Kathmandu, July 26
Nepal and China revised the air services agreement today without providing any assurance of allowing Nepal Airlines Corporation to fly in Chinese skies. NAC has long been requesting Chinese authorities to allow it to fly to Guangzhou. But the Chinese aviation authority has prevented the national flag carrier from doing so, citing ‘safety concerns’ raised by the European Union.
As per the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the issue was raised during the bilateral meeting with Chinese authorities which concluded today in Beijing. And though Chinese authorities have agreed to allow NAC to operate flights on Kathmandu-Guangzhou route, the national flag carrier will first need to meet the criteria of the safety audit to be conducted by China.
“A team from Civil Aviation Administration of China will come here in October for the safety audit, which will determine whether NAC is permitted to operate flights to China,” said Ganesh Kumar Chand, spokesperson for NAC. He added that the government had opened a way for Nepali airline companies to fly to China, but all will depend on the safety audit. “If NAC fails the test, it won’t be allowed to fly to Guangzhou or any other city of China.”
Chand, however, said NAC was ready for the audit and hoped it would meet the safety audit criteria of CAAC. As the European Union has blacklisted Nepal citing safety concerns, China has been preventing Nepali airlines to operate flights to the northern neighbour.
Amidst all this, ASA has been revised allowing Chinese airline companies to further increase the number of flights to Nepal. As per the revised pact signed in Beijing today, Chinese and Nepali airline companies can operate 98 flights a week on Nepal-China route. However, not all the newly added flights are for Tribhuvan International Airport. The revised pact has also increased the number of destinations that Nepali and Chinese airlines can fly to.
According to MoCTCA, 21 flights among the total added flights have been allowed to operate to the under-construction Gautam Buddha International Airport and Pokhara Regional International Airport. Nepali airlines will now be allowed to fly to 15 airports in China from the current seven cities.
As per the previous agreement, China operates 70 flights a week to Nepal and Nepal is also allowed to conduct the same number of flights to China on a reciprocal basis. But Nepali airlines have not been able to conduct a single flight to the northern neighbour. China has permitted Nepali airlines companies to operate flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Lhasa, Chengdu, Kunming and Shiyan.
Rajesh Raj Dali, former director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said the agreement between the governments sets a policy while the remaining activities have to be carried out by the airline companies.
He said Nepali airlines should develop the capacity of taking advantage of such governmental agreements. “Due to lack of such capacity we are not being able to operate even a single flight at the moment,” Dali said.
Meanwhile, Himalaya Airlines has also received permission to operate flights to Beijing. Once the Beijing Daxing International Airport is completed by year-end, Himalaya Airlines can begin its service.
A version of this article appears in print on July 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.