Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Monday announced that it would be launching four new long-haul routes besides resuming its London service after acquiring two wide-body jets in 2018.
The national flag carrier plans to connect Kathmandu with Seoul in South Korea, Tokyo in Japan, Dammam in Saudi Arabia and Sydney in Australia. It has also announced increasing flight frequencies to key destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Doha.
“As per our assessment, the Kathmandu-London route is the most profitable route which we have planned to resume,” said Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of NAC. As the European Commission (EC) has put Nepal on its air safety list, we will be able to fly to London only after Nepali carriers are cleared for flights to Europe.
According to a Nepal Air Traffic Analysis report prepared by Airbus in 2015, Europe is a potential market for Nepal in the future. There were 163,058 one-way travellers between Nepal and Europe in 2014. Passenger traffic between Nepal and Europe is expected to grow robustly over the next 20 years. Currently, traffic to Europe is evenly split between airports in Turkey, India and the Middle East.
Kansakar said that flights to Tokyo would also be crucial to attract Japanese tourists. “The Kathmandu-Japan route is the most expensive flight as there is no direct service, and this has been hurting tourist growth from there,” he said, adding that airfares would drop and tourist traffic would swell after Nepal Airlines resumes its Japan service.
The Airbus study has forecast a traffic growth of 77 percent in five years from nearly 48,000 one-way travellers. Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport account for 68 percent of the traffic from Japan to Nepal.
Meanwhile, Nepal has proposed signing a bilateral air service agreement (ASA) with Australia as Nepal Airlines wants to spread its wings Down Under after acquiring new long-range aircraft.
The Tourism Ministry has requested the Australian government for an ASA allowing 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft. There were 41,000 one-way travellers between Australia and Nepal in 2014.
The preferred route between Nepal and Australia is through Malaysia. NAC said that it is yet to assess the Australian market and decide whether direct flight connectivity or code-share flights would be feasible on the sector.
Nepal Airlines is also eying the Chinese market. It has already applied for landing permission at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, which is the third busiest airport in China in terms of passenger traffic.
During its heyday, NAC used to fly to Amsterdam, Colombo, Dhaka, Frankfurt, Karachi, London, Osaka, Shanghai and Singapore besides five Indian cities—Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Patna. It presently connects Kathmandu with Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai and three cities in India—Delhi and Bangalore and Mumbai.