Cool: Kyrgyzstan’s Air Manas Acquires Airbus A220

Filed Under: Other Airlines

As someone who is a big fan of the ‘Stans (or a stan of the ‘Stans, as the kids would say nowadays), this is kind of awesome…

Air Manas takes delivery of A220

Air Manas has just taken delivery of its first Airbus A220-300, and the airline plans to take delivery of up to three of these planes in the coming months. The A220 is an awesome plane, both for airlines and passengers. The economics are phenomenal, and the cabin is in a comfortable 2-3 configuration, with the widest seats in economy that you’ll find on any plane.

I’ve gotta be honest, I’ve heard of a vast majority of airlines around the world, but when I first saw the news from Airbus that an A220 was delivered to Air Manas, I said “huh?”

Air Manas is an airline based in Kyrgyzstan (Manas International Airport is the name of the country’s biggest airport, in Bishkek), and it’s the first airline in the region to operate the Airbus A220. If you ask me, Air Manas’ livery looks mighty similar to SWISS’ livery, and it’s an easy thing to confuse, since SWISS is a big operator of the A220.

What is Air Manas?

As I mentioned above, I didn’t know much about Air Manas, though after doing some digging, I’m fascinated:

  • Air Manas was founded in 2006, and operated its first flight in 2009
  • In 2012, 49% of Air Manas was purchased by Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines, given the bilateral trade agreement between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan
  • The airline rebranded as Pegasus Asia, and then started operating between Bishkek and Istanbul in 2013, along with flights to other destinations
  • Air Manas operated a fleet of three Boeing 737s, including one 737-400 and two 737-800s
  • In 2019, Pegasus Airlines sold its shares in Air Manas, at which point the airline suspended operations

Now I also understand why I hadn’t heard of the airline, since it hadn’t been branded as Air Manas in over a decade. Two years have passed since the airline suspended operations, and now the airline will once again fly under its own branding.

I haven’t been able to find much about Air Manas’ plans with the relaunch — where will the airline fly, and how exactly are these A220s configured? If anyone has more details, I’d love to hear them.

It’s also interesting that this airline is relaunching with A220s. While the economics of the A220 are fantastic, you’d think that used planes could be picked up right now for next to nothing. Perhaps this agreement was finalized pre-pandemic.

Kyrgyzstan is near the top of my list of countries to visit, as I enjoyed my trips to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan a while back. And if I do go to Kyrgyzstan, I’d love to fly Air Manas. It’s just a shame that Turkish Airlines no longer operates the Bishkek to Ulaanbaatar route, which was in my opinion the coolest fifth freedom flight in the world.

Bottom line

Air Manas has become the latest airline to take delivery of the Airbus A220, which is a fabulous plane. I’d argue Air Manas is perhaps also the most intriguing airline to take delivery of this plane.

I can’t wait to learn more about what Air Manas has planned for this aircraft and its relaunch, and also to eventually visit Bishkek.

Anyone have more details on Air Manas’ relaunch plans?

  1. I was supposed to fly them Urumqi-Bishkek but that never happened because I changed my plans. (And I also cancelled because Kyrgyz airlines are banned from flying to the EU)

    Turns out the flight never actually operated (this was August 2018) and I lucked out because I still got my money back.

  2. I flew Avia Traffic in 2014 FRU-OSS. The plane was I think a 737-200, there was no safety briefing or inflight service, and baggage claim in OSS was a free for all off of a truck’s flat bed… This looks to be an improvement for the Kyrgyzstan domestic market.

  3. Nice to see they have a comeback plan. They were the most reliable on the FRU-OSS route, especially when they were the only IOSA-certified Kyrgyz airline. At the end, they operated 4x daily FRU-OSS with their single 734. And since the opening of the new terminal at OSS, it really wasn’t a bad experience.

    That said, it’s a tough market. Lots of domestic competition, weather is an issue at FRU with fog/smog, and the runway at FRU is in really bad shape and needs to be reconstructed. So many Kyrgyz carriers have come and gone.

    International isn’t much better. Avia Traffic Company has cornered the ex-KG VFR market, and SU, TK, FZ, KC and S7 take most of the rest. It doesn’t help that ALA is a 4 hour drive from Bishkek, and is a much larger market, so pulls quite a bit of traffic from FRU as well.

    And yes, the infamous ULN-FRU route on TK was a special one. It was fun to take, but also suffered from massive delays far too often.

  4. I flew Air Manas in 2017, FRU-OSS. Bog standard former Pegasus 737, packed full of customers but, all in all, nothing memorable. The funny thing to see was that, although they had web check-in, they had to weigh your backpack and check your documents even if you were on Hand Baggage only… and the queue for check-in would open up like the Red Sea if anyone elderly or a family with children arrived. Super civilised.

    Kyrgyzstan is a lovely country. There isn’t much in terms of super fancy hotels but I think that it’s actually an added value… it’s the kind of place where you can hitch-hike for hundreds of kms and people will refuse a tip. And nature is gorgeous.

  5. The ‘stans are incredibly important in geopolitical history owing to their location on the Silk Road. I would love to visit Almaty, Samarkand, etc. at some point.

  6. Spent way too many nights living in a modified shipping container on the backside of Manas International while serving in the Air Force. The airport has had its fair share of hull losses in the last two decades or so. Let’s just say that their ATC has not been to western standards.

  7. Since we’re on the subject, it might be a good time to review the airlines serving Krapyzstan and Elbonia.

  8. Wow, this is awesome. I got to fly them from OSS-FRU in October 2019 on their sole 737-400 (ex-Pegasus). Was a little nerve-racking since their single aircraft was out of service for an entire week for MX but the short flight over the mountains was incredible.

  9. EX-22002 previously was VP-BMU and owned by GTLK. They have 5 A220-300s more that were due to be for Red Wings but not taken up. It’s currently stored in MST and it’s in an all white livery for now. I hope SWISS complains about the livery because it is a copy of theirs.

    Wondering what will happen to the other five A220s.

  10. This airline and the airport are named after the (probably fictional) person named Manas who is the subject of an epic poem that is 100s of thousands lines long. If you attend and ceremonies you may get to hear an ak-cekal (means ‘white beard’, an old guy) recite many lines of the poem. They have competitions where people recite it and win based on a combination of number of lines and their performance. At school events little kids will recite it which is adorable. Domestic flying in Kyrgyzstan is interesting but not very pleasant and I don’t think a new jet will change much.

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