KATHMANDU, Sept 29: The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) has announced that Nepal is preparing to sign bilateral air agreements with three European countries including Switzerland as part of ongoing expansion of the international air network.
Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, head of the Ministry's Civil Aviation Division and Joint Secretary, said that Nepal has signed bilateral air agreements with 40 countries of the world and is preparing air agreements with Switzerland, Indonesia and Rwanda. He said that since the necessary paperwork for the air agreement with all the three countries has been completed, the time and place will be decided and the agreements will be signed soon.
Joint Secretary Lamichhane said, “Now we are in the process of signing new air agreements with three countries - Switzerland, Rwanda and Indonesia. The draft of the agreements will soon be approved by the Council of Ministers and the time and place for the agreement will be decided.”
On the occasion of the 41st General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held in Montreal, Canada, the two countries agreed in principle on the preliminary air agreement. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), Nepal has MoUs for air connectivity with multiple countries, demonstrating Nepal's commitment to expanding its bilateral air agreements as part of its international diplomacy.
As the bilateral air agreement is also an important part of international diplomacy, the government's policy is to gradually expand it. The Air Agreement is also a matter related to the pride of Nepal.
Lamichhane, joint secretary of the ministry, expressed his belief that through the agreements made by Nepal with various countries, structural relations with those countries will be maintained and bilateral relations will be further strengthened. According to the standards of ICAO, bilateral air agreements are made based on the interests of the two countries.
Joint Secretary Lamichhane also mentioned that the old air agreement between Kuwait and UAE is going to be reviewed. "As they have been demanding to review the old air agreement between Kuwait and UAE, Nepal has also accepted it and further work has started," he said.
Nepal currently has bilateral air agreements with 41 countries including 40 countries and the European Union (EU). The government recently signed an air service agreement with Australia.
The government has announced air service agreements with new countries in the policy and program for the current fiscal year 2022/23. It is mentioned that an air agreement will be signed with the new country to use the international airport that has been completed in the country to its full capacity. The government has taken a policy to expand the international market of Nepali Airlines by making air agreements with new countries.
Nepal has also prepared to sign an air service agreement with Indonesia, a Middle East Asian country. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the final preparations for the air agreement between the two countries are underway. The Ministry has set the official GSA (General Sales Agent) for Indonesia-Nepal two-way flights. Society International of Nepal is the official GSA for Garuda Indonesia Airlines.
Sangita Rauniyar, head of Society International Travel Operations, said that Garuda Airlines’ GSA will be managed from next year. Similarly, the ministry says that Nepal is going to expand the connection between the two countries through an air agreement with the African country Rwanda.
The importance of bilateral air agreement
Joint Secretary Lamichhane said that when Nepal enters into bilateral air agreements with other countries, it will help in expanding the international communication network as well as strengthening the diplomatic relations between the two countries. He said, “The issue of which country Nepal has signed an air agreement with has international importance. Some countries can fly directly. It is a good thing to have an air agreement as there are easy air flights in the respective countries through 'cord sharing' airlines.”
Thirty airlines currently operating international flights in Nepal
According to the CAAN, currently 30 airlines including three Nepali airlines are operating international flights in Nepal. Nepal's national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation, Himalaya Airlines and Buddha Air have been operating international flights.
International airlines Air India, Indigo Air, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Tibet Airlines, Bhutan Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Druk Air are flying.
Similarly, international airlines including Cathay Pacific, AirVistara, Jazeera Airways, Korean Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, Malaysia Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Malindo Air, Salam Air, Thai Line, Thai Smile Airlines have been providing Nepal-US flight services through various transits.