Air Astana is now able to expand its services within Europe after the EU lifted restrictions imposed on all Kazakh airlines since 2009.
All carriers are required to pass a mandatory International Civil Aviation Organiszation (ICAO) audit to prove that their safety systems and procedures are fully-consistent with global standards.
The Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee had previously failed the audit in May 2009, which meant that all Kazakh carriers faced frequency restrictions, or were banned from flying into Europe.
Air Astana Boeing 767-300ER
However, the EU’s Air Safety Committee said Air Astana has since proved its safety standards are up to scratch, and the frequency restrictions imposed back in 2009 — along with a ban on launching flights to new European destinations — are no longer in place.
The EU has also removed Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific from its blacklist.
Air Astana currently operates services from Almaty and Astana to London three times a week, Astana to Frankfurt daily, and Atyrau to Amsterdam six times per week.
It launched its third weekly flight from Astana to London last September after its seasonal frequency from Kostanai to Hanover wasn’t operational over winter 2013/14, freeing up an EU frequency to use for London.
As Air Astana will not operate the Kostanai to Hanover service this summer, the airline can continue operating this service.
Peter Foster, Air Astana president, said: “We are delighted by the EU Air Safety Committee’s decision, which reflects the enormous amount of hard work that Air Astana staff have put into ensuring that flights are operated safely and in accordance with best international practices.
“The airline can now plan for more flights to Europe, with Paris and Prague both new destination priorities for launch in late 2014/early 2015.”
Last December, the airline took delivery of two new Boeing 767-300ERs, which it retrofitted with 30 seats in business class and 193 in economy. The newly designed business class seats feature full lie-flat capability, along with 15-inch screens for in-flight entertainment.
The carrier uses its new aircraft on domestic trunk routes from Almaty, Astana and Atyrau and international services to Amsterdam, Bangkok, Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.
In addition, it expects to take delivery of another B767-300ER later this year, along with three Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners between 2017 and 2019.
Air Astana is also striving to make Kazakhstan a travel destination, and in turn a potentially attractive transit location.
Last October, the carrier launched an Astana & Almaty Stopover Holiday programme that enables transit travellers to break their journeys in Astana and Almaty before flying onto other Air Astana destinations.