NAC board okays plan to procure 2 wide-body jetsThe national flag bearer plans to add the first of the two proposed jets by Sept and another six months later
The board of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Saturday unanimously approved its management’s plan to procure two Airbus A330-200 wide-body jets.
The decision paves the way for the national flag carrier to formally begin the procurement process to induct first-ever long-range wide-body Airbus jets into its fleet.
Under the Rs25-billion fleet expansion project, the state-owned airline plans to add the first of the two proposed jets by September 2017 and another six months later.
“Saturday’s board has allowed the NAC management to begin the procurement process. And, it is all prepared for it,” said Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary of the Tourism Ministry, who also sits on the NAC board. “The board was unanimous regarding the induction of the Airbus jets into the fleet.”
The board’s move to allow NAC to buy the jets from the European aviation giant follows the management’s recommendation to switch to Airbus from Boeing as pursuing a one-family aircraft strategy would reduce maintenance and crew training costs. NAC plans to have an all-Airbus fleet in the near future.
The management has already decided to phase out one of its two Boeing 757s.
Currently, NAC flies five different types of aircraft—Boeing, Airbus, Twin Otter, MA60 and Y12e. Due to the diverse fleet, it needs to have different sets of pilots, engineers and spare parts.
NAC purchased two Airbus A320-200 aircraft last year by borrowing Rs10 billion from the Employees Provident Fund in its first fleet expansion in 27 years.
This time too, it plans to request the Employees Provident Fund and Citizen Investment Trust for loans. Two weeks ago, the Finance Ministry had agreed to act as a guarantor on the loan NAC plans to take.
Last January, the national flag carrier had unveiled an ambitious reform strategy that includes buying two wide-body aircraft over the next two years. The NAC board had agreed in principle to the corporation’s proposal.
The Airbus A330-200 aircraft can accommodate up to 280 passengers in a two-class layout. The carrier has proposed procuring the long-range jets to serve destinations in North America, Japan, Australia and the UK as they have been identified as prospective markets for Nepal over the next 20 years.
In 2015, NAC’s market share on international routes stood at 7.88 percent, up from 5.87 percent in 2014. Nepal Airlines saw the strongest passenger growth after it added two A320 aircraft to its fleet.
The beleaguered national flag carrier flew 253,658 travellers last year, up 22.87 percent compared to the previous year. During its heyday, NAC used to fly to Amsterdam, Colombo, Dhaka, Frankfurt, Karachi, London, Osaka, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore and Vienna besides five Indian cities-Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Patna. It presently connects Kathmandu with Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Delhi and Bangalore.
The carrier currently serves eight international destinations, including three Indian cities, and plans to expand to Guangzhou, China, by this year.