Kathmandu, November 20
The Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament today decided to grill Nepal Airlines Corporation regarding the procurement and operations of the newly acquired wide-body aircraft following rising concerns about the issue recently.
The House panel also decided today to meet stakeholders of Nepal Airlines, including the tourism secretary and the executive chairman and managing director of the national flag carrier, on November 25 to dwell on issues related to the operation of the wide-body planes that NAC recently acquired.
The first wide-body Airbus A330-200 aircraft was added to NAC’s fleet on June 28 while the corporation acquired the second long-haul aircraft on July 26. Through the procurement of these big aircraft, costing almost Rs 24 billion, NAC intended to fly to long-range destinations including Japan, Korea and Saudi Arabia. However, NAC’s failure to do so has raised quite a few eyebrows.
Interestingly, the national flag carrier procured the wide-body aircraft without first getting approval from the authorities concerned of the destinations that it intended to fly to. As per Yagya Prasad Gautam, former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, NAC should have first acquired the necessary permission from respective destinations before purchasing any aircraft.
As a result, NAC has come under severe criticism from different quarters. Moreover, the deteriorating financial condition of NAC owing to its failure to operate the wide-body planes to long-haul destinations has worried many.
NAC has been operating the two wide-body aircraft at a huge loss. In fact, the corporation has made earnings worth Rs 264 million through the operation of the wide-body planes between August 1 and September 15, while it has incurred an expenditure of Rs 756 million for their operation in the said period.
PAC Chairman Bharat Kumar Shah stated that the PAC formed in the previous Parliament had clearly directed the government and NAC to expand its fleet only after bringing in a strategic partner at NAC and developing effective marketing strategies. “However, the NAC management has failed to do so resulting in financial problems being faced today,” he said, adding that the PAC will seek clarification from NAC and other related government agencies on the failure to drive the growth of the national flag carrier.
Along with seeking clarifications from NAC on the deteriorating condition of Nepal Airlines, Nepali Congress lawmaker Minendra Rijal also urged the committee to probe into the procurement issue of NAC’s wide-body aircraft. “Questions have been raised on whether NAC has purchased these planes or brought them on lease,” he said, adding that a probe into this issue was necessary.
Meanwhile, bureaucrats and NAC officials are unwilling to speak on this issue. “We will soon clarify all concerns regarding NAC and its wide-body aircraft through a press meet,” said Madan Kharel, executive chairman of NAC.
A version of this article appears in print on November 21, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.