Nepal set to sign bilateral air service agreement with Turkey and UAE, awaits Cabinet’s nod

25th Oct, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew

KATHMANDU, Oct 25 : Nepal’s Civil Aviation Ministry has set all the files and documents ready to sign bilateral air service agreements (ASAs) with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is waiting for a nod from the Cabinet Meeting to seal the agreement.

The ministry already has submitted a proposal to seal the deal to the Cabinet on Tuesday. It is preparing to submit another proposal to sign an ASA with Australia.

“These three air agreements are expected to be signed after the second phase of provincial and federal elections slated to be held on December 7,” said Pramod Nepal, under-secretary at the ministry.

Nepal and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on air service in September 2010. Services are already being operated as per the pact which allows the two countries to operate 14 weekly flights between Kathmandu and Istanbul. “The final signature will confirm the agreement,” he said.

Likewise, Nepal and the UAE signed a MoU in December 2007 which allows the designated carriers of the two countries to operate 28 weekly flights.

The MoU was revised on April 16, 2013 permitting 70 flights per week with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis. Moreover, the revised pact has given unlimited traffic rights to operate cargo-only flights with any type of aircraft.

“We had planned to complete all these agreements at the 10th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Services Negotiation Event (ICAN 2017) slated to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from December 4, but we had to drop the plan due to the elections in Nepal,” Nepal said, adding that the venue and date for signing them were yet to be finalized.

As far as the ASA with Australia is concerned, both parties have agreed to allow seven weekly flights with any type of aircraft, he said. The Australian government has expressed willingness to permit seven weekly flights to key cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

It has also proposed providing unlimited flights to other destinations. Third country code-share agreement, fifth freedom traffic rights, multiple designations, free pricing and unrestricted cargo are other items proposed by Nepal in the air accord.

The government had made a request to the Australian government to sign an air service pact as Nepal Airlines wished to link Australia after acquiring two long-range Airbus A330-200s which are expected to be delivered by the first quarter of 2018.

According to a Nepal Air Traffic Analysis report prepared by Airbus in 2015, Australia is an emerging market. There were 41,000 one-way travellers between Australia and Nepal in 2014. The preferred route between Nepal and Australia is through Malaysia.

Since 1963, Nepal has signed bilateral ASAs with 38 countries, New Zealand and Vietnam being the latest countries. This provides 6 million seats per annum to and from Nepal. However, less than 40 percent of this capacity is being utilized. Currently, 28 international airlines are operating flights from Kathmandu to 22 cities in Asia and Europe.