Kyrgyzstan Airport Operator Targets Domestic Boost With Dash 8-400s Purchase

Manas International Airport
Credit: Bakhrom Tursunov/Alamy Stock Photo

Kyrgyzstan’s main international airport has agreed to purchase two aircraft as part of efforts to grow connectivity within the landlocked Central Asian country.

Manas International Airport (FRU), located 16 mi. from the capital Bishkek, has signed a deal with De Havilland Canada for a pair of Dash 8-400s, which are expected to be delivered next May. The acquisition is connected to a government strategy, led by President Sadyr Japarov, to “significantly increase” Kyrgyzstan’s domestic route network and lower the cost of airline tickets for passengers.

As one of the smallest countries in Central Asia, the former Soviet state of Kyrgyzstan is home to about 6.7 million inhabitants. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, China to the east, Tajikistan to the southwest and Uzbekistan to the west and southwest.

Although international capacity from the country has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels—helped by the expansion of Russian carriers Aeroflot and Ural Airlines, and the addition of service from new entrants Azerbaijan Airlines, Flynas and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi—domestic capacity remains lower.

According to data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, there are 6,900 domestic seats available in Kyrgyzstan during the week commencing Sept. 18, marking a reduction of 34% on the same period in 2019. The sole scheduled domestic route operating is between FRU and Osh, a city located in the south of the country.

A key factor behind the lower domestic capacity stems from the grounding of Bishkek-based LCC Air Manus, which accounted for 63% of domestic capacity during 2019. This has left Avia Traffic Company and Tez Jet Airlines as the sole providers of domestic flights.

The board of FRU says the purchase of the Dash 8-400s is therefore aimed at solving issues “related to the availability and cost of air tickets on domestic flights.” It adds that work will now start to prepare for the aircraft to enter service.

Although an uncommon move, it is not the first time an airport operator has acquired its own aircraft to help solve connectivity issues. ABD Holdings, the owner of Bolzano Airport (BZO) in Italy, launched SkyAlps in 2021 to increase the number of international options from the airport.

SkyAlps has five Dash 8-400s in service at present, CAPA – Centre for Aviation data shows, with plans to operate service from BZO to cities including Antwerp, Belgium; Copenhagen; and Hamburg during the winter 2023-24 season.

Bern Airport, Switzerland, was also behind the launch of flyBAIR in 2020, a virtual carrier set up to offer scheduled flights to leisure destinations following the grounding of SkyWork Airlines.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.