Nepal | July 03, 2020

EU needs to clarify ban on Nepali airlines: Bhattarai

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Kathmandu, August 15

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai today said that time has come for the European Union (EU) to furnish clarification to Nepal behind not lifting the ban imposed on Nepali airline companies from flying across the EU five years ago.

Addressing the Aviation Safety Report 2019 unveiling ceremony at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) today, Minister Bhattarai mentioned that it is unjust for Nepali airlines not to be allowed to fly in the 28-nation bloc of EU though Nepal has addressed different concerns raised by the EU while announcing the ban on Nepali airlines.

“We have already addressed all the concerns raised by the EU and we have also started the process of splitting CAAN into a regulatory body and air navigation service provider. Thus, the EU should now clarify to us on why Nepali airlines still remain blacklisted in European skies,” said Bhattarai.

Moreover, he informed that the government has been raising this issue among ambassadors of different EU nations in Nepal and urging them to facilitate in getting the ban lifted as soon as possible.

The EU had blacklisted Nepal, placing restrictions on Nepali airlines, for the first time in 2013 immediately after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) raised significant safety concerns. However, the EU is yet to lift the ban though ICAO has already removed Nepal’s aviation from its blacklist in July 2017.

“Aviation safety has and will remain the top priority of the government,” the minister added. However, Minister Bhattarai also said that the government will not excuse domestic airline companies if they are found compromising with the safety standards. “Nothing can be done to address accidents due to the difficult topography and weather. However, human error cannot be excused in the aviation sector,” he stated.

On the occasion, Bhattarai also said that the government will first focus on standardising existing aviation infrastructure, including airports before building new aviation infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Rajan Pokharel, director general at CAAN, said that it is the responsibility of airline companies first to ensure safe flights and maintain safety standards. “A majority of air accidents are due to human and technical errors and the airline companies have to be responsible for those incidents. I urge airline companies to give due priority to safety issues or be ready to face action,” he added.

Moreover, Pokharel said CAAN will start suspending the licences of pilots if the accidents have been caused due to their errors.

The CAAN report revealed that the country witnessed 33,933 international aircraft movement in 2018, while the domestic traffic movement in the same year stood at 95,580. The country recorded a total of 10 fatal air accidents in between 2009 and 2018, in which 131 lives were lost.

The report has also revealed that 32 per cent of air accidents occurred while landing and 10 per cent during take-off.

A version of this article appears in print on August 16, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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