Testing times

Peter Foster Interview

Gordon Smith catches up with Peter Foster, CEO of Air Astana to discuss how the Kazakh flag carrier is navigating the COVID-19 crisis

Peter Foster joined the Kazakh flag carrier in 2005

FOR MANY of us, Kazakhstan may look and feel like a rather distant place, far removed from what we know at home. However within seconds of picking up the phone to the boss of its national airline, it soon becomes clear that the coronavirus presents just as much of a headache to aviation executives in Almaty as it does to those in Australia or America.

Peter Foster is an industry veteran, having entered the airline sector immediately after graduating from university in the early 1980s. In addition to almost two decades at Cathay Pacific Airways, his resumé also features stints at Philippine Airlines and Royal Brunei before being appointed president and CEO of Air Astana in 2005. Despite almost 40 years in the trade, Foster said he’s never seen anything quite like 2020.

Before the pandemic hit, the airline operated an impressive network of 60 international and domestic routes leveraging a dual-hub approach in Almaty and Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana). Lockdowns in Kazakhstan and many of its major overseas markets led to the temporary suspension of almost all flights in March. Although the situation has stabilised since the initial outbreak, Foster is under no illusion that solutions need to be found – and fast.

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