Tibet Airlines likely to begin Nepal service

Tibet Airlines has been eyeing the Nepal market, and the Lhasa-based carrier will be the fifth airline from the northern neighbour to serve Kathmandu if its plans should materialise.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has written to Nepal’s Tourism Ministry that the government of China has assigned Tibet Airlines to operate on specified routes between China and Nepal.

“We have received a letter from the Chinese government on Tibet’s plan to connect Nepal. However, the airline is yet to submit its flight frequency, destinations and the commencement date plan,” said a Tourism Ministry official.

The airline, which is backed by Air China, had announced in 2011 that it would launch flights to South Asia by 2015.

It has been targeting visitors who usually fly to Kathmandu and travel to Tibet by road.

Lhasa is connected with a number of cities in China. Kathmandu is the only international destination linked with the Tibetan capital.

Tibet Airlines received its first aircraft in July 2011, and launched services by operating flights from Lhasa Gonggar Airport on different domestic routes. It currently possesses an all-Airbus fleet of 18 aircraft, including an Airbus A330-200.

Currently, four Chinese carriers—Air China, China Southern, China Eastern and Sichuan Airlines—operate flights to Nepal. China Southern operates double daily flights on the Kathmandu-Guangzhou route, while China Eastern and Air China operate daily flights linking Kathmandu with Kunming and Lhasa respectively.

Sichuan operates four weekly flights on the Chengdu-Lhasa-Kathmandu sector. The carrier received permission to ply the route from its base in Chengdu in February last year.

Nepal and China signed a revised bilateral air services agreement (ASA) in February 2014 permitting the operation of 56 flights per week with any type of aircraft on a

reciprocal basis.

Under the old ASA, Chinese airlines were allowed to operate 14 flights per week. Under the revised pact, seven weekly flights will be added annually to make a total of 70 weekly flights by 2016.

Nepal has been witnessing a constant growth in Chinese arrivals since June 2009. The number of visitors from north of the border crossed the 100,000 mark in 2013, reaching an all-time high of 113,173, largely due to improved air connectivity between the two countries. Nepal received 123,805 Chinese visitors in 2014, up 10 percent year-on-year.

However, Chinese arrivals to Nepal shrank sharply following the 2015 killer earthquake and India’s trade embargo, dampening the enthusiasm of tourism entrepreneurs who had got their hopes up because of the fast rising market.

The earthquake and embargo coming one after the other led to arrivals from China dropping to a four-year low of 66,984 individuals in 2015, down 45.89 percent from the previous year.
Charter permits only from Caan HQ

KATHMANDU: The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has made it mandatory for domestic airlines to obtain approval from the head office to operate passenger charter flights before beginning operations. The new policy went into effect last Sunday.

Caan officials said that they had introduced the new policy following criticism from people in remote areas like Karnali that airlines had been concentrating on operating highly lucrative charter flights instead of regular scheduled flights.
They said that if an airline is okayed to operate a scheduled flight on a designated sector, it can operate any number of charter flights on the route.

Previously, airlines could obtain permission to operate charter flights from the respective airport. As per Caan’s guideline, airlines can charge double the regular airfare on charter flights. (PR) ek