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Nepal, Japan sign pact for 14 weekly flights

The deal allows Nepali carriers to fly to any airport in Japan, except Haneda Airport

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Nepal and Japan on Monday revised their bilateral air services agreement (ASA), increasing the number of flights seven-fold from twice weekly to 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis.


As per the old ASA signed on February 17, 1993, airlines were permitted to operate 400 weekly seats or two weekly flights out of a single airport. The deal followed negotiations lasting nearly 12 hours.
Nepali carriers are now allowed to fly to any airport in Japan, except Tokyo International Airport, commonly known as Haneda Airport, Tourism Ministry Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota told the Post over the phone from Tokyo.


“Due to traffic congestion at Haneda Airport, Japan said it was difficult for them to allocate a slot,” he said. “But we have many options. We can operate from Narita International Airport.” Haneda Airport, the busiest airport in Japan in terms of passenger traffic, is the fifth busiest airport in the world. Haneda is more desirable because it is just 15 km from Tokyo, compared to some 65 km for Narita International Airport.


The Japanese government also appeared flexible on fifth freedom traffic rights. According to Pramod Nepal, under-secretary of the ministry, Nepali carriers can operate three flights out of the allocated 14 weekly flights under fifth freedom traffic rights. For example, a Nepali carrier can land in Hong Kong or airports in other countries and pick up passengers and fly on to Japan.  


Similarly, Nepali carriers can operate two weekly flights from Japan to beyond airports. For example, a Nepali airline can land at any designated airport in Japan and fly to any airport in the world from there.


The move to amend the 25-year-old ASA follows the national flag carrier’s plan to spread its wings to Japan. Nepal Airlines wants to start services to Japan after receiving two long-range Airbus A330 jets, one of which is due to be delivered on June 27. NAC appointed ground handling service providers at Kansai International Airport in Osaka before the ASA was revised.
NAC recently said that under the old ASA, they had no option other than to land at Osaka. However, with Monday’s development, the national flag carrier can fly to Narita International Airport and other airports in Japan. Nepal Airlines is expected to re-launch flights to the land of the rising sun this year after a 10-year break.


Apart from Nepal Airlines, several private carriers like Buddha Air have plans to serve Japan to bring high-end tourists to Nepal in the near future. After Nepal and Japan signed the ASA in 1993, the national flag carrier launched its Japan service in 1994, flying to Osaka via Shanghai, China. In 2007, it was forced to suspend the route due to lack of aircraft.


A Nepal Air Traffic Analysis conducted by Airbus in 2015 forecasts a traffic growth of 77 percent in five years from nearly 48,000 one-way travellers from Japan to Nepal. Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport account for 68 percent of the traffic from Japan to Nepal. The country received 27,326 Japanese tourists last year.


According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of Nepalis living in Japan has swelled to more than 60,000 compared to only 31,531 at the end of 2013. The Nepali community is the fifth largest foreign community in Japan. As the 2020 Olympic Games approach, Japan will be an attractive destination for Nepalis, with the number of Nepalis in Japan likely to grow substantially in the coming years, the ministry said.


Every year, over 10,000 Nepali students go to Japan to pursue higher studies and learn the Japanese language. Japan is the second most preferred destination for Nepali students looking to study abroad, the ministry said. Since 1963, Nepal has signed bilateral ASAs with 38 countries.

Published: 2018-06-19 08:50:04