In an exclusive interview with Asia Pacific Daily, Sugat Rana Kansakar, Managing Director of Nepal Airlines Corporation said that fleet expansion will allow NAC to serve the tourism industry of Nepal that has suffered due to the recent earthquakes in the best possible manner. He further said that NAC plans to commence direct flights to many Chinese cities so that more Chinese tourists would visit Nepal.
Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has come up with a 10-year business strategy to turn the national flag carrier into a professional and commercial entity. Could you elaborate on this?
NAC adopted an expansion strategy immediately after I made an entry for the second time. When we talk about expanding our route maps, there is an urgent need for fleet expansion. The business created by the passenger movement through Kathmandu is around Rs100 billion a year for the international airlines. We have just 3-4 percent market share while foreign airlines occupy the lion’s share, over 95percent of the market. We must be able to increase our market share and, for this, we need to expand both the number of route and concurrently the size of our fleet.
You have just added two airbus planes to your fleet. Are you looking to acquire more aircraft?
Of course, expanding the size of the fleet is our immediate plan. Along with this, the revitalization of the organization management is our next priority.
Why is NAC intent towards
acquiring Airbus, but not Boeing?
It is very much expensive to have both Airbus and Boeing in our fleet because in that case we would need two sets of engineers and pilots for that. The rule of thumb is that unless you possess at least 15 -20 aircraft, never switch over to new ones. Six years back when we had just Boeing, better choice should have been to go for Boeing. But government law says that government entity should purchase from those quoting lower price. Airbus quoted lower price compared to Boeing and that’s why we went for Airbus.
NAC purchased two narrow-body airbuses recently. How did it help to regain your market share?
Following the arrival of two new aircraft, our market share is slowly expanding. The biggest achievement is that we have improved our reliability with new planes.
We have seen growing number of Chinese tourists coming to Nepal in the recent years. Do you think China could emerge as big market for NAC?
Definitely, we have got two neighbors with the largest populations in the world, but Nepal has not been able to capitalize on this. Unless our airlines go there and help bring down the airfare, we cannot bring adequate number of tourists from these two big destinations. Currently, 3-4 Chinese airlines are operating direct flights between Kathmandu and various Chinese cities. Their airfare is relatively higher when it comes to bringing passengers to Nepal. So NAC plans to commence direct flights to many cities in mainland China so it can intervene in pricing and ensure that more Chinese tourists would visit Nepal.
China has gifted two 56-seater turboprop-powered aircraft to Nepal national carrier as part of efforts to revive latter’s domestic operations with a revamped fleet. But in the media, Chinese aircraft have been portrayed in a very negative. Why?
Chinese aircraft are technically sound and equally safe as any other aircraft. So, passengers are not afraid of boarding Chinese aircraft. The problem lies somewhere else. What we have found is that the Chinese planes have higher load penalty, which means you cannot fly in full capacity. If we cannot use all the seats available, we cannot make profits and have to suffer business-wise. After we raised this issue, the Chinese manufacturer promised that they will do one more round of test in China. We are waiting for the flight test report. They have said that it will be delivered by the end of August.
Nepal’s tourism industry has been devastated by the April 25 earthquake. Do you have any specific plan to revive the sector?
We are holding discussions with tourism entrepreneurs on this matter. A few days ago, I had a meeting with general manger of a five start hotel to discuss possibility of devising certain packages together to attract tourists in Nepal. Plus, with the increased number of fleet, NAC can serve Nepal’s tourism industry in the best possible manner.