Delhi gets a new airline as FlyArystan announces Shymkent Delhi flights

Delhi, the largest airport in the country, is getting a new airline and a new connection this May. FlyArystan – the Kazakh airline will connect Shymkent with Delhi, twice a week starting May 22, 2023. Credits to Aeroroutes for tweeting this and getting it to my notice. 

The airline which is a subsidiary of Air Astana – the national airline of Kazakhstan, will operate the route twice a week with all economy class configured A320 aircraft. The timings are as below.

KC7469 CIT0820 – 1055DEL

KC7470 DEL1200 – 1535CIT

Flights will be operated on Mondays and Thursdays and will complement the current seven weekly flights to Delhi from Almaty of Air Astana.

Shymkent was known as Chimkent in Soviet times and also for a few years after Kazakhstan gained independence. The town has an interesting history, thanks to it being near the silk route. The city is closer to Tashkent than to Almaty – the most populous city in Kazakhstan or Astana, the capital. Recorded history shows the city to be part of Khanate of Kokand – Fergana valley, which lies in modern day Uzbekistan. For a brief period, it was also known as Chernyaev.

Shymkent is a major industrial centre in Kazakhstan dealing with minerals, manufacturing, food industry and dairy. THe Kazakh government has been investing in Shymkent to increase tourism and has restored the old citadel which lay destroyed. 

FlyArystan was launched in April 2019, as a low cost offering subsidiary of Air Astana. The airline operates with a separate fleet with livery and service standards of FlyArystan but operates on the Air Operating Certificate of Air Astana, using the same IATA and ICAO designators and call sign as Air Astana. Like most LCCs, FlyArystan relies on ancillary revenue and allows pre-booking of seats and meals

While they operate under the same umbrella, there is one booking with two separate tickets if a passenger books a combination of Air Astana and FlyArystan and a transit involves collecting your baggage and a re-check in. 

What could have prompted the airline to start this route?

Air Astana has been operating to India for quite some time. The airline has made the best use of its fleet to add capacity to India. (Read: How Air Astana developed the Indian market?)

Over a period of time, there could have been a trickle of passengers from Shymkent to Delhi via Almaty and that could have pushed Air Astana group to try out this route. To attract more tourists and direct passengers, the route could well be marked for FlyArystan as it could be marketed cheaper. 

Pre-pandemic, Air Astana had scaled up India operations with plans for more. This included a 10x weekly from Almaty to Delhi, 4x weekly flights from Astana and 4x weekly to Mumbai, which led to the airline operating 18 frequencies a week, with the bilateral allowing 21 flights per week from each side. As of today, the airline has returned to India with a daily flight to Delhi from Almaty and has not reinstated its flight from Astana. I would expect the airline to either launch the Astana flights with the E190-E2 or transfer to the route to FlyArystan. 

Shymkent airport (IATA: CIT) has come up as a strong base for FlyArystan with flights to the industrial cities of Aktau, Aktobe, Atyrau and Karagandy in Kazakhstan along with a few points internationally. In some specialised fields, Indian companies have been getting business in Kazakhstan and there is movement of workers.

Indian carriers yet to take the plunge

Even as the airlines from Central Asia make a beeline for Delhi, Indian carriers have stayed away. SpiceJet operated cargo charters to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan during the pandemic and there were relief flights to Kyrgyzstan as well, yet no airline has taken the plunge on starting scheduled services. 

Air Astana, Uzbekistan Airways and Turkmenistan Airlines have been trying to get some connecting traffic from India, especially to countries in the former USSR where these airlines have a formidable presence, yet the numbers have been sparse. How will the Indian carriers cash in? Tourism has increased to these countries as each of them have eased the visa norms. Opening up of the economy and India’s strategic shift in engaging these countries adds up to the traffic. 

IndiGo and Air India group are poised to start operations in Central Asia. Which would be the entry point? I would bet on Tashkent with a 4x weekly to begin with, followed by Almaty. 

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