NEPAL AIRLINES Wide Body Hopes

After years of efforts, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is in the final stage to buy two wide body jets

Sept. 15, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol 10, No 4, September 16,2016 (Bhadra 31, 2073)

Following years of stagnation, Nepal Airlines Corporation is heading to add new aircraft in its fleet to fly across the Atlantic and Pacific. Having served the international flights sector for almost four decades, the national flag carrier has the capability to do so given its experienced air crew and other expertise.

It took almost two decades to include two narrow body aircraft in its wing. However, the airline is now planning to purchase two wide body machines within just a couple of years of buying the two new aircraft.

Under the leadership new minister Jeevan Kumar Shahi and dynamic managing director Sugat Ratna Kansakar, NAC is now waiting for the cabinet decision directing the concerned department to provide loan.

If things go as planned, the national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), will have a new Airbus in its fleet by next September. "We are planning to bring one wide body aircraft by September 2017 while a second one will arrive by April 2018," according to Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar.

As per the act and rule, the national flag carrier is planning to call a tender for two wide body aircraft by December and sign the purchase agreement by March 2017. “The plan appeared possible after Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara promised the NAC team led by Tourism Minister Jeevan Bahadur Shahi that he would table the proposal in the cabinet soon."

"Finance Minister Mahara promised to take the proposal to the cabinet to secure the government's guarantee," said Kansakar. NAC had long been seeking government guarantee to purchase two wide body aircraft and expand its fleet in the international market. Currently, the national flag carrier flies to eight international destinations, including three Indian cities. It plans to expand to Guangzhou, China, soon. The new wide body aircraft will help NAC start non-stop flights to London, Kansakar added.

To fly Kathmandu-London-Kathmandu direct, first wide body is likely to arrive by September 2017, and the second one by April 2018.

“We will be borrowing Rs 25 billion from the Citizens Investment Trust (CIT) and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) after the government's guarantee," Kansakar said. "Details of the borrowing plan are being worked out."

NAC has already borrowed Rs 10 billion from EPF for the purchase of two Airbus aircraft last year. The details for fresh borrowing will be worked out by the board.

The induction of two new jets will bring the number of Airbus aircraft with NAC to four. The national flag carrier is planning to phase out its ageing Boeing 757s and run an all-Airbus fleet.

NAC currently has five different types of aircraft -- Boeing, Airbus, Twin Otter, MA60 and Y12e -- in its fleet and this has made it difficult to manage different sets of pilots, engineers and spares.

The Airbus wide body can accommodate up to 280 passengers and serve long-haul destinations like the UK, Japan and Australia.

The current fiscal year budget has promised funds for the national carrier to buy the wide bodies. With the induction of two new aircraft, NAC's market share on the international routes stood at 7.88 percent in 2015, up from 5.87 percent in 2014.

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