Kazakhstan’s Air Astana plans to begin operating its own low-cost airline named FlyArystan in mid-2019 with four of its Airbus A320s in an all-economy, 180-seat configuration, according to AIN (Aviation International News).

Speaking with AIN on November 6 before a public announcement, Air Astana CEO Peter Foster said the fleet will grow to at least 15 airplanes by 2022.  Plans call for FlyArystan’s network to consist of new and present routes now flown by Air Astana, which has contracted with S7 Technics in Moscow to perform aircraft reconfiguration and painting.

"Initially [FlyArystan] was conceived as a defensive strategy in response to local airlines, as well as Air Arabia, Wizz Air, and Russia's Pobeda, all of whom are increasingly aggressive in this market,” Foster told AIN.  “We intend to enter the market aggressively and grow new markets.”

On the origin of the name, Foster explained that Arystan translates into Lion in the Kazakh language.  “We wanted a forceful and decisive brand and one that we can take abroad as we expand into the rest of the region,” he said.  “We believe that the branding is exportable.”

Aviator says FlyArystan’s management team has already been appointed and is drawn from Air Astana’s senior local managers, whom the airline has been developing for the last 16 years.  The team will be led by Tim Jordan, a British-Australian national with more than 15 years’ senior LCC management experience at Cebu Pacific and Virgin Blue.