The country is losing billion in revenue due to insufficient numbers of aircrafts with the national flag carrier, according to the Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai.
He was of the view that the dispute regarding the aircraft purchase has to be resolved soon as the tourism sector is bearing the brunt due to prolonged row on purchase.
"The aviation sector has been suffering due to the lack of aircrafts with the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) and the solution seems far away," he said, directing the concerned authorities to speed up plans to purchase aircraft for the NAC.
The government had promised to purchase two new aircraft for the national flag carrier in the budget for the fiscal year 2009-10 but has not been able to walk its talk due to pressure from various agencies since last two years.
Currently, Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed a case at the Apex Court against aircraft purchase agreement between NAC and Airbus. The case is under consideration. "The government will request the Court to decide on the case sooner," said Bhattarai.
Similarly, Public Account Committee (PAC) under the Legislative Parliament had also directed the NAC to start new process scraping the old contract with Airbus.
Nepal Airlines had started two — one wide and one narrow body— aircraft purchase process three years ago.On Oct 26, 2009, the NAC board had decided to purchase two aircraft from Airbus—an Airbus A320-200 (narrow body) and an A330-200 (wide body)—to expand its international fleet. In its proposal, Airbus had quoted $41.28 million for the narrow body aircraft and $92.84 million for the wide body aircraft.
However, with controversy surrounding the purchase process, the PAC had directed the government to cancel the deal on December 28, 2009. Subsequently, on May 25, 2010, the Ministry of Finance had also directed Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation to scrap the purchase process.
"The government will remove all the hurdles in aircraft purchase process," Bhattarai said, adding that dispute among the different agencies has hurt not only the national image but also bleeding the country blue.
Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Lokendra Bista Magar has also started a process of purchasing two aircraft for NAC from China three months ago but it has also been challenged by various agencies.
Under the request of the Nepal Airlines, the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation had expedited the process to acquire five 19-seater Harbin Y-12 twin-engine STOLs and three 58-seater MA60 turboprops. But the Chinese government had formally sent a letter to the Finance Ministry that it could provide two to three aircraft on grants and remaining on soft loan.