NAC prepares to fly to Osaka, Incheon, RiyadhState-owned Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has started preparations to launch three long-haul routes in Asia, but it has had to put its European plans on hold as Nepali carriers are still banned in the EU.
State-owned Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has started preparations to launch three long-haul routes in Asia, but it has had to put its European plans on hold as Nepali carriers are still banned in the EU.
On Monday, the corporation invited proposals from potential ground handling service providers at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan. It had made a similar call to prospective ground handling service providers at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea last Friday.
NAC invited bids for ground handling services at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last December. As per the initial proposal, the national flag carrier has planned to operate four weekly flights to Riyadh, three weekly flights to Incheon and two weekly flights to Osaka.
Recently, the Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministry named three international long-haul routes for NAC to serve after it receives its two wide-body aircraft on order in the next three months.
NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar said that the first of the two Airbus A330-200 planes would arrive in May, and the second by June.
According to him, a NAC team is scheduled to visit the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France next month to inspect the 274-seater jets it has ordered from Hi Fly X, a leasing company based in Ireland.
The carrier has borrowed Rs24 billion from the Citizen Investment Trust (CIT) and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to buy the planes.
NAC had planned to fly to the Japanese capital of Tokyo, but this did not happen as the air service agreement (ASA) between Nepal and Japan has designated Kansai International Airport in Osaka. The Tourism Ministry is also preparing to revise the ASA with Japan to permit Nepali carriers to fly on other routes in Japan.
Apart from NAC, several private carriers like Buddha Air have planned to serve Japan to bring high-end tourists to Nepal.
Nepal and Japan signed the ASA in 1993 allocating 400 weekly seats. The national flag carrier used to fly to Osaka via Shanghai until 2008 when it was forced to suspend the route due to lack of aircraft.
A Nepal Air Traffic Analysis conducted by Airbus in 2015 has forecast a traffic growth of 77 percent in five years from nearly 48,000 one-way travellers from Japan to Nepal. Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport account for 68 percent of the traffic from Japan to Nepal. The country received 27,326 Japanese tourists last year.
Likewise, NAC has considered South Korea as another important country due to increased passenger movement. Nepal and South Korea signed an ASA in September 2004. Similarly, Nepal and Saudi Arabia signed an ASA in October 2015.
Earlier, NAC had announced resuming its London service after acquiring two wide-body jets. However, it has not initiated the process as Nepali airlines are still under an operating ban within the EU.
According to the Airbus report, Europe is a potential market for Nepal in the future. There were 163,058 one-way travellers between Nepal and Europe in 2014. Passenger traffic between Nepal and Europe is expected to grow robustly over the next 20 years. Currently, traffic to Europe is evenly split between airports in Turkey, India and the Middle East.
During its heyday, NAC used to fly to Amsterdam, Colombo, Dhaka, Frankfurt, Karachi, London, Osaka, Shanghai and Singapore besides five Indian cities—Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Patna. It presently connects Kathmandu with Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai and three cities in India—Delhi and Bangalore and Mumbai.