Tibet Airlines received permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) for flight to Kathmandu from Chengdu, China immediately after application.
But China has not showed such generosity toward the Nepali flag carrier. Nepal Airlines had applied to fly to Guangzhou immediately after bringing Airbus A-320 in 2014. It had even appointed staffers to operate flights there. But it has yet to receive permission.
Airlines of signatories should get to operate equal number of flights after signing bilateral air service agreement. But China and India have been dallying to provide permission to Nepali airlines companies.
Himalaya Airlines had applied to start flights to New Delhi immediately after coming into operation three years ago. But it has yet to receive one.
Nepal has been providing permission to Chinese and Indian airlines immediately but Nepali airlines companies have not been able to get one in the neighboring countries. The government has also failed to take a strong stance for that.
India is denying Himalayan Airlines claiming that it has majority Chinese investment despite Yeti Airlines owned by Nepali citizen Ang Tsering Sherpa having a 51 percent stake. Tibet Airlines has 49 percent stake in the company.
“One should readily accept the things established by the law of a country in diplomacy. But the Indian side does not accept that a Nepali company legally has a 51 percent stake in Himalayan,” an official at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said. Officials say India is making an excuse pointing that Chinese airlines companies have been operating fights in India.
Nepal has not raised the issue at the political level. Ministry officials say the government should raise the issue at the political level as a company with Nepali investment is being blatantly discriminated against.
Three India airlines currently operate 75 flights to Nepal in a week but Nepal Airlines has been operating just 39 a week.
Likewise, Chinese airlines companies are operating 48 flights to Nepal from different cities every week but Nepali airlines companies do not get to operate even a single flight despite Nepal allowed flights to seven cities including Beijing, Sanghai, Lhasa, Guangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu and Xi’an as per the bilateral agreement.
China has told Nepal Airlines there is no slot available for Beijing while it has yet to give permission for Guangzhou.
China has not granted permission even to Himalayan that has 49 percent investment of Tibet Airlines. Himalayan had asked for permission to fly to Chengdu three years ago but has yet to get one. Tibet Airlines that had applied for permission from Nepal after Himalayan applied with China has already started operating flights to Kathmandu from Chengdu instead.
Chief of Aviation Industry Division at CAAN Suresh Acharya said airlines companies of both countries should get equal opportunity as per the bilateral air service agreement.
Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli has visited both India and Chine in recent months but the problem of Nepali airlines companies was not raised.
Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Krishna Prasad Devkota said the issue will be strongly raised during upcoming meetings. “We have been raising the issue in current discussions. Officials of both the countries are positive. Results can be seen soon,” he stated.
Many officials at the ministry feel that Nepal should raise the issue at the political level as officials of the two powerful neighbors have not taken the issue seriously.
Absence of Nepali airlines companies has inflated the air fare to China hitting arrival of tourists from China, and tourism entrepreneurs feel that the fare will fall down significantly once Nepali companies start to operate flights to China.
Chinese companies charge a two-way fare of Rs 60,000-70,000 for a flight of around 75 minutes to Lhasa even as that for Delhi which is at similar distance is just Rs 20,000-25,000.
Indian airlines companies used to charge one-way fare of up to Rs 30,000 when Nepal Airlines did not operate flights to Delhi in lack of airplanes a few years back. But it has now fallen to Rs 10,000 once the national flag carrier resumed flights to Delhi.
Tourism entrepreneurs say fare to Lhasa will also similarly fall once Nepal Airlines start operating flights. “The number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal via Lhasa will increase immediately if the fare to Lhasa is reduced. But our government says it will bring more tourists bringing train in so many years,” tourist entrepreneur say.
Operating flights to China and India will bring more tourists as Nepal prepares to celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2020, according to the entreprenurs.