Kazakhstan national carrier Air Astana has reported a net profit of US$5.3 million for 2018, driven by higher revenues but also an increase in fuel prices.

Total revenue for the airline grew by 10 per cent to $840.8 million, with passenger numbers up 3 per cent to 4.3 million. Capacity measured in ASKs also rose 5 per cent for the year.

Transit business via the airline’s Astana and Almaty hubs rose 48 per cent and Air Astana says it now represents 40 per cent of its total international traffic.

However, the airline was hit by a 14 per cent increase in operating costs, driven mainly by an average jet fuel price hike of 27.5 per cent.

Commenting on the results, CEO and president Peter Foster said: “2018 was a challenging year due to higher-priced fuel and pressure on international yields and domestic market share due to competitive capacity increases on key routes.”

Looking ahead, Foster said 2019 should see a 16 per cent reduction in fuel prices from its peak in June last year.

He also pointed out that Air Astana plans to launch its low-cost subsidiary, FlyArystan, in May this year. “The low-cost airline is a great business opportunity on domestic and shorter regional routes. The travelling public will be delighted by the cheap fares we have in store, as long as the government facilitates the legislative changes required to enable FlyArystan to launch.”