“Nepal Airlines seals deal to buy two Airbus A330 jets for $209.6m.” This headline in a national daily on April 7, 2017, brought much cheer to those in Nepal’s tourism sector, which has been crying hoarse about Nepal’s tourism suffering terribly due to lack of direct flights from potential countries, a result of the national carrier’s constant depletion in its fleet down the years.
The two new jets are expected to arrive here sometime in the second quarter of 2018, and Nepal Airlines plans to resume its London service, a most profitable destination, aside from launching four new long-haul routes with the two wide body planes with seating capacity of 280 each. The new destinations will be Seoul (South Korea), Tokyo (Japan), Daman (Saudi Arabia), and Sydney Australia). The new additions to its fleet will also enable the airlines to increase flights to other prime destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Doha.
No surprises there, since these have a heavy traffic of Nepali migrant workers, which practically guarantees very high occupancy on every flight, what with about 1,500 Nepali youth flying out daily to make whatever fortune they can in these countries. Australia, of course, is where the majority of Nepali students are flocking to for college studies, the attraction obviously all the more because of better chances of getting the coveted PR (permanent residency) after their studies are over.
However, there’s a catch, as well. Nepal is one of the countries on the air safety list of the European Commission, and the London flight can only happen if Nepal airlines get the all clear from them. Europe is a very potential market, no doubt about that. According to a report of 2014, there were 163,058 Europeans one-way travelers between Nepal and Europe. Getting a share of that sure is a hefty prize! At the present time, Turkey, India, and Middle East airports are the major hubs for this traffic.
Direct flights to Japan is a priority that has been missed for years now. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is a favorite pilgrimage destination for the rich Japanese tourists. Currently, the Kathmandu-Japan route is extremely expensive, as Japanese tourists have to take a longer route to reach here. With the lowering of travel costs, due to direct flights by Nepal Airlines, one can be fairly sure of getting a lot more Japanese tourists than what we are getting right now.
And then there is China, perhaps the country with the highest potential for Nepal’s tourism sector, as well as for most other countries, I guess! Being fully aware of this potential, Nepal has put in the necessary applications for landing permission at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, the third busiest airport in China.
Well, if one were to recall Nepal Airlines of the decades gone by (then Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation), the national flag carrier was sure flying high, what with direct flights to Colombo, Dhaka, Karachi, Osaka, Shanghai, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam, along with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Patna in India. Compare that with its present situation, with flights to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Doha, and Kuala Lumpur, along with Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore in India. Lack of planes.
It’s been quite a bumpy ride for Nepal Airlines, and the going has been a tough one, doubtless. Well, the blame for such a come-down surely cannot be placed on anybody else’s shoulders other than its own. One can only hope that the future will see the airline flying as high and as further as before, and bring in visitors from all over the world to experience the great natural beauty, age-old culture, and great hospitality of this country. And, bring smiles on the lips of the countless number of Nepalis involved in Nepal tourism.