Although many see the second aircraft of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), an A320-200,landingin the country at a difficult time followinga devastating earthquake, it can also be a boon as Nepal needs to new campaigns to promote tourism in the world in the new context.
A strong national flag carrier with the country can mean a lot of advantages. A pioneer in the sector, Nepal Airlines has supported Nepal’s tourism in difficult days. Now is the time it should show its presence again.
The Airlines can make a difference in the international passenger service with its two new Airbuses and two 757 aircraft. Only the fact that it has been a victim of victim of politicization makes the people worry about its fate.
With a mission to bring two million tourists by 2020, Nepal Tourism Board has been launching different campaigns at the moment. The two new aircraft may be handy to help the mission to be realized.
Following the massive earthquake of April 25, 2015, Nepal’s tourism sector will have to bear a heavy loss in the coming few years. Many other international airlines can reduce their flight, thereby leading to the increase of airfare of Kathmandu. In that situation, Nepal Airlines can play an important role.
“This is the right time for the Airlines to have the two new aircraft. They will help sustain tourists flow in Nepal,” said Binayak Shah, general secretary of Hotel Association Nepal.
There is an expectation that, with thesecond of Airbus A320-200 aircraft, NAC can make a lot of differences. “We have to make differences now,” said secretary of Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Suresh Man Pradhan.
As Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has given 9N-AKX call sign to the new aircraft, the aircraft will start its regular operation soon. NAC had planned a mega ceremony to welcome the aircraft. But nothing like that was done as the country was mourning the loss of thousands of people who died due to the earthquake. "As a country in a huge tragedy, we did not organize any official program. The aircraft brought in a medical team and relief materials," said Ram Hari Sharma, spokesperson of NAC.
Along with the crew members, the Airbus Foundation, Humedica -- a German NGO, and NAC used the flight to transport relief materials and medical team to provide aid to the victims.
According to NAC, four doctors, two nurses, two observers and two journalists were on board the aircraft besides the Nepali team which went to Germany to receive the aircraft. The aircraft has also brought 5 tons of relief supplies, including 3.3 tons of medicine.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus teamed up with German relief organization Humedica to help send the aid to Nepal."It's a plane that's being sent out anyway. Because it’s flying empty, we have been given the opportunity to fly about five tons of relief supplies. The shipment, which includes medicine as well as items such as tents and water purification supplies, can help thousands of victims," Humedica Coordinator Heidi Nicklin said from a hangar at Airbus' Finkenwerder assembly line facility in Hamburg.
"As the aircraft has to go through regular procedures, it will not be pressed into operation right away. Once everything becomes normal, we will begin the registration procedures,"said Sharma.
The first of the two Airbuses arrived in Nepal on February 8. It has been named 'Sagarmatha' after the tallest peak on earth.
NAC had initiated the process to acquire the aircraft for international operations six years ago. But it landed in a controversy. The national flag carrier finally signed the purchase agreement with Airbus for two aircraft on June 27, 2013. The catalogue price of Airbus A320-200 is around Rs 15 billion. As part of the agreement, the Airbus is providing free training to NAC's engineers and pilots.
To finance the purchase of the aircraft, NAC has signed a loan agreement worth Rs 10 billion with Employees' Provident Fund (EPF). EPF has fixed the interest rate at 12 percent per annum. As per the agreement, NAC will have to pay back the loan within 15 years.