal worth US$1.3 billion at list prices.
Boeing has not yet publicly confirmed the Air Astana order, so the deal may not have been finalized into a firm contract yet unless Boeing is showing the order on its Orders & Deliveries website as being for an unconfirmed customer.
According to Air Astana, the aircraft order is the largest in Kazakhstan’s civil-aviation history. The Boeing 767-300ERs will be delivered in 2013 and 2014 and the Boeing 787s in 2017 and 2019.
At a February 4 press conference in Almaty, Nurzhan Baidauletov, Air Astana’s chairman and the managing director of sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna. the airline’s majority shareholder, said the introduction of the Boeing 787-8 “will place Air Astana amongst the leading airlines of the world in terms of operating the highest quality, environmentally friendly air services”.
Baidauletov also said that Air Astana would not require state or shareholder funds for the purchases, but “will fund the new aircraft through a combination of its own cash and financial instruments through the air finance market.”
Peter Foster, Air Astana’s president, said the new Boeing 767s would be equipped with blended winglets and would replace the two 767-300ERs the carrier is currently leasing, as well as progressively replacing its leased Boeing 757s.
Foster said the Boeing 767-300ER has proved capable of operating efficiently on all of Air Astana’s present routes without restrictions. He also said the Boeing 787-8, with its superior range, will enable the airline to launch non-stop routes to the United States, Australasia and Africa as its business plans develops.
On February 4 Air Astana also announced unaudited operating results for 2011. The airline’s net profit declined by 19 per cent to $61.9 million. Revenues grew by 16 per cent to $760 million. Capacity grew by 15 per cent and the number of passengers Air Astana carried grew by 16 per cent over 2010, to just over 3 million.
According to Foster, the decline in profitability was entirely due to fuel price rises of more than 130 per cent over 2010. Nevertheless, he said, “a net margin of 8.1 per cent is very respectable by industry standards and ahead of our 10-year average.”
During 2011 Air Astana introduced its first three Embraer 190 regional jets and one additional Boeing 757. It launched new services to Samara in Russia and Tbilisi in Georgia and increased frequencies on most of its other routes.
Air Astana is a joint venture between Samruk Kazyna (which has a 51 per cent stake in the airline) and BAE Systems PLC (which owns 49 per cent). The airline will mark 10 years of operations in May 2012.