Analysis – Air Astana launches flights to Mumbai

Mumbai will welcome Air Astana – the flag carrier of Kazakhstan on 1st of June and help link another destination from the financial capital of India. Air Astana will deploy the Airbus A320 on this route and operate four times a week. Air Astana has been operating to India since 2004, with Delhi being its sole destination until now.

Routesonline reported the addition on 10th February and the flights were subsequently open for sale. The airline was earlier offering flights to Mumbai via Delhi with a partnership with Air India.

KC291 ALA0705 – 1105BOM 12
KC291 ALA2205 – 0210+1BOM 46
KC292 BOM0310 – 0805ALA 57
KC292 BOM1205 – 1655ALA 12

The airline has a fleet of A320s, A321s, B757s, B767s, B787s and E-190s. The airline operates the newer versions of the A320 family namely the A320neo and A321neo and also the E190-E2.

India Network Development

I have followed Air Astana closely for last couple of years and have been impressed by the way they have grown. While Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world by area, the population is miniscule in comparison and the airline has tried the time tested tricks of hub and scope along with some innovative ones like Stopover holidays to be attractive in the market.

The airline started with the expected route to New Delhi in September 2004. With its varied fleet, none of which was soviet era airliners, it operated to Delhi with adjusted capacity based on demand. The airline started with a non-daily service with capacity being adjusted by swapping aircraft between E190s and A320s. Soon, the frequency was daily with swaps of aircraft.

In July 2017, the airline added thrice a week service from Astana (now Nur Sultan) to Delhi with a mix of E190s and A320 – adjusting capacity as per demand. This service was dealt a heavy blow during the closure of Pakistani airspace last February. While many airlines suspended services, Air Astana continued for most of the period. As the airspace opened up, the airline started operating double daily services from Almaty and withdrew the Astana service.

For any student of Network Planning, the history of Air Astana in Delhi and aircraft swaps give a good peek into how a route is developed and how it helps to have aircraft with varying capacity.

With this addition the airline will utilize 18 of the 21 weekly services allowed between the two nations each way. This potentially thwarts the possibility of any other carrier from Kazakhstan launching flights to India and challenging Air Astana. No Indian carrier flies to Kazakhstan or any other Central Asian republic.

Demand

RoutesOnline also published the demand between the two cities. Interestingly, it shows that the Origin – Destination demand for an year was just 832, and there was a de-growth. However, the average base fare was $358.47 for the 2,726 km route. The same post showed that the 8,322 km route between Hanoi and Prague had an average fare of $286.03!!

When it comes to airline networks, demand can be generated by slashing prices to stimulate and grow the market and this is precisely what Air Astana would aim to do over here, having been successful in doing the same from Delhi. Expect very low fares to Almaty and via Almaty as the route begins and an increase in frequency will indicate that the route is maturing. Also a thing to note for the students of network planning will be the timings.

Typically, slot constraints at either of the airport or trial of connecting passengers to one bank of flights over others is how airlines like to split timings in the initial days. The airline did the same at New Delhi before adjusting to its current timings.

While there may not be many takers to flights to Frankfurt, Paris or London via Almaty from Mumbai, there are destinations where Air Astana will be a good alternative and that includes Tashkent, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Moscow, St. Peterburg, Kazan and more!

Network
Possible connections. Image: gcmap.com

The trade between India and Kazakhstan has been growing and was $ 1198.86 million in 2018, which will further contribute to increase in air travel.

Tail Note

I have flown Air Astana (Read: Flight Review – Air Astana from the heart of Eurasia) and availed the Stopover holidays package which starts at $1 (Read: How to see Kazakhstan in $1) staying in Hotel Kazakhstan – a soviet era hotel in Almaty.

This connection adds a major boost to Mumbai airport since this is its second connection to Central Asia with Uzbekistan Airways having sustained its flight to Tashkent which it started in 2018. Delhi is now connected with all five Central Asian republics!

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