How is civil aviation developing in Kazakhstan?

In his ‘Address to the People “Constructive Public Dialogue – the Basis of Kazakhstan’s Stability and Prosperity”, the President of Kazakhstan instructed the Government to systematically and substantively deal with pricing and tariff issues. This applies to goods and services of natural monopolists.

In particular, the President raised the issue of airfare for the main domestic air carrier and the validity of the services of Kazakhstan airports. The aviation industry of Kazakhstan must compete with international air carriers and develop its transit carrying capacities. Aibek Alzhanov, Deputy Chairperson, Civil Aviation Committee, Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development, Kazakhstan, spoke in an exclusive interview with about how the civil aviation sector is developing nowadays and what measures will be taken in the near future.

– Aybek Kuanyshevich, please tell us what work is being done to develop the country’s aviation industry. Also, in the light of the recent Address by the Head of State, what measures are being taken to raise ticket prices? How are these issues addressed by your ministry?

– In general, in civil aviation there has been a steady increase in all indicators. These are indicators for passenger service at airports, indicators of passengers carried. We have an increase of about 24% for passengers carried, for example, in 2015 this is 12 million passengers, last year our airports served about 15 million passengers. This year, over 8 months of this year, 11 million 800 thousand passengers were transported, which is higher than the figures for the same period last year. Kazakh airlines also recorded an increase in passengers, which is associated with the opening of new routes, the launch of new airlines, here we also see good positive dynamics.

In addition, the project of the Nurly Zhol State Program to be run until 2025 provides for the construction / reconstruction of 16 aerodromes for domestic airlines including Bayanaul in the Pavlodar region, Urjar, Zaysan and Ulken-Naryn in the East Kazakhstan region, Usharal in the Almaty region, Zhanibek, Sayhin and Kaztalovka on the West Kazakhstan region, Kulsary, Miyaly and Suyundik in the Atyrau region, Karkaralinsk and Ulytau in the Karaganda region, Saryagash in the Turkestan region, Arkalyk in the Kostanay region and  Shalkar in the Aktobe region.

Over the past few years, the aviation authorities of Kazakhstan have negotiated with more than 30 countries on the creation / expansion of the regulatory framework, as well as on the resumption and opening of flights, including in priority areas.

This year, letters were sent to a number of foreign airlines, with a proposal to consider the possibility of opening direct flights. For example, letters were sent to American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines (United States of America), Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Alitalia (Italy), Iberia (Spain) and KLM (Netherlands).

The Civil Aviation Committee has been active in the framework of the Routes Silk Road-2019 forum, which was held from July 15 to July 17, 2019 in Nur Sultan, to open new international air routes. As part of the forum, memorandums of understanding were signed with one of the largest airlines in China – China Eastern Airlines, as well as with the Chinese low-cost airline Urumqi Airlines.

– What new international and domestic routes were opened this year?

– Our committee is constantly negotiating with the aviation fields to create a regulatory framework and full cooperation. This year, seven flights, were launched including Nur-Sultan – Prague, Nur-Sultan – Ulan-Bator, Almaty – Baku, as well as the flights from the Moscow’s Zhukovsky International Airport to such Kazakh cities, as Karaganda, Petropavlovsk and Kokshetau. In addition, the first national low-cost airline named FlyArystan was launched, which currently operates about six air routes. Until the end of the year, two more sides are expected to arrive, respectively, we will see an increase in routes in many directions. By 2023, they should receive about 10 aircraft; it is expected to open routes in 55 directions both in Kazakhstan and abroad.

Just recently it became known that a flight is being launched from Nur Sultan to Pavlodar, where the ticket price amounting KZT 999+. We see competition in action here. At present, eight air carriers operate about 54 domestic flights. In general, the market for regular civilian transport entry is barrier-free and liberal. Regarding international air routes, this year our ministry held negotiations with Russia to increase flight frequencies en route Nur-Sultan – Moscow. Before that, 14 frequencies were operated by Air Astana. This year, seven more frequencies were provided for SCAT Airlines. At present, we have six airlines operating their daily flights to Moscow, which, in turn, will affect the reduction in the passenger ticket costs.

