KATHMANDU, Dec 1: Flights between Nepal and India, which were halted since March over the risk of COVID-19 pandemic, are set to resume from next week, according to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA).
The MoCTCA has started preparations to grant permission for operating Kathmandu-New Delhi-flights from next week.
Joint Secretary at the Ministry, Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane said necessary homeworks to resume Nepal-India flights have been finalized and it would commence within next seven to 10 days.
"We will send a positive response to the 'air bubble' concept that India sent through the diplomatic channel to the ministry regarding the date of operating the flights. After this, the airlines of both countries would be asked to make necessary preparations to resume the flights," Lamichhane said. “It will take a maximum of 10 days starting Tuesday.”
Joint Secretary Lamichhane said only two flights would be operated in the Kathmandu-Delhi route in the first phase. One airline each from Nepal and India will each operate flights between Kathmandu and New Delhi. The two countries can increase the number of flights based as deemed necessary later.
Although the regular international flights resumed on September 1 nearly after six months since they were halted following the nationwide lockdown imposed throughout the country on March 24, the flights to the three destinations in India - New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore – are yet to resume owing to the increasing rate of COVID-19 infection in the southern neighbor.
A meeting of the Council of Ministers on November 25 had decided to accept the 'air bubble model' proposed by India regarding resumption of flights between the two countries. Regarding the resumption of flights to other countries, the cabinet meeting decided that the MoCTCA could grant permission for the same based on the need.
The flights would be operated after the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the regulatory body, together with India's aviation agency, prepares the flight standards.
In addition to India, flights from Nepal to Bangladesh, Bhutan and Thailand are halted at present. Twenty-nine airlines companies including three from Nepal have been operating international flights to various destinations in 16 countries.
Decrease in international flights
Meanwhile, the Tribhuvan International Airport Office said that the number of international flights has decreased. In the beginning when the international flights were opened on September 1 there used to be up to 25 flights to various international destinations on a daily basis. Now, the number of international flights is hardly near 20 per day.
TIA Office spokesperson Devchandra Lal Karna said the number of international flights has decreased of late instead of increasing. According to him, up to 20 international flights including arrival and departure are taking place from TIA at present. This number too has somewhat gone down in recent days.