By Ram Khatry, Sydney
20 October 2016
A direct flight between Sydney and Kathmandu will happen as soon as Nepal’s national flag carrier procures its much-awaited A330s, a senior Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) official has assured the Nepalese diaspora in Australia.
Stating that the main reason behind the planned operation is to cash in on the rising population of Nepalese Australians, an NAC spokesperson told southasia.com.au on Wednesday that the RFP (Request for Proposal) for the two planes was already floated on September 26. “Once we know the date of delivery of the aircraft then the planning will begin,” Deputy Director of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) Shailesh Kansakar remarked.
However, he warned that Sydney was not the only destination NAC has in mind, indicating there are other areas the NAC is simultaneously considering to extend its services to, “It depends on the process of work in different sectors we are planning to operate.”
Asked when Nepal will have the planes ready and at what costs, Mr Kansakar said, “The procurement of A330’s will be within the next year. The RFP (Request for Proposal) has been floated on 26th September, 2016 for 45 days. We will know the cost only after the RFP evaluation.”
So far as members of the Australian Nepalese diaspora are concerned, they cannot wait to fly home with crew members that speak the same tongue. “A direct flight will also be very effective in enhancing people to people relations between Australia and Nepal,” says Suman Deuja from Melbourne who still has family members back in Nepal. “With the increasing Nepalese population in the country, a lot of elderly people are flying to Australia. Right now, they have to come via a third country and it is very difficult for them because they usually do not speak English and are not comfortable in unfamiliar environment as they transit through various airports,” the young man who is popularly know as Sam Nepali (a Facebook profile he uses to find jobs for Nepalese students in Victoria) further added.
Although it has not been decided yet, NAC promises a competitive fare structure. The actual rate will depend on the oil price and other factors such as airport tax, tourism tax etc both in Australia and Nepal at the time of launching the operation, Mr Kansakar pointed out.
According to the Corporate Department boss, the first and foremost thing that needs to happen is a bilateral agreement between Australia and Nepal called ASA (Air Service Agreement). He said that “the process is ongoing and will be done by Government of Nepal, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Aviation.”
The NAC will further its process to designate Nepal Airlines to operate flights in Australia once a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of ASA has been signed.
Unlike those who are skeptical about its ability to withstand competition with major international airlines, NAC seems to be least bothered about the presence of major international airlines because it would rather be trying to create its “own niche market”. The goodwill of the Nepalese diaspora in Australia will play a great role in this regard, the NAC spokesperson indicated. These are the passengers, Mr Kansakar reminded, that want to fly Nepal Airlines, that want Nepalese hospitality which makes them feel at home in the air, “They want the feel that they are already in Nepal. This also depends on the sector that we are operating. Each sector is going o be different.”
Mr Kansakar asserted that Nepalese communities in Australia would be the first target group of Nepal Airlines and it would then do “Destination Marketing” targeting Australians at large by promoting Nepal as a place to visit for nature, adventure and culture.
The additional two planes are further expected to enhance NAC’s market share. “With the addition of two Airbus A320-200 aircraft, we have increased our market share to 10.70% from 5.9% before the induction of A320-200s,” Mr Kansakar said. But more than trying to “reclaim market share”, NAC is focused on growth of Nepal Airlines itself, “We are focused on growth to provide employment, growth for economic prosperity of the country, to increase connectivity to various countries for easy movement for Nepalese and tourists.”
Right now, all NAC wants is for Nepalese passengers as well as tourists to not have to pay expensive fares (that too with stopovers) to come to Nepal. Once its additional sectors are operational, Nepal Airlines is expected to bring more tourists to the mountain nation in order to nourish its tourism industry, the backbone of the Nepalese economy.