Air Astana increases its seat density as it becomes world’s second Embraer E2 operator

Air Astana announced on 3-Dec-2018 the arrival of its first E190-E2. The aircraft, which features a special Snow Leopard livery, was handed over to Air Astana at Embraer’s Sao Jose dos Campos facility at the end of Nov-2018 and landed in Astana on 3-Dec-2018.


Summary:

  • Air Astana has become the world’s second E2 operator following delivery of its first E190-E2, which the airline is using to replace E190-E1s;
  • With the delivery Kazakhstan become the first country with all three families of new generation single-aisle re-engined aircraft;
  • Air Astana’s E190-E2s have 104 seats, representing a 7% increase in capacity compared to its E190-E1s as a fixed business class cabin has been eliminated.

The national carrier of Kazakhstan becomes the second operator of the E2 after Norway’s Wideroe, which took its first aircraft in Apr-2018. Wideroe currently operates three of the type, all of which were delivered in 2Q2018.

With the first E2 delivery to Air Astana, Kazakhstan gains the distinction of becoming the first country with all three families of new generation single aisle re-engined aircraft. Air Astana has operated A320neos since 2016 and Kazakhstan’s second largest airline SCAT took delivery of its first 737 MAX 8 in Mar-2018.

For all three new aircraft types to be operating in Kazakhstan represents a major transformation, given that the market has historically been dominated by ageing aircraft and former Soviet-designed models.

Air Astana has only operated Western aircraft since commencing operations in 2002 and took its first new aircraft in 2008. The 737 MAX 8 was SCAT’s first new Western aircraft although the airline, which commenced operations in 1997, has been acquiring second hand Western aircraft for several years. SCAT phased out its last Russian aircraft in 2016 and has commitments for five more 737 MAX 8s.

There are still several Russian aircraft operating in Kazakhstan but the four largest passenger airlines (Air Astana, SCAT, Bek Air and Qazaq Air) have entirely Western fleets. Bek operates Fokker 100s while Qazaq has flies new Dash 8Q400 turboprops.

CHART – Kazakhstan’s fleet now consists mainly of aircraft from Western manufacturers although there are still 10 Antonov and 10 Ilyushin aircraft (each accounting for 8% of the total fleet) operating at second tier carriersSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database (data: as of 3-Dec-2018)

Air Astana has operated E190s since 2011, which it has used to launch thin international routes in the CIS region and operate to smaller domestic markets. The airline has nine E190s but has parked one ahead of the first E2 delivery.

It plans to replace all nine E190-E1s with E190-E2s. While so far Air Astana has only committed to acquiring five E2s, through a lease deal with AerCap, the airilne intends to acquire more E2s and replace its E1s on a 1:1 basis.

CHART – Air Astana operates A320 family aircraft, 767s and 767s in addition to the E190sSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database (data: as of 3-Dec-2018)

Air Astana is eager to replace its E1s as the E2 is more fuel efficient and is being configured to carry more passengers. Its E190-E2s have 104 seats with a flexible business class cabin. Its E190-E1s have 97 seats, including 88 economy seats with 31in pitch in a 2×2 configuration and nine fixed business class seats with 36in pitch in a 2×1 configuration.

The E2 can accommodate up to three rows or 12 passengers in business class. However, the pitch is only 33in and the seats are in the same 2×2 configuration as economy. This may not be ideal but Air Astana believes it is acceptable given the short duration of flights.

The airline has also opted for a flexible business class cabin for some of its future A320neos (all its current A320 family aircraft have a fixed business class cabin). However, for the A320neos Air Astana will place a table over the middle seat for business passengers. The decision to adopt a flexibility business class cabin with a movable curtain for short-haul flights (less than four hours) is aimed at reducing unit costs and improving the airline’s competitiveness.