Kazakhstan's flag carrier, Air Astana, in late March, launched its first A321LR service to London. The aircraft touched down almost unnoticed.
P4-KGB, a one year old Air Astana Airbus A321neo operated the first service to London on 19 March. The plane landed at London Heathrow at 16:24, about 20 minutes late, and departed at 18:23 (almost an hour later than scheduled) back to Nur-Sultan at which it arrived at 05:47, on time.
The second flight, of which its arrival is pictured above, operated on 21 March. The aircraft touched down in London at 15:46 local. The aircraft at 17:50 continued back to Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana. Flight time for the inbound journey was 6 hours and 32 minutes, while the return journey took 5 hours and 49 minutes.
The aircraft has since been a fairly common sight at London Heathrow. For example, on 13 April the aircraft arrived at London Heathrow for a repatriation flight the following day back to Nur-Sultan.
P4-KGB was delivered in early March 2020 and was the second A321 (neo) LR to join the fleet. Air Astana took delivery of its first Airbus A321LR (P4-KGA) back in September 2019. The carrier, which became the first A321LR operator in the CIS, placed an order for 7 of the type under an operating lease contract with Air Lease Corporation.
With its 'greatly enhanced cabin comforts and facilities for passengers,' the aircraft type is gradually replacing the carrier's ageing Boeing 757 fleet.
Back in November, Air Astana confirmed its plans to launch Airbus A321LR service to London. The carrier said it would replace the Boeing 757s on the route from late-March 2020 and it seems these plans remained in place, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Air Astana's network has shrunk significantly as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The carrier suspended 80% of its flights from 18 March until 15 April. Earlier last week, it announced it would extend the suspension until 30 April, On 20 March, the carrier's CEO said in a public message that while normally it would expect to carry about 500,000 passengers during the month, that number is now 'far far far less'.