Almaty International Airport (IATA: ALA, ICAO: UAAA) is a major international airport 15 km (9.3 mi) northeast of Almaty, the largest city and commercial capital of Kazakhstan. It is the busiest airport in that country, accounting for half of passenger traffic and 68% of cargo traffic.
The airport was built in 1935, for all small civil/military flying ships. Up to 1990, it was the part of Kazakh Department of Civil Aviation, and then reorganized into Alma-Ata Airport in 1991. Since 1993, it has run as an independent business unit. In 1994, it was reorganized into OJSC Almaty Airport and later renamed to JSC Almaty International Airport.
The supersonic transport (SST) Tupolev Tu-144 began service on 26 December 1975, flying mail and freight between Moscow and Alma-Ata in preparation for passenger services, which commenced in November 1977. The Aeroflot flight on 1 June 1978 was the Tu-144’s 55th and last scheduled passenger service.
Following a runway reconstruction in 1998, Almaty airport was awarded a CAT II certificate and the status of an international airport.
On 9 July 1999, a fire started in the shashlik kitchen of the airport restaurant. The terminal building burned down in just a few hours, but without major injuries.
Construction of a new terminal was completed in 2004. On 30 September 2008, a second runway was opened with the first departure being a BMI flight bound for London Heathrow. The new runway was also given an ICAO certificate for CAT III landings which will significantly reduce the number of planes diverting to nearby airfields due to low visibility, especially during the winter months. The runway is the longest in central Asia. The new runway can accept all types of aircraft without limitation of take-off weight and operation frequency.
Growth in connectivity is in danger of being compromised by airport infrastructure that is comparatively expensive and not keeping pace with demand growth. IATA is urging the Kazakhstan government to follow ICAO principles and eliminate differential ANSP charges between domestic and international carriers. Currently (2012), it is 18% more expensive to turn around an Airbus A320 in Almaty than at similarly sized airports in Europe. The differential rises to 43% for a Boeing 767.
There were plans to build a new passenger terminal for international flights with six loading bridges and capacity up to 2,500 passengers per hour in the near future. A developed infrastructure complex consisting of a Marriott Hotel, conference halls, business center, shopping center and cinemas were planned to be within this terminal.
The new terminal was to be located along Kuldja Road to help reduce traffic on the way to the airport. However the terminal’s construction was stopped due to managers postponing the project’s construction in 2010 because of disagreements with Air Astana’s plans for the terminal which was intended to serve Air Astana international flights while the existing terminal would serve domestic destinations. According to the managers, the problems of this plan would be that Air Astana would have faculties operating, and its planes transferring from one end of the runway to another which would create delayed transporting problems for Air Astana; since the runway lines would be busy with the having lack of space of creating new runways. There has been a conclusion to demolish the construction and rebuild the new terminal used for domestic and international flights. There are now plans to build a new airport in Kapchagai reservoir which is 48 km away from Almaty.
On February 17, 2012 in Moscow, at the 32nd session of the Council on Aviation and the Use of Airspace of the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), Almaty International Airport was recognized as the best in the CIS and received the prize For Achievements in the Development of International Airports.
During the disturbances of January 2022, the airport was commandeered by insurgents on the sixth, halting flights before being re-taken by Russian forces.
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