ALMATY: Air Astana, Kazakhstan's national airline, will increase its flight frequency from Kuala Lumpur to Almaty to four times weekly from the current three times weekly beginning October next year, to cater to the growing demand.
Its director of sales Worldwide Richard Ledger said the airline received positive response from Malaysian passengers during that period, which is the winter season.
"We have a lot of Malaysian passengers who come to Almaty during this period as there are many interesting activities that are offered here," he said after a media briefing on Air Astana's latest programme, Almaty and Astana Stopover Holiday Programme.
Ledger said Malaysians liked to come to Almaty, a city located in the mountainous area in southern Kazakhstan, for its various activities such as ice skating, ice skiing and horse riding.
Almaty is also the capital city of Kazakhstan with a population of more than two million.
Astana, meanwhile, is the second largest city after Almaty with 800,000 people, and also has its own main attractions including the magnificent view of Lake Burabay and the Astana Opera house.
Ledger said although local passengers remained as Air Astana's biggest revenue contributor at 65 per cent, the company aimed to garner a bigger number in terms of international passenger traffic.
"We would like to promote this country to other regions, and as for the Asean market, Malaysia appears to be the number two contributor to our profit after Bangkok.
"Although we have more frequencies from Bangkok to Almaty compared with from Kuala Lumpur to Almaty, the number of passengers are basically the same," he said, adding that Malaysian passengers accounted for nine per cent of Air
Early this year, the Kazakhstan's principal airline's revenue grew by 16 per cent to US$870 million, and it hopes to rake in more profit with the additional frequencies.
Air Astana began operating in Malaysia in 2009, starting with a once weekly flight to test the market.
The number of frequencies subsequently improved slightly as there are a huge number of Kazakhstan students pursuing their education in Malaysia.
Besides attracting international visitors via the newly launched Almaty and Astana Stopover Holiday programme, the airline aims to lure more transit passengers to break their journeys in Astana and Almaty, before proceeding to other Air Astana destinations.
The programme also provides visitors with hotel accommodations including breakfast at a choice of hotels, arrival and departure airport transfers by private car and optional half-day sightseeing tours in the two cities.
Among the participating hotels are King Hotel Astana, Grand Park Esil Hotel and Ramada Plaza Astana Hotel and five other hotels in Almaty including Rixos Almaty Hotel, Rahat Palace and Royal Tulip.
Prices start from US$125 per person for the first night and US$75 for additional nights for twin/double share accommodation.
The half-day city tour, designed to provide an insightful city orientation, guarantees daily departures irrespective of the number of visitors booked for that day.
City tours in Almaty and Astana cost US$85 per adult and US$45 per child.
"We are looking forward to have passengers travelling from London to Hong Kong, or from Delhi to Moscow for example, choosing to route via Kazakhstan and spend their tourist dollars in the country.
"This is good for the industry and good for the country's economy," he added.
Air Astana commenced regular flight operations on May 15, 2002 and currently operates a network of almost 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau.
The airline operates an all-western fleet of two Boeing 767-300ER, five Boeing 757-200, 13 Airbus A320 family aircraft and seven Embraer E90.-- Bernama