Say hello to FlyArystan, the world’s newest low cost carrier. The airline officially came into existence today, with parent company Air Astana announcing its formation and plans. The carrier will start with four A320 aircraft in 2019, with plans to fly 15 frames by 2022. Route details remain unclear but domestic operations in Kazakhstan and shorter international routes are the initial targets.
Lower fares are a key point in the pitch, something that should help grow passenger volume. The planned 180 seats on board matches the EasyJet configuration (without the new lav/galley layout) so the operation is not going to splurge on in-flight comfort but it also won’t be the most crowded A320s flying in the sky. Air Astana cites the legacy of easyjet, Indigo, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia in describing the new operation. Tim Jordan, formerly of Go Air (India), Virgin Blue and Cebu Pacific will lead the operation. The company’s target is half price airfare compared to Air Astana’s fares today as it builds out the model.
FlyArystan is the result of much serious thought and internal business planning, and comes as a result of a rapidly changing local and regional airline business environment. It will be good for the mid to long-term prospects of Air Astana, and we hope, very welcome to the Kazakhstan travelling public, who will be able to benefit from significantly cheaper airfares on domestic and regional routes. – Peter Foster, President & CEO of Air Astana
Of interest in the announcement, the FlyArystan team is focused on the changes to the cabin service experience as the definition of a LCC operation. In many ways this furthers confusion around the term and what it truly means in the industry. From the FAQ:
A low cost airline is an airline that offers very low fares and then allows individual customers to choose additional services based on their individual needs i.e. checking in a bag, booking a preferred seat or wanting something specific to eat or drink on the flight.
While this service approach is common in the LCC world it is not universal. The moniker typically applies to the company’s costs, not those of passengers. But that isn’t stopping FlyArystan from pushing the narrative.
It appears the FlyArystan A320s will come from the existing Air Astana fleet, though the release does not state such explicitly. The age matches up and the group has the planes available. This suggests some routes will convert from Air Astana operations to the LCC rather than true growth, at least initially.
It also raises potential challenges around passenger flow and connections to longer international service. Given the statements that the FlyArystan bookings will be wholly separate from those of Air Astana this likely means no interline operations or shared itineraries. While that helps reduce complexity and costs it also creates difficulties when it comes to filling planes and maintaining the legacy operations.
Initial routes and fares are expected in March 2019 with service launching shortly thereafter.