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Opening new routes, pricing and training — how civil aviation is developing in Kazakhstan

Tuesday, 01 October 2019, 17:34:55

The Head of State in his Address to the People “Constructive Public Dialogue – the Basis of Kazakhstan’s Stability and Prosperity” 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 carriers and develop its transit potential. In an exclusive interview with PrimeMinister.kz, Deputy Chairman of the Civil Aviation Committee of the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development Aibek Alzhanov spoke about how civil aviation is developing today and what measures will be taken in the near future.

— Aibek 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 develop ticket prices? How are these issues addressed by the 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. For 8 months of 2019, 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 until 2025 provides for the construction / reconstruction of 16 airfields of local airlines (Pavlodar region – Bayanaul, East Kazakhstan region – Urdzhar, Zaysan, Ulken-Naryn, Almaty region – Usharal, West Kazakhstan region – Zhanibek, Sayhin , Kaztalovka, Atyrau region – Qulsary, Miyaly, Suyundik, Karaganda region – Karkaralinsk, Ulytau, Turkistan region – Saryagash, Kostanay region – Arkalyk, Aktobe region – Shalkar).

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 carried out active work 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. Within the framework of the Forum, Memoranda 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 directions were opened: Nur-Sultan – Prague, Nur-Sultan – Ulan-Bator, Almaty – Baku. Flights began from the airport of Karaganda, Petropavlovsk, Kokshetau to Moscow Zhukovsky Airport. In addition, the first national low-cost airline FlyArystan was launched, which currently operates about six routes. Until the end of 2019, the arrival of two more sides is expected, 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 starts from 999 tenge. We see competition in action here. Today, about 54 domestic flights by 8 airlines operate on domestic routes. In general, the market for regular civilian transport entry is barrier-free and liberal. Regarding international routes, this year our Ministry held talks with Russia to increase routes from Nur-Sultan to Moscow. Before that, 14 frequencies were operated by Air Astana, this year 7 more were added by SCAT. Today we have about 6 airlines operating flights to Moscow daily, which, in turn, will affect the reduction in the cost of a passenger ticket.

— Why is there such a difference in ticket prices? Could you tell me 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 1,000 tenge 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. Today we see a lot of players in the domestic market, they begin to compete among themselves to open new routes and reduce the cost of air tickets. We are observing now that FlyArystan has opened new routes 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 jointly with the airline created a working group to address these issues, brought in the Antimonopoly Committee, which has the authority and competence to conduct internal pricing checks.

— 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?

— Today, 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 today we see that a number of Kazakhstani 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 Ministry of Civil Aviation and our committee was transferred to the Academy of Civil Aviation, which is located in Almaty and is engaged in training personnel - specialists in the aviation industry, including pilots, engineers, controllers. It is expected that close industry cooperation will help graduates of the Academy to increase the level of exposure and ensure that all graduates who complete their studies are 100% employed. We hold regular meetings and meetings with potential customers, airports, where we ask what we can change in the learning process. We update and go to harmonize everything so that our graduates are fully employed. We have plans to start training personnel from foreign countries on the basis of our Academy.

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

— Currently, the total number of dispatchers is 700 people. The annual need for dispatchers is 35-40 people. Training is carried out mainly in our own Training Center, and also in small groups sent to Latvia and the UK.

— Within the framework of the State visit of the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to China, an Agreement was signed between the Governments of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the PRC on cooperation in the field of aviation search and rescue of civil aviation. What work will be carried out in this direction? What projects with Chinese partners are already planned?

— During the official visit of the Head of State to the People’s Republic of China on Sep. 11, 2019, an Agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on cooperation in the field of aviation search and rescue of civil aircraft, designed to create a legal framework for joint search rescue operations in the event of an accident with aircraft on both sides. The agreement will allow Chinese specialists to participate in investigations, incidents in our country, similarly our inspectors can participate in investigations in China. This is a world practice, the 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 the Republic 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.

— Thank you for the interview!


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