KATHMANDU, Sept 29: Ground handling is one of the good sources of income for Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). The state-owned company has been paying up to Rs 700 million in royalties to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and the government annually. But now the aviation mafia has set its greedy eyes on this income source of NAC, according to the NAC employees union.
Netraraj Rawat, general secretary of the employees union, claimed that the aviation mafia has been trying to bring NAC down since 2015. “There are political appointments at NAC and the board of directors is also involved in this,” he said, adding that the aviation mafia wants the Rs 4 billion that NAC makes through ground handling.
“Until last year, there was a provision for the NAC’s chairperson to be included in CAAN’s board of directors but this provision has been removed in order to make it easy for the aviation mafia to steal NAC’s income source,” he added.
The employees union has stated that CAAN has resisted the directive from Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai to immediately stop the implementation of self-ground handling service permit to the Himalaya Airlines. The union further claimed that CAAN has secretly gone ahead with its plan to hand over the ground handling permit to the airline that also has foreign investment.
Except for Thai Airways and Air India, the NAC has been taking care of all ground handling services of both domestic and international airlines.
Although Minister Bhattarai has directed CAAN to stop the procedure, CAAN has by far not sent an official letter to Himalaya Airlines. Air India and Thai Airways, despite being involved in self-ground handling since 1998, have been using most of NAC’s equipment and buses at Tribhuvan International Airport.
Rawat claimed the action was a conspiracy to put NAC in existential crisis and let Himalaya Airlines in the business and later take over the commercial ground handling in February, 2021.
According to the union, Himalaya Airlines was put in top priority while repatriation flights were being carried out after the country went into a nationwide lockdown. NAC conducted 154 flights whereas Himalaya Airlines carried out 163 flights. Meanwhile, a source claimed that Himalaya Airlines has not paid Rs 106.4 million to NAC as parking charge.
The union has stressed that NAC’s huge source of income should not be transferred to another company at a time when it has loans to pay.