(Dr Shahid Qureshi, Chief Editor):-
“Can you help Kazakhstan develop tourism and tourism related work force”, asked the ambassador Mainura Murzamadieva Vice Minister of Culture and Tourism of Kazakhstan, at International Culture and Tourism Conference in Astana, Kazakhstan. I said, ‘In London we host millions of international and national tourists, and I am happy to assist you in this tourism development program’. So, in my presentation at St Regis, I made few suggestions which will help Kazakhstan develop soft image, connectivity and tourism as well as skilled work force and improve poverty elevation efforts.
I was travelling to London from Astana (Nur Sultan) on 25 May 2019 at 14.40 Air Astana Flight KC 951 on a 40 years old Boeing 757 after attending Eurasia Media Forum 2019 in Almaty. The plane had no entertainments on seats and one of the toilet doors were almost jammed, seats were worm out as gone pass the age. The duration is 7hrs. 10 min from Astana to London. It is a daytime flight and I asked a crew member, ‘if they have library on board’ as I was not prepared to travel on such kind old Soviet ear Air craft.
The Air Astana has a ridiculous plan of ‘sleeper class’ with ‘single upgrade’ costing “approximately £220 single journey to Astana from London. What you get is like buy one seat and two other seats for this price, so you can sleep horizontally on three seats. I have never seen this type of stupid arrangement and marketing plan.
Can you one imagines in case of any incident passenger will be without seat belt sleeping horizontally while plane is going in different direction. Passenger will roll over in the middle of the seats. It is basically economy class seats which some brain decided to con the passengers and avoid health and safety procedures to some extent as it sounds?
For example, Azerbaijan has ‘club class’ for almost the same price but with same entertainment and seats as Air Astana business class. It is also a night flight.
The Air fare ‘prices are too high’ in Air Astana especially for the Europeans who are used to travel on Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Wizz Air. We can travel almost half of the price to similar distance to Georgia by Wizz Air from London by Wizz Air.
Then they have this policy of charging over £70 to change or amend the travel plan on a single journey even if it is weeks away. That is not passenger friendly at all?
A Wizz Air flight duration 4hrs .55 min from London Georgia cost £65.98 on basic plan. Distance from Kutaisi to London is approximately 3380 kilometers. While distance from Astana (Nursultan) to London is 4800 km.
London Airport (LHR) to Astana Airport (TSE) is 2981.25 miles or 4797.86 kilometers cost £541 return and sleeper class one way £827. You can see the flights available on the same days and how much they cost.
Air Astana is a national flag carrier air line of Kazakhstan and fly mostly on alternative days direct from London to Astana (Nur Sultan) at about 18.05 and arrive in early morning at 5 am local time, basically it is a night flight. The return Astana (Nur sultan) to London fly in the afternoon local time at 14.40 local time duration is 6hrs. 25 min. It is a long flight and time difference is 5 hours in summer and 6 hours in winter so pretty jet-lagging on both sides’ journeys.
National airline like Air Astana is the first point of contact for a tourist coming to Kazakhstan to spend money and bring foreign exchange to the country’s hotel, transport and local businesses. Specially for an oil rich country it is very easy to reduce the air fares to as low as possible to improve connectivity.
I wonder why British airways is not flying to Astana (Nur Sultan) Kazakhstan? Does anyone think that Ryan Air low prices to many destinations in former Soviet Bloc are just business? They have a political strategy to improve connectivity and influence this region.
If Ryan Air and others can profit and survive so can Air Astana.
(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and chief editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Azerbaijan April 2018, Kazakhstan 2015 and 2016 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. At Government College Lahore he wrote his MA thesis on ‘Political Thought of Imam Khomeini’ and visited Tehran University. He is PhD in ‘Political Psychology’ and studied Law at a British University. He also speaks at Cambridge University. He is a visiting Professor at Hebe University in China.)
Views expressed are not of The London Post.