Kabadi’s Bi-cycle

The news made an even bigger headline in the media instantly. Planning a flying trip is not like hopping on to a bus to buy बदाम (peanuts) at Ratna Park.

Aug. 31, 2023, 12:01 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 17, No. 06, October.13,2023 (Ashoj,26. 2080) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Nepal Airline (RA) made a surprising announcement that it was offering connecting flights to Delhi and Hong Kong from Bhairahawa/BWA. But it was a horrendous anti-climax when the flight RA422 (BWA-KTM) departed without any transiting passengers. The news made an even bigger headline in the media instantly. Planning a flying trip is not like hopping on to a bus to buy बदाम (peanuts) at Ratna Park. We fail to understand why the notification period was not made reasonably longer, given that it must have been on the pipeline for quite some time. Did RA earnestly think that it could wash off its tarnished image by making such a “symbolic” stunt? And how did it miss adding Tokyo (NRT) as catching RA433 was also quite possible with much longer waiting time. It appears more like an idea that was born out of a whim,” political whim” at that. They obviously knew there would be no takers, and perhaps were not duly worried about losing face. It did not matter, as RA had, long-lost it for being utterly unreliable.

That aside, one of RA’s narrow body (9N-AKX) has remained grounded since over two months. The airline does not know when it will actually fly. RA squarely puts the blame on the act/rules that govern its functioning, presumably the one enforced since its inception is still in force. It says it has to abide by giving a minimum of forty-five days notification just to call for repairs. If and when the bid gets accepted, it will naturally take some time for the actual repairs before the narrow body starts earning again.

It is not something big like buying an aircraft, that unscrupulous gang need time to devise a process and modality to inflate the bill and channel the booty through a maze of agents and accounts to make it confusing. Political parties are, without any exception, neck deep into this nefarious act together. The fact that the investigation committee that was formed to probe into the alleged “wide body scam” never got beyond naming the chair-person, let alone doing anything more. It was just a farce to hoodwink the public.

It is normal for airlines, worldwide, to sometimes require unplanned repairs like the one faced by RA this time. Such happenings hardly get noticed by anyone, as airlines with a large fleet can fill the void seamlessly. Possessing a tiny fleet is RA’s misfortune. However, the general wisdom assumes that, managing a small company should be far less complicated.

An aircraft on the ground is a big liability, it sheds money to get it parked along with other direct and indirect time bound expenses that cannot be avoided in the interim. The turnaround aspect is central to airlines business and Low-cost carriers (LCCs) have taken this to the extreme level so as to extract the most productive hours out of every aircraft, every day. Full-service carriers (FSCs), in contrast, do their best by sticking to the published schedule and high quality service assurance. Naturally, they come with the advantage of being reliable, even if expensive. But, Ryanair, a LCC, with a huge fleet of 565 jets, is run efficiently and is reliable enough and yet cheap to fly. Interestingly, Ryanair made a profit of €1.4billion last year and hopes to do even better on the profit front this year. Forget long days of lying idle, Ryan’s Michael O’Leary would not hesitate to have the responsible person shot on sight for holding his aircraft on the ground for a mere 45 minutes, if he could.

Kabadi Byclycle.jpg

It is, indeed, bewildering that, despite the big talks like privatizing RA that we hear so often, why was no one, including its several CEOs, GMs and even ministers of different political colour and creed, ever interested in undoing the most inhibiting clause? Even a local कबाडी / kabaddi know that his livelihood wholly depends on the rickety bi-cycle he pedals daily. We would not make money without hauling diverse type of scraps, ranging from cardboard boxes to old car batteries, beer bottles and scrap metals etc. from various households on his daily rounds. He sells all those, after adding his margin, to a bigger scrap dealer nearby. The way a kabaddi works is more like how an airline operates ferrying people and cargo from one place to another. He needs to get his bike in running condition every day, and cannot afford to have it lying broken for long. It is a tragedy that this simple fact was not ever taken seriously by all those who got their hand in running RA.

It was not long ago when the government and RA personnel were in a great hurry to secure loan from the Sanchaya Kosh and Nagarik Lagani Kosh to finance both narrow and wide body purchases. And yet no one is seen to be duly worried that a vital piece of RA’s hardware has remained idle for so long right here. I am sure there are many more ill-fitting clause that are not in tune or that impede RA’s effective functioning. But presume, nothing would be as urgent as the one related to the overtly long period of notification that is legally required under the existing system.

Some retired RA pilots I met recently lamented that RA never ever paid attention to strengthen its engineering arm. It seemed always interested in sending them away, even for issues that should have been fixed by its ground engineers here. The way Nepal Airlines has been managed to fly this far, shackled by rules befitting a bullock cart, fleet is no less amazing. But how long would a bullock run on three legs is the question. Things would not have been this bad, if it had at least one spare engine. It would have enhanced its image, may fold, than by the stunt described earlier. And it is no less surprising that, with all things remaining the same, RA is still planning to fly to Australia soon, I hear. There is nothing more to add other than praying भगवानआकाशभैरब (Aakash Bhairab), the lord of the sky, to show some mercy on RA and its passengers.

Hemant Arjyal can be reach at harjyal@yahoo.com

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