As soon as he was appointed the managing director of the ailing state-run national flag carrier Nepal Airlines, Sugat Ratna Kansakar has announced his target to make Nepal Airlines competitive and reliable: adding two wide-body and two narrow-body aircraft in its fleet.
Kanskar wanted to change the state of affairs for the flag carrier which was known for frequent delays and flight cancelations and was in the bottom of global passengers' choice list.
Something has happened now. Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) claims that its reliability is 98 percent, while its punctuality and occupancy are 80 percent and 73.5 percent respectively.
As NAC started to fly in time and cancellation is rare, the airlines share in the aviation market has jumped from 4 percent to almost six percent in the last six months. Though occupancy has been slightly affected after the earthquake, other factors have remained the same, according to NAC officials.
“Our data is accurate as it is calculated on the basis of actual flight information,” said Ram Hari Sharma, spokesperson of NAC.
As punctuality and reliability are maintained, NAC unveiled a seven-point improvement plan to be implemented over the next three years to further improve this status as well as to strengthen the national flag carrier.
“NAC management has been working on bringing legal and structural reforms to strengthen the national flag carrier. We are also working on improvement of internal management, Human Resource (HR) management and capacity enhancement, property management and improvement of financial system, full utilization of our existing fleet, expansion in international market and improvement in ticket selling system,” said Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of NAC.
With two Airbus A319 and two ageing Boeing 757, Nepal Airlines is now flying seven to and from destinations including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Doha, Bangkok, New Delhi, Mumbai and Mangalore.
“We will now focus procurement of new aircraft, finalizing its operation plan, and strengthening its organizational management and monitoring and evaluation system,” said Kansakar.
NAC has already unveiled plans to add two wide-body aircraft to its fleet within one and a half years. The first will join NAC's fleet within a year while the second will arrive within 15 to 16 months.
“Once we have wide-body aircraft, we will be connecting Nepal to Europe, Australia and the UK, among other countries like South Korea and Japan. We will also add fights to more Chinese and Indian cities,” added Kansakar. NAC recently received permission to operate flights to Damman and Dubai.
“The national flag carrier should have a strong management. NAC should have management contract with its staff members, carry out feasibility study to operate flights to new locations, and reduce expenditure,” said Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Ananda Raj Pokharel, unveiling the 3-year plan.
As Nepal has been passing through a very difficult time in tourism sector with few international flights and high price, strengthening the national flag carrier is one of the ways to encourage more tourists.
Despite Nepal Airlines' regular flights in half of the destinations, Nepal is regarded as one of the most expensive destinations to fly. Following the resumption of flights to New Delhi, the fare has come down almost half making it affordable for more Indian tourists to visit Nepal.
Nepal’s state-run airlines used to have over 30 percent of share in the market till 2000. It drastically declined due to mismanagement caused by frequent political interventions.
As new and enthusiastic minister Pokharel is leading the Ministry, management expert Kansakar as Managing director and NAC management, senior officials and members of trade unions have expressed commitment to work as per the plan to strengthen the national flag carrier, raising hope for the expansion and revival of NAC.