Air Astana is planning to buy 30 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft for its new low-cost carrier FlyArystan despite the plane’s continued grounding following two fatal crashes.

The flag carrier of Kazakhstan announced the US$3.6 billion order (list price value) at the Dubai Airshow.

Since beginning operations in May 2002, Air Astana has grown its business from hubs in Almaty and Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), to more cities in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Asia, China, Europe and Russia. Other aircraft in its fleet include the Boeing 757, 767 and the Airbus A320 family.

In May, Air Astana launched FlyArystan to better compete in the growing low-cost segment. The company claims the new airline has seen strong ticket sales in the first few months of operation, with international services to Moscow starting December this year.

Peter Foster, president and CEO of Air Astana, said: “Since its launch in May this year, FlyArystan has exceeded all expectations and it is clear that low-cost air travel has a great future in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

“Air Astana has had a strong relationship with Boeing ever since the airline started flying in 2002 with a pair of 737NGs. Today we operate both 757s and 767s and we believe that the MAX will provide a solid platform for the growth of FlyArystan throughout our region, once the aircraft has successfully returned to service.”

Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “Air Astana has become one of the leading airlines in Central Asia with its deep focus on safety, reliability, efficiency and customer service. At Boeing, we share those same values and are honoured to expand our partnership with the 737 Max. We believe the efficiency and reliability built into the 737 MAX will be a great fit for FlyArystan. We look forward to working with Peter and his team to finalise an agreement that meets their fleet and operational requirements.”

Several airlines have cancelled their 737 Max flights until 2020, including American Airlines and Southwest, following two fatal crashes that involved the aircraft type. Last month, Boeing announced a change of leadership on its 737 Max programme.

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