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Kazakhstan Air Cargo Opportunities

Kazakhstan is looking for partnership with U.S. logistics companies to develop air cargo in the country’s two biggest airports.

In January 2022, the Government of Kazakhstan ratified and signed into law the Open Skies Agreement between the Government of Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the United States. The agreement is a first for Kazakhstan and paves the way for open direct passenger flights with an unlimited number of frequencies, destinations and airlines between Kazakhstan and the United States.The ratification of the Open Skies Agreement is an important first step toward its goal in establishing direct flights between both countries, yet Kazakhstan must still complete other operational requirements before a direct passenger route can be established.

The announcement is a positive development, particularly as there is high interest among Kazakhstan’s airports and major airlines in partnering with American logistics companies, to establish Kazakhstan as an air cargo transit hub between China and Europe. To enable same, Kazakhstan’s airports and airlines may provide deep discounts on warehouse services, and low prices for aviation fuel, navigation services and cargo terminal services. Furthermore, the Government of Kazakhstan may grant investors with tax preferences for corporate income tax, land tax, property tax, exemption from VAT for special economic zones (SEZ) members and reduction of tax liabilities.

Kazakhstan’s aviation industry is recovering after a three-year downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the industry proceeds toward recovery, air traffic is being restored, flights are resuming, and new flight destinations are opening. Much progress has been made to modernize and expand the country’s international airports. Now, the development and expansion of cargo terminals is a priority for the country and is underway at two of the biggest airports: Almaty International Airport (Almaty), and Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev International Airport (Nazarbayev).

An additional incentive for utilizing Nazarbayev, which is based in the capital of Kazakhstan in Nur-Sultan city, as a transit hub for cargo airlines flying from China to Europe, is reduced costs due to its competitive prices offered for ground handling and jet fuel. Further, the airport has the best ground infrastructure and special technical equipment in Central Asia, one of the best runways in Central Asia (International Civil Aviation Organization category IIIA), and the capacity to receive and release all types of aircraft under various weather conditions. Most transit cargo flights are carried out on heavy aircraft, which require a large amount of refueling. The modern aircraft refueling system available here reduces the time spent on pre-flight procedures, allowing faster turnaround times for airlines. For example, refueling 100 tons of fuel for a heavy liner takes only 30-40 minutes. Currently, the Nazarbayev airport serves more than 2,000 cargo transit flights per year, whereas pre-COVID the figure was less than 50 transit cargo flights.

The Almaty International Airport, based in the financial hub of Kazakhstan in Almaty city, also has great potential for the development of cargo transportation, as it is the busiest airport in the Central Asian region. In 2019, it served 6.4 million passengers and transported more than 69,000 tons of cargo. The International Finance Corporation is providing a $222.2 million financing package to Almaty International Airport to build a new terminal to strengthen Kazakhstan’s connectivity and economic competitiveness.

See IFC Supports Modernization of Almaty Airport to Boost Connectivity, Spur Growth in Kazakhstan for more information.

For more information on airport cargo opportunities in Kazakhstan, contact commercial specialist,