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Tourism Ministry, Aviation Authority cross swords over operational modalities for Gautam Buddha International Airport

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Feb 7, 2019-

The Tourism Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal are crossing swords over the operational modalities for Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa.

While the ministry plans to appoint Germany’s Munich Airport to provide consultancy services for the operational readiness and airport transfer operation of the new airport which is expected to open by the end of 2019, its line agency has invited bids to operate ground handling and catering services at the airport.

The ministry favours the operational readiness and airport transfer operation which ensures that every aspect of a new facility functions flawlessly from day one. The consultants work with airport stakeholders to formulate new processes, train staff, and test every single new system and procedure from passenger and baggage handling to airside operations. Ground handling and catering services are the main source of income for the management consultants.

The Civil Aviation Authority had originally approved the proposal to induct a foreign consultancy service for the operational readiness and airport transfer operation and sent it to the ministry for its approval. The government plans to appoint a reputed foreign airport operator through a government-to-government deal.

Last week, the Tourism Ministry registered the proposal at the Prime Minister’s Office to be tabled at the Cabinet. The office asked the ministry to clarify the legalities of the contract it plans to award to the management consultant. “We have decided to hold a discussion regarding the legal aspect under which the consultant can be appointed through a government-to-government deal,” said Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary at the ministry. “The issue will be sorted out soon.”

Pradip Adhikari, director of the national pride project under the Civil Aviation Authority, said that they had not been informed about the development. “As usual, we have started the process as the airport’s commercial operation may be delayed otherwise.”

So far, Nepal Airlines Corporation and India’s Bird Group have applied to provide ground handling services at the airport in response to the Civil Aviation Authority’s call for bids. The final extended deadline to submit proposals is February 14.

According to the Ground Handling Directives 2015, the Civil Aviation Authority can appoint up to two firms through a competitive bidding process for ground handling services. Prospective firms should have signed agreements with at least three international airlines to operate at least 35 flights per week at the airport. Under the guideline, airlines can handle ground services by themselves. The Civil Aviation Authority can appoint the service provider on a trial basis for up to one year, and its director general is authorised to extend the contract for up to five years if the firm provides efficient services.

Located in south central Nepal, the Rs40 billion airport is the gateway to the international pilgrimage destination of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. It is expected to be completed this year. As only finishing the construction work will not assure operational readiness, the operational readiness and airport transfer operation will play a big role in helping the new facility open on time.

On December 31, speaking at the Civil Aviation Authority’s 20th anniversary function, Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari said that they had initiated the process to induct a world-class airport operator to provide consultancy services for the operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport. He said that the management consultant for the new airport would be appointed through a government-to-government deal.

The government is under heavy pressure to improve the efficiency of the sole international airport in Kathmandu that is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority. Minister Adhikari said that it would be a test to see how efficiently Munich Airport operates the new airport. Munich Airport is the second busiest airport in Germany in terms of passenger traffic after Frankfurt Airport, and the seventh busiest airport in Europe, handling 44.6 million passengers in 2017.

Published: 07-02-2019 10:22

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