KATHMANDU, Sept 16: Airline operators have deferred their plan to resume domestic air services for four days as they wait for the government's nod to their request to allow 100 percent occupancy with strict compliance of health safety guidelines.
Although the government decided to allow them to resume domestic air services starting Thursday, domestic airlines operators have said that they will operate flights only from September 21, according to Airlines Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN).
Domestic airline operators had been asking the government to let them operate regular flights with safety measures as the six month long shutdown has already left them on the verge of collapse. Since the two biggest festivals-- Dashain and Tihar-- celebrated across the country are fast approaching, the government has decided to let domestic airlines fly to a few destinations for easy travel to ordinary public.
Domestic airlines have been making preparations to operate domestic flights following the safety protocols prepared by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
AOAN Spokesperson Yog Raj Kandel said the discussion with the government is still underway as airline operators are planning to start their services from Monday. “There are many ambiguous conditions on which the government has asked us to resume air services,” he said, adding, “We have been asked to let only one passenger sit in a row, carrying only 50 percent passengers. This will not help us cover our operation cost.”
However, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has claimed that the airlines will resume flights starting Thursday.
The government has proposed operation of one fourth flights as compared to the number of flights they operated last year. “A minimum of 10 to a maximum of 30 flights might be carried out in a day,” Kandel told Republica. “We are yet to receive the list of destinations where flights can be conducted from CAAN.”
Kandel said that the booking of tickets will pick its pace as the service resumes.
Stating that hiking ticket price is a bad strategy at this hour of financial crisis, airline operators have requested the government to allow 100 percent occupancy while operating flights. “Increasing price of tickets is not good for both passengers and airline companies but the ministry is reluctant to help the situation,” he further added.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and government spokesperson Pradeep Gyawali on Tuesday said that the airlines operators must abide by the health protocols set by the government as they resume their services from September 17.