Govt relaxes provisions for international airlines

Kathmandu, August 14:

In anticipation of greater tourist arrivals during the forthcoming autumn season, government has formulated flexible provisions for the international airlines flying to Nepal.

According to a decision by the ministry of culture, tourism and civil aviation (MoCTCA) today, international airlines currently flying to Nepal could operate four more flights a week from September 1 till December 31. They are free to choose the type of aircraft for these additional flights.

However, the new provision will not be applicable unless airlines have utilised the seat capacity and frequency provided by the bilateral air service agreements (ASA) between Nepal and the concerned countries from where the airlines operate. The government has designated the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the aviation regulator, to coordinate with concerned aeronautical authorities in respective countries for the increased schedule flights.

The government has also relaxed the provision for seasonal charter flights. CAAN has now been designated to issue permission for interested operators for seasonal charter flights when needed from September 1 to December end. Earlier, the airlines had to apply in advance at the ministry for approval of such flights.

The government’s new decision comes in the wake of increasing tourist arrivals via air routes but lack of adequate air seats on major routes. A couple of major

international airlines including Thai Airways, Qatar Airways and China Southern Airlines have already sought the government’s nod to increase frequency and seat capacity.

The airlines’ interests for increasing frequency and seat capacity match with the rising tourist arrivals to Nepal, as the country witnessed a significant rise of 35.6 per cent in visitor arrivals during the first seven months of this year. A total of 193,211 tourists came to Nepal as of July 2007 via air only.

An interesting fact to note is that not a single tourist generating country saw a negative growth till July 2007, as the month alone saw an increment of 25 per cent against the previous year. If such a trend continues, total tourist arrivals this year will break all past records.