KATHMANDU, Oct 6: Air passengers travelling to Lukla and Dang, now can fly with scheduled flights of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). In the face of tourist season as well as the upcoming festival (Dashain, Tihar and Chhat Parva), NAC has announced to start the scheduled flights to Lukla and Dang before Dashain.
The corporation will operate scheduled flights twice a week in Dang, while it will run both scheduled and chartered flight for Lukla.
However, timing and other details of the flights are yet to be received from Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
“CAAN is studying on our test flights. Currently, we are waiting for few reports to come from CAAN. As soon as we receive approval from CAAN, we will begin flights to these destinations,” said Ashok Sigdel, spokesperson of NAC. “NAC will fly to both of Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla and Tarigaun Airport in Dang before Dashain in this year.”
According to Sigdel, almost 90 percent of tickets have already been booked for Dashain this year.
“We will start selling tickets to the new destinations soon after we get CAAN’s go ahead,” he told Republica.
Beside Lukla and Dang, NAC had conducted test flights on other remote areas including Jomsom, Simikot, Dolpa, Jumla, and Mugu airports till now. NAC will soon start scheduled flights in these airports to serve the people, Sigdel told Republica.
After a long gap, the national flag carrier is gradually resuming flight services to remote areas of the country. It had been holding back its services to remote areas citing various reasons such as lack of pilots and technical problems in aircrafts. But now with the onset of tourist as well as festive seasons NAC is planning to operate scheduled flights in remote areas.
Sigdel further said that five aircrafts will be operating for this Dashain festival. “Technical problems in aircrafts as well as other reasons made us to halt flight service in these regions,” Sigdel said. “NAC is coming up with plans for regular flights at affordable rates on various routes as per the need and demand of the public.”
NAC will by flying two 17-seater Y12Es and two 58-seater MA-60s along with two 19-seater twin otter DHC6 aircraft for the Dashain festival. “Twin otter and Y12E are suitable for remote areas. Running those crafts will make our flights smooth,” he added.
The current fleet of NAC includes 40-year-old twin otter aircrafts.
“We have proceeded to bring new twin otters for domestic flights. So, there won’t be any doubt on our new flights,” said Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of NAC.
“There is growing public demand for flights to remote areas and NAC must fulfill that demand,” Kansakar added. Talking about recent test flights in remote districts, he said: “More than NAC’s need, it is public the demand due to NAC’s role in providing services to remote areas. And we are just going with the public demand.”
He further claimed that the national flag carrier carries passengers at cheaper rates in comparison to other private airline companies, which is one of the reasons for high public demand of NAC’s services.
Currently, NAC has a fleet of 13 aircrafts – one Airbus A330-200, two Airbus A320-200s, one B757-200, two MA60s, four Y12Es, and two Twin Otters. The corporation has always been grappling with shortage of pilots.
NAC requires 116 pilots to operate its aircrafts, but as it had only 88 pilots, the corporation was planning to recruit 28 foreign pilots, according to Sigdel. Six captains have already been hired for two wide-body aircraftd, and the process of hiring other pilots is underway, he added.