Saturday, 1 July 2017

Interview: Blair Pollock, Qazaq Air CEO

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Looking back, 2015 seems like an unfortunate time to have launched an airline in Kazakhstan, the central Asian nation whose economy relies heavily on commodity earnings.

The collapse in oil prices from $115 per barrel in mid-2014 to $30 in early 2016 had a crippling effect on the former Soviet republic, choking off both domestic spending and foreign investment. While the government responded prudently by floating its currency, a subsequent halving of the Tenge’s value only heaped more pressure on Kazakh workers and businesses.

Having launched operations at the height of the crisis, there was little chance that Qazaq Air would enjoy the smooth entry into service its management originally hoped for.

But chief executive Blair Pollock is quick to find a silver lining, arguing that headwinds create opportunities for ambitious start-ups – particularly state-owned ones that have a political mandate to drive long-term development...