The European Commission updated its list of airlines with respect to the total bans and restrictions within the "the EU air safety list". As a result, the Kazakhstani company Air Astana left the “grey list” of companies that are subject to restrictions and can now increase the number of flights to the countries of the European Union. “National carrier Air Astana is allowed to increase the number of its flights to the EU,” the EU's Aviation Commission press release declared.
“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,” Peter Foster, the President of Air Astana, commented on the decision. “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,” he continued.
Air Astana currently operates flights from Almaty and Astana to London 3 times a week, from Atyrau to Amsterdam 6 times a week, and daily flights from Astana to Frankfurt. The information on the website of the company states that the company’s fleet consists Boeing 767, Boeing 757, Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Airbus A321 and Embraer 190 aircrafts; Air Astana operates a total of 31 aircraft and has plans to increase this number to 36 by the end of 2017.
According to the Center for Aviation Air Astana was the first carrier from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eastern Europe to be awarded the 4-Star rating by Skytrax in its World Airline Awards 2012 and named The Best Airline in Central Asia and India – the praises it once again received the following year.
The elevated position of Air Astana among other Kazakhstani companies can be explained by its importance to the prestige of the country. In fact, Air Astana has only two shareholders: the Government holds a 51 percent share through Samruk-Kazyna JSC and BAE Systems PLC holds the other 49 percent.
Yet, the situation with other air carriers in Kazakhstan remains poor. “All other Kazakh airlines remain banned until the Kazakh authorities have implemented a sustainable system to effectively oversee the safety of these carriers,” the Commission noted in its 10 April press release. These companies remain in EU’s “black list” and are banned from European airspace. Only JSC Air Astana and the State Air Company Berkut performing government flights are allowed into the European Union.
The fears of the European Commission are not overstated. For example, Kazakhstan's airline company SCAT has an unpleasant track record of emergencies. Approximately a year ago one of its business jets ended in a deadly crash near Almaty killing 21.
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