Business Hurdle: BB Airways will have to wait until new airport is ready

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 29, 2018-

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has asked the government to delay issuing an operating licence to defunct private carrier BB Airways until the expansion of Bhairahawa airport is complete.

Overcrowded skies over Kathmandu and strained infrastructure on the ground has led to incoming flights being put in a holding pattern for hours, causing inconvenience to domestic and international travellers, and Caan wants to wait before allowing new airlines start service. Congestion at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has also posed a safety risk.

Last month, BB Airways applied to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministry to renew its licence so it can resume international operations after purchasing a 30-year-old Boeing 757 from Nepal Airlines Corporation. Subsequently, the ministry asked the regulator Caan for its input. 

Bhawan Bhatta, managing director of BB Airways, bought the Boeing 757 named Karnali and bearing registration number 9N-ACA for $1.46 million in December last year. Bhatta is currently the president of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA). 

In October 2012, BB Airways launched services to Kuala Lumpur, but ceased operations after a few months. It has initiated the process to take to the skies again after buying the 757 at an auction. BB Airways appears to have chosen a bad time to restart service. The country’s sole international airport TIA is overstretched, and there are no parking bays for more aircraft. Caan’s suggestion means that BB Airways will to wait for at least one and a half years to get a permit to restart flights. Caan has written to the ministry that the Civil Aviation Regulation bars procuring and leasing aircraft by a company without obtaining an air operator’s certificate (AOC). There is no provision for transferring ownership of aircraft to a company that doesn’t have an AOC. 

After obtaining a flying licence from the ministry, the carrier still has to get a no-objection certificate from Caan that permits airlines to import or acquire aircraft.

“BB Airways has not complied with any provision in the regulation. Hence, we are unaware under which provision the carrier has procured the aircraft,” said Caan in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by the Post.

The regulator clarified that it scrapped the carrier’s AOC issued for international operation on July 14, 2013. However, Caan said that it would issue AOCs to new operators after Gautam Buddha International Airport, currently under construction in Bhairahawa, comes into operation. The airport is expected to be completed by 2019. The ministry is yet to reach a decision on issuing a flying licence.

Until then, the Boeing 757 will remain in a parking bay at TIA, running up a hefty parking bill. The jet also cannot fly out of Nepal with NAC registration. 

Published: 29-03-2018 09:53

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