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China-funded airline struggles to fly to Beijing, Guangzhou

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Sep 18, 2017-The government has formally requested the Chinese government to allow Himalaya Airlines to operate its flight to and from two major international airports in Beijing and Guangzhou.

Officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry said they had written to the Chinese government two weeks ago requesting Himalaya be granted landing permits at key Chinese airports. Although Himalaya Airlines is a Nepal-China joint-venture company, it has not been able to get the landing permits in airports of major Chinese cities. It has been eying the Chinese market since last year.

Privately-owned Himalaya had written to the ministry requesting that the diplomatic channel be used to ask the Chinese government to expedite the process of granting permission to use the airports in Beijing and Guangzhou.

“We have sent a letter to the Chinese government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said the officials. The carrier has expressed interest to operate daily flights to the two main Chinese cities.

Nepal Airlines is also eying the Chinese market. Although the national flag carrier had applied for landing permission at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in 2015, it is yet to get the permit. 

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) officials suspect that Himalaya and Nepal Airlines were not given permission to use Chinese airports due to fallout of the significant safety concern (SSC) tag given to Nepal by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) in its audit report in 2013.

“Now the SSC has been lifted and we are optimistic that both the airlines will get the operating authorisation,” said Caan officials. “It will be surprising if China denies issuing the permit now.”

Nepal and China had signed a revised bilateral air services agreement (ASA) in February 2014, permitting operation of 56 flights per week with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis. The pact allowed each country to increase the flight frequency to 70 per week by 2016. Under the old ASA, Chinese airlines were allowed to operate 14 flights per week. Currently, five Chinese carriers—Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines—operate flights to Nepal. With operation of these flights, flight operation quota extended to Chinese airline companies has been fully utilised.

According to the Caan, request recently made by China Southern to operate additional flights to Nepal could not be entertained because of full utilisation of the flight operation quota.

In March 2016, Himalaya Airlines had taken delivery of its first aircraft to serve the international market. The carrier has a fleet of three A320 jets and serves direct flights to Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Doha and Dammam.

The airlines had previously planned to launch scheduled flights from October 2014, but the plan was deferred due to “technical problems”.

It was further delayed by the devastating 2015 earthquakes.

The company plans to link various Asian and Middle East cities. It also plans to acquire 15 Airbus aircraft, including long-haul A330 wide-body jets, to expand operations to Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia, and the Americas in the next five years.

Himalayan Infrastructure Fund Aviation Investment and Yeti World Investment hold 51 percent stake in the company, while Tibet Airlines owns the remaining 49 percent.

Published: 18-09-2017 08:19

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