More E-Jets planned for Air Astana, including E2s

Air Astana is planning to reinforce its regional operations – often dubbed its “surrogate home” market involving drawing traffic from adjacent countries and taking its catchment from Kazakhstan’s 17 million up to 60 million – by adding more E-Jets as well as planning long term to replace its current leased E190s with E-Jet E2 family members.

“We may well make a statement of intent at the Farnborough Air Show,” commented Peter Foster during a press conference in London to celebrate the airline’s new thrice-weekly service between the UK capital and Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

“We currently have nine E190s, two owned and the rest leased. We have been in discussions with Embraer over E2s and would probably look to replace all our leased aircraft. The first batch [which the airline started to receive in 2011] had 7-8 year leases,” Foster added. “And we may get some more [E1s] in the meantime.”

Air Astana would look to get a majority of both the extra E1s and the E2s on lease as, according to Foster, the company has had problems in its previous attempts to get export credit through the Brazilian agency, BNDES. He added that the airline has a good relationship with AerCap, now the owner of ILFC, which was the launch customer for the E190-E2 during the 2013 Paris Air Show.

This relationship with AerCap, Foster continued, is also important in its discussions on the Airbus A320neo family, in particular the A321neo. “Let’s be honest,” he commented, “what we’ll be putting out is an RFP for leased A321neos. We’ll probably look for 11 aircraft for delivery between 2017 and 2020.

Asked about a choice of engine for the A321neos, Foster noted, “All the leasing companies we are talking to have ordered plenty with both engines, so we are discussing everything.” He did admit, however, that the potential for commonality between P&W PurePower engines on the A321neo and the planned E-Jet E2s “absolutely comes into the equation – particularly for the engineering department as we do all our own line and component services”.

Foster reported that the airline plans to configure the A321neos with 22 business class seats (“these will be lie-flat seats, as we cannot reduce the product to one that is inferior to the 757”) and 138 seats in economy.

Returning to regional markets, Foster discussed the regional airline planned by the country’s authorities. “We are very much in favour of a turboprop operator coming in to do that and, as you know, they’ve preselected the Bombardier Q400. Some of their routes will have to be subsidised too, which is anathema to us. Meanwhile we’ve been giving them help in many areas, such as engineering, marketing, distribution, and so on. The timescale for them to start operating appears to be drifting towards end of 2015,” he reported.

Finally, Foster confirmed that a codeshare between Air Astana and the new regional airline is highly likely. “But we’ve told them that they must operate to the standards at which we operate,” he declared.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
London, UK

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