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NAC hopes to regain image with new Chinese aircraft

- Post Report, KATHMANDU
NAC hopes to regain image with new Chinese aircraft

Feb 19, 2014-

 

Unnerved by two crashes in less than a year, the national flag carrier hopes to revive its domestic operations with a revamped fleet after its Chinese-made aircraft on order are delivered. 

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) which has been incurring losses amounting to Rs 170 million annually by serving unprofitable remote hubs, hopes for a dramatic revival after the delivery of its six Chinese-made aircraft in October this year.  

“Obviously, we have a number of plans. The first thing is to put the new planes in a position to compete with private airlines and serve people living in remote areas,” said Ram Hari Sharma, spokesperson of NAC. 

NAC which is often blamed for management fiascos and habitual flight cancellations and delays will be enhancing its ancient and tiny fleet by acquiring six new aircraft after more than two and a half decades. The first of the six aircraft on order—two MA60 and four Y12e—is scheduled to arrive by mid-April. 

“Our plan is clear. We will be serving all the operational airports, and this means that the market will once again see a fierce airfare competition,” added Sharma. The MA60 will be used on its Biratnagar, Pokhara, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Bhadrapur routes. The smaller Y12e will operate on remote sectors, including a number of tourist destinations. Experts said that Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation that produces the Harbin Y-12 is an alternative to the Twin Otter.

With the planned deliveries, the flag carrier’s domestic fleet will increase to almost nine from the current one vintage Twin Otter. According to Sharma, travellers have often been overcharged on remote sectors due to the rush for air tickets. 

NAC has not been able to operate flights to remote destinations due to lack of aircraft, leaving travellers at the mercy of private airlines who know an opportunity when they see one. 

For example, private airlines charge Rs 8,000 for a seat on the Nepalgunj-Humla flight while NAC charges Rs 5,000. Following Sunday’s crash, NAC’s domestic fleet has been cut to four Twin Otters. Among them, one has been recently put into operation while another has been leased by Tara Air. 

The other two planes are grounded which the corporation plans to bring back into service in the near future. “We have already issued a tender notice to buy engines for one of the grounded aircraft,” Sharma said. During its heyday, NAC used to operate 18 aircraft—12 Twin Otters, three Avros and three Pilatus Porters—to 42 stations across the country. 

Between 1972 and 1979, the Canadian International Development Agency donated seven Twin Otters to NAC. The Canadian-built Twin Otter, a 19-passenger aircraft with STOL capability and a high rate of climb, was the most suitable aircraft for serving Nepal’s remote and mountainous regions; but there were very few reconditioned planes for sale in the world market. 

The Twin Otter made its first appearance in Nepal in 1970 as a replacement to the DC-3 Dakota, the workhorse of the then Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation. 

However, Sharma added that NAC had to do lot to revive its lost image. 

“Sunday’s crash was unfortunate and a big loss for us to redefine our public image that has been receiving a battering in recent years,” he said. “But we are committed to bringing back our lost glory.” NAC has also decided to change its 26-year-old livery in a bid to redefine its public image. 

Meanwhile, the number of passengers it carried in 2011 dipped 2.31 percent to 45,990. Its market share shrank to a low of 2.90 percent. The poor performance continued in 2012. The state-owned flag carrier’s passenger occupancy dropped 19.82 percent to 36,874 in 2012. During the first nine months of 2013, NAC saw its passenger movement drop 33.10 percent to 17,360 passengers reducing its passengers share in the domestic market to 1.57 percent.

Published: 19-02-2014 09:01

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