– Why is there such a difference in air ticket prices? Could you tell us what the value consists of? What parameters are taken into account?

– The main numbers remain with the airline. This is a trade secret, but you must understand that a ticket for KZT 1,000 is a promotional price that will not be available at all places. This will be about 30-40% of seats on the plane, prices for other passenger seats will be slightly different and higher. Nowadays, we see a lot of players in the domestic market, they begin to compete among themselves to launch new air routes and reduce the cost of air tickets. We are observing now that FlyArystan has launched new flights at initially affordable prices, but first of all, you need to understand that the market is not regulated, it is quite dynamic. The air carrier draws attention to the date of the flight, to the user’s history. Airlines use dynamic pricing, there is a mathematical model that takes into account all these indicators. After criticism was voiced regarding prices in some areas, the ministry together with the airline created a working group to address these issues, and brought in the Antimonopoly Committee, which has the powers and competencies for internal pricing verification.

– What are the results achieved regarding the organization of air safety? How is the process of monitoring compliance of aircraft with all necessary parameters monitored?

– At present, about 800 aircraft are in the National Register, which serve about 40 inspectors. Simple mathematics shows that there is a shortage, therefore, in the National Plan “100 Concrete Steps”, step 68 “On the transition to the British model of aviation regulation” was defined. The committee did a great job last year. This year, the Head of State signed a law on the transition to a new model of aviation surveillance, which is expressed in the creation of a new JSC “Aviation Administration of Kazakhstan”, which was first endowed with the functions of control and supervision of market entities. This company will allow us to be more mobile to the challenges of the time and the market, will allow us to hire the necessary number of inspectors with high qualifications and pay them a fairly high industry wage.

In 2016, after passing the ICAO audit, Kazakhstan took a fairly high level of security – over 80 positions, and currently we see that a number of Kazakh airlines passed the technical audit of the European Union and began to carry out regular commercial transportation to Europe. Until 2016, there were significant problems, there were other requirements that Kazakhstan did not meet.

– What work is being done to train personnel in the aviation industry?

– Last year, the Civil Aviation Academy was transferred to the Ministry and our committee. It is located in Almaty and is engaged in training personnel including the aviation industry experts, such as pilots, engineers and controllers. It is expected that close industry collaboration will help graduates of this Academy to increase the level of exposure and ensure that all graduates who complete their studies are 100% employed. We hold regular meetings with potential customers, airports, where we ask what we can change in the learning process. We are updating and we want to harmonize everything so that our graduates are fully employed. We have plans to start training personnel from foreign countries in this Academy.

– How trained are the personnel for dispatching support of the civil aviation sector?

– Currently, there are totally 700 dispatchers. The annual need for dispatchers is 35-40 people. Training is carried out mainly in our own vocational training center, as well as in small groups sent to Latvia and the UK.

– Within the state visit of the President of Kazakhstan to China, an Agreement was signed between the governments of Kazakhstan and China to cooperate in the civil aviation search and rescue activities. What work will be carried out in this direction? What projects with Chinese partners are already planned?

– During the President’s official visit to China on September 11, 2019, the government of Kazakhstan and China signed an Agreement to cooperate in the civil aviation search and rescue activities. This document creates a legal framework for joint search rescue operations in the event of an accident with aircraft on both sides. The Agreement will allow Chinese experts to participate in investigations, as regards civil aviation incidents in Kazakhstan, similarly our inspectors can participate in investigations in China. This is a world practice, ICAO member states sign and ratify such agreements among themselves. In general, this suggests that Kazakhstan meets all the international requirements of the ICAO organization.

The need to conclude such an agreement is determined by the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The signed Agreement is planned to be ratified by the Parliament of Kazakhstan. In addition to this Agreement, a working agreement will be developed between the aviation administrations of Kazakhstan and China, where the procedure for interaction between the parties will be determined in detail.

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