NAC directed to halt payment of Bon Travel

Kathmandu, April 6

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has directed Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to halt the commission payment of Bon Travel and Tours Pvt Ltd for arranging the chartered flight to Australia.

Recently, the national flag carrier had conducted a repatriation flight of Australian tourists for which the corporation had to pay its travel agent Bon Travel for making the ticket arrangements. However, holding a meeting today, Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai has directed NAC to halt the payment process for the time being.

The ministry has directed NAC authorities to justify why the travel agent was hired for the charted flight that was booked by the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu.

“After the media published news stating that NAC stands to lose Rs 2.7 million by involving the travel agency in the agreement that was signed between Nepal and Australia for the chartered flight, MoCTCA has directed NAC authorities to come up with a clarification,” reads a statement issued by the civil aviation ministry.

The minister had summoned Acting Managing Director of NAC Ganesh Bahadur Chand and Commercial Department Head Tanka Nidhi Dahal at the ministry today to hold discussions on the issue.

Although the ministry has directed NAC to halt the payment, the corporation has claimed that it had no role in involving the travel agency for the chartered flight.

“The Australian Embassy itself had written a letter to us requesting us to appoint Bon Travel as the travel agent for the flight,” Dahal said. “That was not our decision.

To make the flight booking easier, the embassy itself had requested us to appoint Bon Travel as the travel agent.”

However, the ministry has said that either the corporation has to justify the decision or face charges for appointing the travel agent to book tickets for the chartered flight. As per NAC, around Rs 54.8 million has been collected at NAC’s bank account. As per Chand, the amount is still in NAC’s account and they are still to clear Bon Travel’s payment.

An official of the Australian Embassy had earlier told The Himalayan Times that they had requested getting Bon Travel involved as ‘it is the embassy’s official travel agency’.

Responding to the government’s decision, Ramesh Poudel, executive director of Bon Travel and Tours, also said that NAC did not appoint his company for ticketing and that the embassy had appointed them as they were working as the official travel agent for the embassy since the last eight years.

“NAC did not choose us, rather we chose NAC for the flight.”

He further said even when the Australian Embassy was negotiating with the Qatar Airways for the repatriation flight, it had urged the stranded Australians to contact the agency for their tickets.

“Hence, we had been contacting each passenger for the flight scheduled for March 30 via Qatar Airways,” he said, adding, “However, at last moment the embassy had to cancel the flight with Qatar Airways due to some technical issues and after a long discussion we decided to approach NAC.”

Poudel further claimed that as the flight was not conducted as per a government-to-government agreement, the travel agency was legally eligible to receive commission for managing the ticketing for the commercial flight.

On April 2, an NAC chartered flight had departed for Australia carrying a total of 257 stranded passengers, including Australians and New Zealanders.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 07, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.