Air Astana yesterday restarted flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport (NQZ). The service will take place two times a week, with flights taking off every Wednesday and Saturday.

The announcement comes weeks after the Kazakhstan government abolished visa requirements for British nationals entering the country.

Moreover, fully-vaccinated travelers are exempt from getting tested before arrival or any quarantine mandates.

The airline said in a statement,

“Air Astana resumed its twice-weekly service from London Heathrow to Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan today. Flights on Saturdays and Wednesdays are operated using Airbus A321LR aircraft. The flight arrival into Nur-Sultan offers convenient onward connections to Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.”

Twice-weekly flights between LHR and NQZ

Air Astana’s Airbus A321LR aircraft will make two round-trips each weak to Heathrow, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The schedule released by the airline states flights taking off from NQZ will wear the number KC 945, while the returning flight will be KC 946. KC 945 will depart Nur-Sultan Airport at 0610 for the 7-hour 15-min hop westward to LHR. The same plane will return as flight KC 946, leaving London at 1225. Flight duration on the return leg is six hours and 30 minutes.

The first flight that operated yesterday seems to have run into a problem shortly after departing NQZ. Data from shows KC 945 was diverted to Aktau Airport (SCO) in west Kazakhstan. After spending a little over an hour on the ground at SCO, the A321LR finally took to the skies again at approximately 0515 UTC and continued its journey towards London Heathrow.

Screenshot 2022-03-13 131716
Yesterday's flight to LHR was diverted to SCO airport. Photo:

At the moment, Simple Flying does not know if the diversion was planned or caused by special circumstances.

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Air Astana will use its A321LR for the service

Air Astana currently operates a fleet of nearly 30 aircraft, most of which are made by Airbus. The A321LR is the airline’s flagship aircraft. It features a two-class configuration with 16 business class and 150 economy class seats. All seats are equipped with in-flight entertainment systems.

Being the long-range model in the Airbus A321 family, the aircraft boasts a range of 7,400 km or 3,996 NM- the longest of any narrowbody. Thankfully, Air Astana offers business class seats with 45” of pitch so that passengers will be comfortable even on long journeys. Economy travelers have to make do with 30” of seat pitch.

Consequences of airspace restrictions in the region

Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, several airlines are either banned from using Russian airspace or have voluntarily decided to avoid it. Air Astana falls in the second category. A few days ago, the Kazakhstan national carrier announced the suspension of all flights to and over Russia.

Air Astana is avoiding Russian airspace on all flights. Photo:

As a result, the NQZ-LHR service has to take the longer way around in order to avoid using Russian airspace. The new flight path adds approximately 700-1000 NM to the journey and results in added fuel costs for the airline.

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