NAC’s plan to wet lease Airbus falls through

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jul 6, 2017-

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) faces possible aircraft shortages and flight cancellations as its plan to wet lease an Airbus A319 to substitute for its Boeing 757, which is being sent away for a maintenance check, has fallen through.

The national flag carrier had planned to lease an Airbus from Bhutan Airlines, but the Civil Aviation Policy prohibits imports of pressurized aircraft that are more than 15 years old, and the Bhutanese jet is 17 years old.

NAC had been conducting a technical assessment of the tender submitted by Bhutan Airlines. When the corporation sought permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) to sign the lease, the civil aviation regulator said that the proposed deal violated the Civil Aviation Policy. 

“The plane is airworthy and has been flying in Nepal’s skies, but our policy forbids purchasing or leasing it,” said a Caan official. “As we were unable to grant permission to lease the jet, we wrote to the Tourism Ministry saying that the policy could be amended at a higher level to permit a short-term lease.” 

Tourism Secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari refused to amend the policy stating that only the minister could dot it. The tourism portfolio is currently held by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. 

There were only two takers when NAC invited bids for the wet lease of an Airbus A319, A320 or A321 -- Ukraine-based aircraft leasing company 12 Star Aviation and Bhutan Airlines. NAC said that a temporary replacement was needed so that flight schedules would not be affected when its Boeing is sent away in mid-July for a maintenance check lasting 45 days. The proposed wet lease contract would begin on July 16 and last for 45 days. It can be extended to 60 days, NAC said. 

The corporation plans to operate scheduled flights with the leased aircraft on the Kuala Lumpur, Doha, Delhi and Bangalore or other sectors. “The second bidder’s offer had to be rejected as it was not technically qualified,” said an NAC official. 

“It is too late now to call for new tenders as it will take a long time,” he said, adding that management was likely to meet on Thursday to find another solution. 

On April 10, the corporation put one of its two Boeing 757s up for auction. The second Boeing has been grounded, and it is due to be sent away for a maintenance check in two weeks. 

“So we will have only two A320 aircraft for our international services,” the official said. “Flights will have to be cancelled, of course, and we will have to take heavy losses, both financially and in terms of goodwill.” 

Published: 06-07-2017 08:27

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