Direct flight to Doha soon, Shanghai-Tokyo route plan

Kathmandu, January 4:

The ailing national flag carrier — Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) — is planning to replace the present Shanghai-Osaka route with a Shanghai-Tokyo route and start direct flights on the Kathmandu-Doha route.

NAC started flying to Doha via Dubai from January 1. While returning to Kathmandu, NAC flies directly from Doha. “NAC is planning direct flight on the Kathmandu-Doha route also in another three months,” Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of NAC, said after returing from the inaugural Kathmandu-Dubai-Doha flight.

Pradip Karki, deputy acting director at NAC, said that at present the Kathmandu-Dubai-Doha route has around 70 per cent of passengers travelling to Doha as it is a major destination of Nepali migrant workers. This extension in the international flight has facilitated Nepali workers

traveling to Gulf countries.

“Nepalis in Doha were very happy that they can now take NAC flights,” Kansakar added.

Karki said, “Only 30 per cent of NAC’s passengers on Kathmandu-Dubai-Doha route travel to Dubai.” According to him, the international flight extension to Doha was actually planned for September after flights to Shangai and Osaka were officially closed in October. “This is being preponed to utilise spare time,” he said.

Kansakar said that the Ministry of Tourism — at the NAC’s request — has requested Japan to permit NAC to fly on the Shangai — Tokyo route instead of the present Shanghai-Osaka route. He added that if things went as planned, NAC would start flying on the Shanghai-Tokyo route from October-November.

“In the long term, NAC is planning direct flights to Tokyo,” the newly appointed MD said, adding, “However, Naruhito Airport is one of the busiest ones. If NAC gets a time slot, it’ll fly directly to Tokyo.”

NAC is planning expansion but the global recession has hit air travel also. According to Karki, though worldwide tourism faced a three per cent fall in 2008 due to global recession, NAC was lucky enough to be unaffected till date. According to NAC, there are three flights in a week on the Kathmandu-Dubai-Doha-Kathmandu route. On January 1, a total of 171 passengers went on the inaugural flight from Kathmandu, while the number of passenger coming back from from Doha was 168 on January 2.

Karki also said that the number of passengers traveling to Doha has increased in recent days. Till 15 days ago, the total number was around 40 to 50 per day but it has now increased to 80-90.

“If the Gulf countries start cutting labour force due to recession, the number of passengers might also decrease,” Karki said adding that in that case, NAC would have to work out new strategies to cope up with the situation. He apprehended that as these are actually labour-based flights as there is a huge number of Nepalis working in the Gulf countries, the scenario might change after three-four months due to global recession and the number of passengers returning Nepal may increase.