Air Astana has posted a profit of US$39.1 million for 2017, a welcome return to profitability for the airline after its first ever loss in 2016.

However, the Kazakhstan carrier’s president and CEO, Peter Foster, warned that while growth is expected to continue this year, cost control will be a major challenge in the coming period. “The industry is operating at peak or near-peak capacity now in most regions, and costs – fuel, airport and other user charges, staff costs are under pressure. Cost control, whilst maintaining quality standards, will be the key challenge in the coming period,” he cautioned.

The national flag carrier recorded passenger growth of 12% and revenue growth of 22% last year, after negative growth in both 2015 and 2016 following the devaluation of the Kazakh Tenge in mid-2015.

It carried 4.2 million passengers in 2017 and recorded total revenues of $754 million. Capacity grew by 7%, with new routes added between Astana and Delhi and Astana and Kiev, and increased frequencies on flights to Bangkok, Beijing, Dubai, Istanbul, London Heathrow, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Omsk, St. Petersburg, Seoul, Tashkent, Tbilisi, Ürümqi and Yekaterinburg,

Foster added that the Astana EXPO 2017 and increased transit business through a new terminal at Nursultan Nazarbayev Airport in Astana had been the main growth drivers.

Air Astana operates a fleet of Boeing B767 and B757s, Airbus A320neo and A321neos and Embraer 190 aircraft.