Nepal Airlines Corporation postpones relaunch of Japan service till Nov

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Even though Japan flights had been planned to start in September, many formalities and documentations remain to be done.

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has postponed the relaunch of its Japan service from September to November-end due to incomplete preparations.

“Even though Japan flights had been planned to start in September, many formalities and documentations remain to be done,” said the national flag carrier’s newly-appointed Executive Chairman Madan Kharel.

Civil aviation officials from South Korea and Saudi Arabia are expected to visit Nepal in October to conduct a safety audit of NAC before allowing it to start flights to Seoul and Riyadh.

Among NAC’s four proposed new destinations—Tokyo in Japan, Seoul in South Korea, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Beijing or Guangzhou in China—the Japan service is likely to materialise by November-end, according to Kharel. Whether or not NAC will fly to Seoul and Riyadh will be known only after the audit reports, Kharel said.

The corporation has formed a committee under the coordination of NAC’s former deputy managing director Raju Bahadur KC who has been mandated to prepare a timetable of operations, cost and benefit analysis of those sectors, and issues that needed to be sorted out to begin flights at the earliest, he said.

Kharel said that the issue of appointing NAC’s general sales agent in Japan would also be finalised and approved by the board of directors within a few days. The national flag carrier plans to resume its Japan service after a 10-year break with three weekly flights to Tokyo.

The Tourism Ministry had designated seven weekly flights for NAC to Narita International Airport, also known as Tokyo Narita Airport. NAC wants to resume flights to Japan after receiving two long-range Airbus A330 jets which arrived in June and July respectively.

NAC had begun preparations to operate flights to Kansai International Airport, Osaka as it was not allowed to serve other airports in Japan under the old air service agreement (ASA). On June 18, Nepal and Japan revised the ASA, increasing the number of flights sevenfold from twice weekly to 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis. The revised ASA allows NAC to fly to Narita International Airport and other airports in Japan.

As per the old ASA signed on February 17, 1993, Nepali airlines were permitted to operate 400 weekly seats or two weekly flights out of a single airport.  After Nepal and Japan signed the ASA in 1993, the national flag carrier launched its Japan service in 1994, flying to Osaka via Shanghai, China. In 2007, it was forced to suspend the route due to lack of aircraft.

A Nepal Air Traffic Analysis conducted by Airbus in 2015 forecasts 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.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of Nepalis living in Japan has swelled to more than 60,000 compared to 31,531 at the end of 2013.

The Nepali community is the fifth largest foreign community in Japan. With the 2020 Olympic Games approaching, Japan will be an attractive destination for Nepalis, and the number of Nepalis in Japan is likely to grow substantially in the coming years, the ministry said.

Every year, more than 10,000 Nepali students go to Japan to pursue higher studies and learn the Japanese language. Japan is the second most popular destination after the US among Nepali students going abroad to pursue higher studies, the ministry said.

Foreign captains flying new Airbus

Nepal Airlines Corporation has hired four foreign captains to fly its newly delivered two wide-body Airbus A330 jets. According to the Tourism Ministry, Captains Yawar Kamal from Pakistan, Ian Graham Davies from Britain, Jude Pory Mirando from Sri Lanka and Tae Sun Yun from South Korea have been hired for a period of one year.

They were supplied by FCI International, a US-based aviation recruitment and crew leasing company.

NAC has also hired three foreign captains to fly its A320 aircraft. It currently has 116 pilots, but it is still short of 28 pilots. NAC Executive Chairman Madan Kharel said they would require 12 captains and 12 co-pilots to operate flights regularly. NAC has produced two captains and eight co-pilots to fly the wide-body jets. (PR)

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  • NAC postpones relaunch of Japan service till Nov

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