Air Astana (KC, Astana) says it will suspend services to the central town of Zhezkazgan with effect from May 1 citing inadequate safety mechanisms in force at the airport.

Quoting local Kazakh news sources, Central Asian Aero News says that during a safety audit of the airport in February, Air Astana technicians discovered there was only one fire truck present at the airfield instead of the minimum three as prescribed by law.

Though the airport's operator, JSC "Zhezkazgan Air", was informed of the deficiency, a subsequent follow-up inspection this month showed nothing had been done to rectify the situation.

"Due to the fact that passenger safety is a top priority for Air Astana, the carrier is suspending all flights to Zhezkazgan starting from May 1," it said in a statement. "The airline regrets the resulting inconvenience of this decision and will refund the cost of tickets in full."

Air Astana serves Zhezkazgan with a 4x weekly E190 service from Astana. As such, with its withdrawal, ZhezAir (KZH, Zhezkazgan) and SCAT Airlines (DV, Shimkent) are the only scheduled operators there offering flights to Almaty, Karaganda and Balkhash.