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NAC awaiting approval for Guangzhou route

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Dec 6, 2017-Nepal has decided to ask China about the delay in approving Nepal Airlines Corporation’s (NAC) application to fly to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

NAC had applied for an operating authorisation to serve the airport in the capital of Guangdong province in south China in 2015. Guangzhou Baiyun is the third busiest airport in China in terms of passenger traffic.

Nepali Ambassador to China Leela Mani Paudyal is scheduled to meet with Feng Zhenglin, the administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, this week.  “A number of issues, including the delay in issuing NAC’s operating authorisation, will be discussed during the meeting,” said Suresh Acharya, joint secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

The national flag carrier used to fly to Shanghai until 2008 when it was forced to suspend the route due to lack of aircraft. It has been eying the Guangzhou market due to increased trade and passenger movement from China.

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, Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines connect mainland China with Nepal. With the operation of these flights, the flight operation quota extended to Chinese airlines has been fully utilised.

Meanwhile, discussions on the possibility of allowing Nepali airlines to conduct ‘Manasarovar tours’ in China with helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft will also be discussed, said Acharya. “We have proposed an aerial circumnavigation of Manasarovar by helicopter or airplane.”

He added that the proposed aerial tour could attract a large number of pilgrims who have money but no time or inclination to trek over the treacherous route. Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar are a big draw for the Hindu and Buddhist devout.

Nepal offers two routes to Kailash Manasarovar through the Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi border points. However, after the Chinese government closed these border points following the 2015 earthquake, Nepalgunj in western Nepal has become the key gateway. The Nepalgunj-Simikot-Hilsa-Manasarovar route is the shortest, and the itinerary is affordable and easy. Travellers usually fly from Nepalgunj to Simikot by fixed-wing aircraft, and then take a helicopter to Hilsa on the border with Tibet, China. After crossing Karnali, pilgrims are taken by motor vehicle in China.

Nearly 31,000 Indians have booked trips to the sacred mountain and lake for the May-September period, industry sources said.

Likewise, another item on the agenda during the discussion will be implementing the Kathmandu-Kunming route, the shortest route to Northeast Asia. Acharya said that Nepal would be proposing to form a Nepal-China joint mechanism for search and rescue. “In case of incidents and accidents of Chinese carriers inside Nepali territory, the joint mechanism will be activated to conduct search and rescue missions.”

Published: 06-12-2017 08:28

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