Kathmandu, October 25
Himalaya Airlines is all set to commence commercial flights to Beijing, the capital city of China, from Sunday.
Targeting the increasing number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal, the airline company is preparing to operate three flights a week to Beijing Daxing International Airport from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
Each year the number of Chinese tourists coming to the country has been growing. Considering this situation, the airline company expects the Kathmandu-Beijing flight to ease the travel of Chinese tourists and to contribute to the Nepali tourism sector.
Meanwhile, Nepal Airlines Corporation — the national flag carrier — which had started the process for direct flights to China even earlier still has to receive permission from concerned Chinese civil aviation authorities.
Based on the recently revised air services agreement between Nepal and China, airline companies of both countries are allowed to operate 98 flights a week each. Himalaya Airlines received permission to operate commercial flights to China based on this pact. Himalaya Airlines had already received a slot at Beijing Daxing International Airport a few months back and was waiting for the airport to start formal operation.
As per NAC, though it has long been requesting Chinese authorities to allow it to fly to Guangzhou, the Chinese aviation authority has prevented the national flag carrier from operating commercial flights, citing ‘safety concerns’ raised by the European Union.
Earlier, the audit team of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) was scheduled to come to Nepal in October for the safety audit. But now the schedule has again been postponed to December, said Ganesh Kumar Chand, spokesperson for NAC.
“As the safety audit team from CAAC will come to Nepal only in December, we are working for other destinations,” he said. Currently NAC is also proceeding to operate flights to Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Meanwhile, Himalaya Airlines has received the delivery of its new Airbus A319 series narrow-body aircraft today for the new destinations. The aircraft with a capacity of 160 passengers, including cabin crew, has been brought on lease for the operation of flights to China. With this, the airline company will now again have three aircraft. Earlier, it had leased out one of its aircraft to Bamboo Airways of Vietnam for one year.
The company is also planning to add more new aircraft in its fleet in the near future. Along with the new destinations, the company will also resume operations to old destinations. As the government has again opened the labour permit for Malaysia, the company is likely to resume flights to Kuala Lumpur from next month. Currently, the company is operating flights to Abu Dhabi, Dammam, Dhaka and Doha.
A version of this article appears in print on October 26, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.