The airline has officially secured a slot from the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and plans to launch its maiden flight to Sydney on June 21.
Nepal Airlines will fly to Sydney on Thursdays and Sundays with a stopover in Singapore. SHUTTERSTOCK
Nepal Airlines, the state-owned carrier, is now one step closer to launching flights to Australia.
The airline has officially secured a slot from the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Ganesh Kumar Ghimire, deputy spokesperson for Nepal Airlines, told the Post.
The carrier has planned to launch the maiden flight to Sydney from Kathmandu on June 21.
“We are preparing accordingly. We are applying for landing permits and making other necessary preparations to meet the deadline,” said Ghimire.
The national flag carrier has also invited bids for a line maintenance agreement for Airbus A330 in Sydney and has floated in-flight catering service proposals in Sydney and Singapore.
“The proposed June 21 flight; however, will depend on the issuance of the landing permits by the Australian government, even though we have secured the slots from the airport authority in Sydney,” said Ghimire.
Nepal Airlines will fly to Sydney on Thursdays and Sundays with a stopover in Singapore.
Nepal Airlines via Singapore would take 13 hours and 25 minutes to reach Sydney.
“In the first phase, we have decided to do a technical landing at Singapore—only for refuelling,” said Ghimire.
“We have planned to exercise the fifth freedom right in the second phase.”
The fifth freedom right allows the airline to pick up or drop off passengers in Singapore when flying either way.
Sydney is the largest city in Australia and has a large Nepali population.
The one-way journey from Kathmandu to Sydney would cover 9,816 km.
In May 2020, Nepal Airlines flew to Sydney and other Australian cities to repatriate Australian tourists stuck in Nepal.
According to a report, approximately 119,000 roundtrip passengers flew between Kathmandu and Sydney in 2019. The number dropped in 2022 due to Covid related restrictions.
In February 2022, Australia reopened its international borders for the first time in nearly two years.
Kathmandu was Sydney’s second-largest market from South Asia in 2019, behind only Delhi.
The report said that demand is primarily driven by Nepalis visiting friends and relatives and Australians visiting Nepal for tourism.
In 2019, approximately 34 percent of passengers flew China Southern and transited to Guangzhou, then Malaysia Airlines over Kathmandu (23 percent) and Cathay Pacific over Hong Kong (20 percent).
Flying via Singapore and Bangkok was popular too, according to the report.
In October 2019, Nepal and Australia signed an air service agreement in Montreal, Canada opening the way for commercial air services between the two countries.
The Australian government has permitted seven weekly flights from Nepal to key cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth, and unlimited flights to other destinations in Australia.
The agreement allows Australian carriers to operate seven flights weekly to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, and another 28 weekly services to Bhairahawa and Pokhara.
The pact permits unrestricted cargo movement between the two countries besides third-country code share with a provision for domestic code share.
The agreement has also allowed fifth freedom traffic rights. Under this arrangement, the designated airlines of Nepal may exercise fifth freedom traffic rights at any two intermediate points in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East; and beyond Australia to any two points in New Zealand.
Similarly, the designated airlines of Australia may exercise fifth freedom traffic rights at any two intermediate points in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East; and any two points beyond Nepal except New Delhi in India.
Recently, visiting Australia’s Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts told the Post in an interview that the proposed flight connectivity between Australia and Nepal would bring the two countries closer and boost bilateral trade and tourism.
He said more than 130,000 Nepalis live in Australia, including nearly 60,000 students.
“There is an enormous demand for direct flights between Kathmandu and Sydney. Once it is established, I am certain that there would be no shortage of our people to buy tickets,” he said in the interview.
In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, Nepal received 38,972 Australian tourists.
Watts said that the direct flight connectivity between the two countries will make a big impact on the Australian numbers. “The numbers will definitely rise as it will make it easier for Australian tourists to get in.”
During its heyday, Nepal Airlines used to fly to Amsterdam, Colombo, Dhaka, Frankfurt, Karachi, London, Osaka, Shanghai and Singapore besides five Indian cities—Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Patna.
It presently connects Kathmandu with Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Riyadh, Narita and three cities in India—Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.