Kathmandu, June 5
Due to shortage of passengers, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is postponing its air services to Japan.
After receiving permission from Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) to operate flights from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to Osaka International Airport, NAC had opened ticket booking for the route. However, owing to poor response, NAC is now mulling to initiate the service only from August.
“Since the response to pre-booking — which was opened a month back — was not good, we are now thinking of postponing the launch of the service,” said Navaraj Koirala, joint spokesperson for NAC.
As per one NAC source, only seven tickets have been purchased so far for the months of June and July.
“Rather than going ahead with the scheduled launch and incurring heavy losses, the corporation has decided to put off the service for now,”
Koirala explained, adding that passengers who have already purchased their tickets to Osaka from NAC will be referred to another airline.
NAC had announced that it was operating Osaka flights three days a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The ticket price for Osaka was fixed at Rs 45,000 for one way and Rs 77,000 for round trip. It takes around six-and-a-half hours to reach Osaka from Kathmandu.
Prior to this, NAC had operated commercial flights in Kathmandu-Osaka route twice a week in between 1994 and 2007. However, in lack of aircraft and human resources, it had halted the service.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have criticised lack of proper study by NAC for Osaka flights.
Former board director of NAC, Ashok Pokhrel said that the corporation was supposed to go through history of Japan flights before opening bookings. “Even 12 years ago, NAC used to suspend flights to Japan during monsoon, as passenger flow declines in this season. They should have considered this fact before calling for ticket bookings,” he said.
Instead of focusing on Japan during this off-season, it would be better for NAC to focus on flights to India and other markets, he added.
Operation of commercial flights to Osaka is expected to help NAC overcome the financial challenges it is facing at the moment. Direct flights to Osaka were also expected to help generate revenue for NAC and contribute to the growth of Japanese tourists visiting Nepal.
“Incidents like the pre-booking flop further damages NAC’s tarnished image,” opined YK Bhattarai, former senior captain of NAC, adding passengers will be encouraged to opt for other airline companies as they will deem that the national flag carrier is unreliable.
At the same time, NAC is still to submit the required documents to China to initiate its services to the northern neighbour.
According to Koirala, the corporation is preparing the documents.
Once it is submitted, Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is likely to response within 10 days, he claimed.
A version of this article appears in print on June 06, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.