Air Astana showcased its first Airbus A321 Long Range (LR) at a ceremony on October 9 in Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport attended by Business Traveller Asia-Pacific.
Kazakhstan’s national carrier is scheduled to take a further six Airbus A321LR aircraft. The narrow-body planes are expected to replace the airline’s fleet of Boeing 757 jets, which it has flown since 2003.
CEO Peter Foster confirmed in an interview that Shanghai and Singapore are possible destinations in the Asia-Pacific region for A321LRs. Other potential routes include Prague, Mumbai and either Jeddah and/or Medinah in Saudi Arabia. The first A321 LR will fly between Nur-Sultan and Moscow.
Foster described the new planes as a “driver of change” for the Almaty-based airline.
“This aircraft gives us huge flexibility in terms of range and capacity because it’s not too large. For example, we can deploy it to London, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Paris, but we can also deploy it on shorter routes,” said Foster.
What’s new in the business class cabin?
Dubbed “Super Arrow”, the aircraft is configured with a total of 166 seats, with 16 in business class and 150 in economy. This is the same number of seats as the airline’s 757s.
There are five rows in the business class cabin. Rows two and four are arranged in a 1-1 configuration, while rows one, three and five are arranged in a 2-2 pattern. These lie-flat, Thomson Vantage seats are equipped with individual 16-inch screens, with Zodiac RAVE inflight entertainment, the same system on the rest of Air Astana’s planes. However, the screens are larger than those used in business class cabins on the 757s.
Foster added that the control mechanism will be easier to use for passengers travelling in the new cabin.
Four of the seats in business class offer additional personal space. These seats, dubbed “throne seats” by Foster, are single seats with aisle access and weren’t available in the ageing 757 planes.
The airline’s CEO said he would consider charging a premium on the four single seats at some point.
“Initially we won’t do it because we want people to get used to the product, but eventually we might look into it,” said Foster.
When will the remaining aircraft arrive?
Foster says the remaining six Airbus A321 Long Ranges (LRs) will arrive over the course of the next 15 months.
“We expect to have the second aircraft next month, the third aircraft in March, the fourth aircraft in June, the fifth, sixth and seventh aircraft in late 2020 or 2021,” he said.
Air Astana, the flag carrier of Kazakhstan, operates flights to over 60 domestic and international routes from hubs in Nur-Sultan and Almaty.