NAC trims sectors to improve focus

Kathmandu, November 12:

Even as a number of international airlines prepare to fly to Nepal, the country’s flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is winding up flights to key international sectors.

Come November 16, NAC will stop its flights to Singapore. Earlier this month, it suspended flights to Mumbai, until March 2007 and before that to Bangalore, India’s silicon valley, in the beginning of 2006.

“The decision to drop these flights was based on unfavourable economies of operations there. Moreover, we were faced with additional pressures from the Kaula Lumpur sector which is witnessing a huge returning traffic of Nepali labourers,” points out the airlines’ director corporate, Raju Bahadur K C. For NAC, the highest earning sectors include Kaula Lumpur, Dubai, Hong Kong and of late even Delhi, which broke even in terms of financial cost some two months back.

Flights on these routes usually clock 95 per cent seat occupancy. Evidently, it makes business sense to focus on more profitable sectors wherein traffic remains consistent, irrespective of season or political instability, feels the airlines.

NAC which carries approximately 500 passengers daily has a healthy market share

of about 27 per cent, out of more than a dozen of international carriers that operate in and out of Nepal.

However, even with its renewed agenda of focussing on viable international destinations, NAC continues to be bogged down by perpetual delays and cancellations. As a result, passengers booked on NAC complain they are seldom sure of reaching their destinations on time.

“It’s precisely to do away with the problems of delays that we have suspended these flights and want to focus on just a few sectors to provide our best services in terms of punctuality,” maintains the director.

Incidentally, the airlines has been flying to over 10 international sectors with just two

Boeing 757s since the last five years. That probably explains the delays and frequent cancellations as they do not have the advantage of pressing in a stand-by aircraft into service in case of a technical snag in any of these aircrafts.

As of now, each NAC aircrafts cover about two to three destinations daily which requires approximately 12 hours of flying everyday. This is by far higher than international standards which stipulate not more than eight to nine hours of flying, agrees K C.

Doesn’t this reflect on the wear and tear of the aircrafts and their reliability in turn?

“Not really, because our aircrafts are only 18 to 19 years old, whereas the average life of an aircraft ranges between 35 to 40 years,” he adds.

Nevertheless, the need of the hour for the country’s sole international carrier is acquiring additional aircrafts to handle the rising air traffic and stave off perpetual delays. While the airlines claims the requisition of aircrafts has been its top priority since 2001, scant progress has been made in this regard primarily due to the ongoing political turmoil.

But now with a changed political scenario and the likelihood of a stable government, it is hoping that a decision would come through. “Nepal indeed needs a strong national carrier with sufficient number of planes in order to develop tourism in a big way,” avers K C.

Snags for NAC

• Flying two planes to over 10 sectors for about five years.

• Aircrafts putting in about 12 hours of flying time everyday.