NAC mulls strategic shift to rake in profits

Kathmandu, July 10

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is planning a ‘strategic shift' along with the addition of two new wide-body aircraft in its international operations and will focus on high-end tourists rather than the flow of migrant workers which is the trend at present.

“We are planning to expand our service to various developing and developed countries with an aim to service high-end tourists,” said Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of NAC.

NAC is also gearing up to support the government's target of bringing in two million tourists by 2020. Addressing a media briefing here today, Kansakar explained that the national flag carrier has a duty in supporting the government's strategic plan to bring in more high-end tourists from various destinations.

Whereas Nepali carriers have been barred from flying to Europe from 2014 after the European Union blacklisted them citing security concerns, Kansakar said that NAC is committed to resuming flights to Europe. “We believe that restarting direct flights to Europe will go a long way in bringing in high-value tourists to Nepal.”

“Currently we are only flying to India, some Middle-East destinations and other comparatively cheaper destinations,” he said, adding, “It is time for NAC to adopt a strategic shift to bring in high-end visitors.”

Around a year ago, NAC had announced its plans to auction and replace its old aeroplanes within two years and buy new aircraft to expand its domestic and international services.

NAC had placed an order for two new Airbus 330-200 aircraft, one of which arrived around two weeks back. The flag carrier is planning to fly both the planes - the second plane is expected to be delivered towards the end of this month - to three new destinations in the future, Kansakar informed today.

“We plan to add Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to our international routes in the first phase and Australia in the second phase,” he added.

Last month, the government had signed the amended air service agreement (ASA) with Japan, while it is holding discussions with the Australian government to ink a pact with Australia. According to officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal and Australia have agreed in principle to operate seven weekly flights to and from Nepal.

Further, NAC is planning to acquire two Airbus 320-200 NEO narrow-body planes for its international service and six Twin Otter aircraft for domestic use by the end of 2019. The total cost of acquiring the planes is expected to hover around Rs 14 billion - Rs 10 billion for the Airbus and Rs four billion for the Twin Otters.

“We have held initial discussions with Employees Provident Fund for the loan to purchase the additional planes,” Kansakar said.

Stating that the major constraint that NAC is facing is lack of aircraft, Kansakar added, “Recently, the ambassador of Myanmar to Nepal urged me to conduct direct flight to Myanmar as their citizens are interested to visit Nepal.”

According to Kansakar, NAC is also mulling over ways to tap and cater to religious tourists from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Vietnam.