We are in growth mode: NAC

KATHMANDU: “Despite a loss of Rs 40 million, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) pays Rs 80 million revenue to the government,” said NAC managing director K B Limbu, adding that the national flag carrier is in growth mode and providing service to capacity.

“Within five years, NAC will increase the number of aircraft and expand its services in seven countries including Europe, Japan, Korea and Gulf countries,” he said on the occasion of the 51st anniversary programme of NAC.

NAC is planning to add 16 Twin Otter pilots, 11 co-pilots, engineers and other employees through free competition soon to enhance existing manpower.

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Sharad Singh Bhandari said, “The government is committed to strengthening NAC and facilitating it in the customs clearance processes.”

At present, NAC owns only two Boeing 757 aircraft and both are

more than 20 years old. These two Boeings

provide long haul connections from Kathmandu

to six international

destinations including airports in India, Malaysia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and China.

It plans to add two more aircraft to its fleet soon. Earlier in the 1990s, it had amid huge controversy leased an aircraft.

However, Cabin Crew representative E R Thakuri said, “Instead of buying aircraft through bidding, the corporation should buy aircraft negotiating directly with the manufacturing company.”

He also suggested increasing the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) age of employees by eight years to 58 years from the current 50.

NAC had 19 planes, 110 pilots and 2,500 employees in 1990 but currently it has only five planes — including two Boeings — 60 pilots and 1,593 staffers. “The few aircraft that NAC has is not enough in the long run,” Limbu said adding that NAC needs more aircrafts for smooth operation of the airline’s scheduled flights. “Otherwise, the corporation will fail to compete in the market,” he said.

The national flag carrier that has been serving since 1958 is facing serious challenges and difficulties due to inefficient management and internal and external interferences.

It could not retain its trained and experienced pilots and the brand image has also suffered due to decrepit aircraft and frequent technical glitches.

Some of the past maintainance procedures are also under the scanner. “The negotiation for the maintainance, check-up with Israel should be reviewed as it is too costly for NAC,” said Nepal Pilot Association president Y K Bhattarai.

“Mountaineers, trekkers and adventure seekers from around the globe are drawn to Nepal for the breathtaking Himalayan range which comprises Mt Everest and another seven of the ten highest peaks in the world,” said minister Bhandari.

He pointed out that NAC operates a number of Twin Otter 19-seater aircraft, perfect for accessing this majestic mountainous landscape and its remote airstrips.

Bhandari added that NAC should play a vital role in promoting ‘Nepal Tourism Year 2011’ and lead the tourism business towards its destination.

On the occasion, employees working for 25 years were also felicitated.