KATHMANDU, Dec 5: Buddha Air has announced to invest Rs 1 billion to add an ATR 72-500 aircraft in its fleet.
The domestic operator has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with French aircraft manufacturer ATR to purchase the 72-seater aircraft.
“We have signed a MoU with ATR to buy ATR 72-500 series aircraft,” Birendra Bahadur Basnet, the managing director of Buddha Air, told Republica. He added that the airline was investing Rs 1 billion to buy the aircraft.
According to Basnet, the new aircraft will land at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu in January next year. The aircraft will start commercial operation from March 1.
“We are not expanding fleet to expand our market share or to compete with other airlines,” Basnet said, adding: “We are buying the aircraft to eliminate flight delays due to aircraft maintenance process.”
Basnet said that Buddha Air will be able to operate all scheduled flights 365 days a year once the new aircraft arrives.
Buddha Air currently has eight aircraft. Each aircraft remains in hangar for 30 days a year for scheduled maintenance. This means one aircraft is out of service for 240 days in a year.
“We are buying a new aircraft so that passengers can travel to their destinations without any flight delays even if one of our aircraft is undergoing scheduled maintenance,” Basnet added.
As the new ATR72-500 aircraft costs around Rs 2.25 billion, Buddha Air is buying aircraft that has been used for few years.
Airlines cannot buy aircraft older than 15 years as per the existing Aviation Policy.
Buddha Air plans to buy one more ATR 72-500 series aircraft after the new aircraft joins its fleet. The airline currently enjoys 70 percent share in domestic market. It employs around 850 people.
The airline has flown around 7.8 million passengers since its establishment. It was honored by the government as the highest taxpayer among tourism/domestic airline companies. The airline serves around 900,000 passengers annually.
Buddha Air currently has three 72-seater ATR 72-500 aircraft, three 47-seater ATR 42-320 aircraft, and two Beechcraft 1900D aircraft having 18 seats in its fleet. It has been operating scheduled flights to Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Bharatpur, Simara, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Bhadrapur, Pokhara, Dhangadhi and Tumlingtar from Kathmandu.
Buddha Air also has a 'Closed Door Hanger' in the Tribhuvan International Airport premises to repair its aircraft. It has also been providing aircraft maintenance service to international carriers like Nevo Air (Bangladesh) and Druk Air (Bhutan).