Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Nepal's aviation industry incurs losses of Rs. 17.6 billion


By Laxman Kafle
Kathmandu, Jan 1 : Nepal's aviation industry has incurred a loss of more than Rs. 17.6 billion due to COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the biggest impact of the COVID-19 has been on the national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).
NAC has lost about Rs. 5 billion in revenue due to its inability to use the aircraft during the pandemic. Another international flight company, Himalaya Airlines, has lost Rs. 2 billion in revenue.
Domestic airlines, including helicopter operators, had incurred a loss of Rs. 10.62 billion during the period.
Although Nepal Airlines and Himalaya Airlines have made some income through chartered flights, they are losing a lot due to not being able to operate regular flights, said Rajan Pokhrel, Director General of CAAN, at the 22nd anniversary of CAAN.
He said that the revenue of the CAAN had also declined significantly during this period (March to November 2020).
CAAN’s income declined by Rs. 5.69 billion due to COVID-19 during March–November which is 80 per cent lower than the revenue collected in same period last year.
Although regular flights have been running since September, the income of helicopter operators has not returned to normal after drastic reduction in the arrival of tourists, he said. “Due to the pandemic, till November, 2020, we have lost about 64.73 per cent of passengers in domestic sector and about 72 per cent of passengers in international sector compared to that in year 2019,” he said.
Under the international sector, air passengers has dropped to 1,039,322 in 2020 compared to 4,138,482 in 2019. Similarly, under the domestic sector, air passengers dropped to 1,030,296 in 2020 while 3,188,479 air passengers travelled in 2019.
After about six months of lockdown and prohibitory order, Nepal resumed its international and domestic flights from September 2020 with certain restrictions and following strict health and safety measures.

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, our priority today is to resume aviation activities by ensuring safety of travelling public and personnel involved in aviation operations,” Pokhrel said.
Airports should be developed based on needs On the occasion, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Bhanubhakta Dhakal stressed on the need to develop airports based on the needs and justification.
Stating that around 20 airports out of 55 in various districts were not in operation, he urged the CAAN to take initiative for the construction of new airports based on the necessity instead of political and any kind of pressure.
“The Ministry and I will facilitate the construction of airports if proposed based on needs. Otherwise, I will be against them if announced to develop airports based on political influence and other kinds of vested interests,” he said.
Aviation is an important tool to support economic development and facilitate accessibility to remote areas, he said. “However there is no need to develop airport in every district.”
Currently, all businesses are greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic among which aviation is one of the hardest-hit sectors, he said, adding that the government had collaborated with CAAN and the private sector to operate air services with the application of safety protocols during the pandemic.
Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yadav Prasad Koirala said that collective efforts among various stakeholders were needed for the sustainable development of this sector. “There should be no debate between Nepal Airlines and CAAN on the issue of ground handling. Both are government institutions. So, the government will decide on the issue based on the priority and importance,” he said.
CAAN also has the responsibility to set standards for air transportation services, infrastructure development and human resources development, he said.