Nepal, Australia to sign air service agreement

Nepal and Australia are all set to sign an air service agreement on Monday at the ongoing 40th session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation Assembly in Montreal, Canada, permitting domestic code sharing in Nepal and direct flights between the two countries.

Under the domestic code-share agreement, Australian carriers will be free to enter into code-share agreements with Nepali domestic carriers to any point in Nepal. The Cabinet approved the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to sign the air service agreement with Australia last Thursday.

The Australian government has expressed willingness to permit seven weekly flights to key cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, said Tourism Under-Secretary Pramod Nepal. “It has proposed providing unlimited flights to other destinations.”

Nepal will allow seven weekly flights by Australian carriers to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Australian carriers will be permitted to operate another 28 weekly services to the upcoming airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara, said Nepal.

Last year, Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said that Nepal was the third-largest source of foreign students in Australia after China and India. According to Culbert, Kathmandu was currently Sydney’s largest unserved market globally, with 93,000 people traveling between Nepal’s capital and Australia’s largest city annually.

“But they are flying via somewhere else,” Culbert said. “This means we could fill a five-day-a-week service straight away. With the stimulatory effect of a direct flight, we would expect a daily service between Kathmandu and Sydney to be no problem.” Sydney-Kathmandu is 5,253 nautical miles or 9,728 kilometers.

Under-Secretary Nepal told the Post that they had been making efforts to sign an air service agreement with Australia for the last three years. The Tourism Ministry had requested the Australian government to allow 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft.

The government had requested the Australian government to sign an air service agreement as Nepal Airlines wished to link Australia after acquiring two long-range Airbus A330-200s. Nepal Airlines officials said that the A330-200s would not be able to fly non-stop to Australia. “But Nepal Airlines can fly to Australia through a third party code-share agreement.

The third-party codeshare is the rights granted through a bilateral agreement under which the code is shared between an airline of the bilateral partners and an airline from a country other than the bilateral partner.

The preferred route between Nepal and Australia is through Guangzhou, China.

“The number of Nepali students flying to Australia and Australian tourists coming to Nepal has been rising after the 2015 earthquake. This makes the route viable,” said Under-Secretary Nepal.

Australian arrivals to Nepal have also been growing. According to government statistics, Nepal received 38,429 Australian visitors last year, up from 33,371 in 2017. In 2014 before the earthquake, 24,516 Australian tourists visited Nepal.

Since 1963, Nepal has signed air service agreements with 39 countries, with Cambodia being the latest signatory.

On Saturday, Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai and UAE Minister for Economy Bin Saeed Al Mansoori signed the final version of the air service agreement on behalf of their respective governments in Canada.

Source: Kathmandu Post

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