Kathmandu, July 23
A team from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) departed for China today to revise the air services agreement (ASA) with the northern neighbour.
The team led by Joint Secretary of the ministry, Suresh Acharya, is scheduled to hold discussions with concerned Chinese officials on Thursday and Friday.
Prior to this, the bilateral air services agreement between Nepal and China was signed in 2014, under which both countries were allowed to operate 56 flights a week in any airport of the respective countries. However, only Chinese
airlines have direct flights to Nepal at the moment, while not a single Nepali airline company has any direct flight to China. Meanwhile, the number of Chinese flights coming to Nepal has reached 70 per week at present.
Hence, to sort out these issues, a team from the ministry has left for China, as per the ministry. According to MoCTCA, the major hurdle for Nepal at present is the slot and flight operation permission. Currently, Chinese airline companies — Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines — are operating direct flights to Nepal
Meanwhile, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), the national flag carrier, has started the process to operate flights to China, while Himalaya Airlines recently unveiled its plan to operate flights to China. Prior to this, the ministry had held consultations with NAC and Himalaya Airlines regarding their issues for operating flights to China.
A month ago, NAC had submitted all the required documents to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to operate direct flights to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China. However, the Chinese authorities had mentioned that they will first need to conduct a safety audit before permitting NAC to operate flights to the northern neighbour, said Ganesh Bahadur Chand, spokesperson for NAC.
“A Chinese team will be coming to Kathmandu in October for the safety audit. They have already sent us the checklist for the audit,” he said. “We are ready for the audit.”
Although NAC had requested the team to schedule the visit in July, the team has scheduled their visit for October, Chand added. According to him, it will take at least 90 days for the team to prepare the audit report.
China is a very significant market for the Nepali tourism industry, as Chinese tourists are the second largest travellers
to Nepal. In the first six months of 2019, a total of 85,318 Chinese tourists visited Nepal, while altogether 71,379 Chinese tourists visited Nepal in the same period last year.
A version of this article appears in print on July 24, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.