Although the government has decided to restart the international flights suspended due to lockdown against the COVID-19 pandemic from coming August 17, the situation looks unlikely given the recent upsurge of the cases in Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country.
Finance minister and spokesperson for the government Dr. Yubaraj Khatiwada said the situation is not favorable for resuming aviation services at this moment of spiking the number of positive COVID cases.
He said that the government was not planning to impose a complete lockdown, but ruled out resuming public vehicles for long distance travel or opening of schools and colleges in the near future.
However, it was announced earlier that domestic and international flights would resume on August 17 with reduced capacity. Minister Dr. Khatiwada said that the government will take further decisions after holding meetings with the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre regarding the coronavirus crisis in the country.
He said that the government will continue to evacuate people stranded in foreign countries via repatriation flights.
A total of 12 airlines companies including two domestic ones have expressed interest to participate in the international commercial flights going to resume after about five months.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), till today, such number of airlines companies approached it formally seeking permission for the operation of international flights. They are national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation and private sector’s Himalaya Airlines from the domestic category. Others are India’s Indigo Air, China’s Air China and China Southern, Oman’s Salam Air, Kuwait’s Jazeera Air, Fly Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, Malaysian Air, Malindo Air, Air Arabia and Turkey’s Turkish Air have applied for the permission for regular flights.
With the government’s announcement to lift the suspension on the flights for both international and domestic services from coming August 17, respective airlines companies are preparing for the same.
They have applied for operating flights for a week in the beginning. Of them, Malindo has proposed to conduct 15 flights in a week, Malaysian Air and Air Arabia for five flights each. Similarly, Fly Dubai, Salam Air and Indigo have sought permission for seven flights each in a week followed by six flights by the Turkish Air, two by Jazeera and one each by Air China and China Southern.
The state-owned NAC will be making flights for five international destinations: Dubai of UAE, Doha of Qatar, Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia, Narita of Japan and Hong Kong. As said by NAC Spokesperson Archana Khadka, only destinations have been confirmed and the flights schedule has not been finalized yet