Kazakhstan-based Air Astana plans to launch an international air cargo division operating a fleet of three converted B767-300 passenger aircraft, configured as cargo-only with passenger seats removed.
The three aircraft had previously been in passenger service with the carrier since 2013.
The carrier says the decision to launch Air Astana Cargo results from a “strong increase in the demand for regional freight transport in the recent months and a strategic review of Air Astana’s overall fleet plans in the wake of the global health crisis.”
The first B767 is already undergoing conversion into semi-cargo configuration at Air Astana’s technical centre in Almaty, with the removal of all seating and other passenger amenities. Associated amendments to technical documents and approvals for freight operations from local aviation authorities are also in process, it says.
During the health crisis, Air Astana responded to the substantial demand for the transportation of medical equipment and supplies to destinations across Kazakhstan, Central Asia and Europe by operating a specially configured B767-300 passenger aircraft.
“Air Astana has rapidly met the immediate heightened demand for air freight by operating a Boeing 767 passenger aircraft, but we must strictly enforce European Aviation Safety Agency weight and volume regulations regarding cargo placed on seats,” says Zhanna Shayakhmetova, director of Freight, Air Astana.
“Once we start operations with the converted semi-cargo Boeing 767 aircraft, we’ll be able to considerably increase the volume of transported goods and offer our customers more flexible conditions.”
Air Astana operates domestic and international flights from hubs in Astana and Almaty. The Air Astana fleet consists of B767/757, A320 Family aircraft including A320neo and A321neo and Embraer E190/E190-E2 aircraft.
Air Astana is a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund, Samruk Kazyna, and BAE Systems, with respective shares of 51 and 49 per cent.