Kathmandu: The Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has done satisfactory business in the international flight sector despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The national flag-carrier occupied 25 per cent share in the international destinations in 2020. Since limited number of international airlines operated during the pandemic, the NAC saw an increase in its trade in international flights from 17.80 per cent in 2019 to 25 per cent in 2020, said NAC's corporate director Archana Khadka.
NAC had recorded satisfactory trade share in 2019 too, said Khadka. Similarly, in 2018, the trade share was recorded at 11.3 per cent and 9.70 per cent in 2017.
In 2016, NAC occupied 10.90 per cent trade share while the trade share in 2015 stood at 7.90 per cent.
Towards the international flights, the NAC has presently two wide-body and two narrow-body aircraft to cover nine destinations including three in India. It has been operating flights to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore (India), Narita (Japan), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Hong Kong, Bangkok (Thailand), Doha (Qatar) and Dubai (UAE).
Thirty airlines companies including three domestic ones provide international flights from Nepal.
NAC executive chair Yubaraj Adhikari said the NAC has proceeded towards the effective handling of available aircraft and procuring the new ones as it intends to expand its service in the international destinations.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, it was working on a proposal to include South Korea and China in its list of foreign destinations, but the scheme remains immaterialized due to the crisis.
Future plan incorporates Sydney to London
The NAC has set a plan of procuring more 14 planes for international flight service within the next six years. It targets to get six wide-body and eight narrow body planes by 2027. The drafting of five-year plan for the procurement of aircraft is in progress, according to him.
The NAC is preparing action plan to operate international flights to London, Sydney or Tokyo, Kolkata, Guangzhou, Colombo, Sanghai, Inchon, Ahmadabad, Riyadh, Indonesia and Frankfurt within six years.
It has also made a final preparation to operate flights to Riyadh of Saudi Arabia twice in a week immediately. The NAC has increased its flights to Dubai as well as made a plan to operate flights to three destinations of India.
The NAC has now been operating flights only to New Delhi due to COVID-19 pandemic. It will soon make flights to Bangalore and Mumbai, according to NAC. The NAC has demanded Rs 15 billion with the government to purchase aircraft in order to operate flights to both destinations—domestic and international.
The NAC has lost Rs 9 billion income in around 20 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NAC's domestic business shrinks
The NAC's business in the domestic sector has however shrunken. In that year, it has only carried out only two percent business in that year. The NAC management said they could not expand the trade towards the domestic sector due to the shortage of planes. It only has two Twin Otter airplanes towards the domestic sector which have been flying to 17 various destinations within the country.
It has been operating flights from Kathmandu to Taplejung, Bhojpur, Thamkharka, Lukla, Khanidanda, Phaplu and Dang, and from Nepalgunj to Bajura, Simkot, Jumla, Rukum, Talcha, Bjhang, Sanfebagar and Doti in the western sector.
NAC has requested the government for purchasing additional 18 aircraft for operating in the domestic sector. It has made preparation for presenting an action plan to the Ministry for the purchase of eight aircraft for operating flights to the mountainous region and 10 airplanes for the urban sector.
Around 300 flights are operating towards the domestic sector from the Tribhuvan International Airport. The NAC which has a history of 63 years has not been able to compete with other airlines as it has only limited number of planes at present. It has 1,369 employees including permanent, temporary and other staff.