Monday, April 15, 2013

Nepal, UAE start air service agreement dialogue

Nepal and the UAE today started air service agreement (ASA) dialogue in the Valley.
An 18-member UAE delegation that is in Kathmandu on the invitation of Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the ministry officials started the dialogue today, according to a source at the ministry.
They are going to increase the existing 28 flights a week between the two countries to 70 to meet the growing demand of air traffic.
The Middle East carriers in particular are facing an air seat crunch since the last two years due to rise in air traffic due to rising migrant Nepalis outflow to the Gulf countries.
Nepal had continued the temporary operating permit for international airlines connecting Kathmandu in 2013, allowing additional 14 flights a week to the respective countries facing seat crunch.
The UAE -based carriers were also allowed 42 weekly flights under the temporary operating permit (TOP) arrangement.
Currently, RAK Airways, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia and Etihad Airways are flying on the route. However, the Dubai-based Emirates Air has also shown interest to operate flights to Kathmandu.
The Middle East carriers account for 39 per cent of total inbound and outbound air traffic movement and handle 42 per cent of the total cargo movement.
There were 1.047 million inbound and outbound flyers from the Middle East carriers, of which the UAE carriers flew some 491,775 passengers, which is 18.22 per cent share, in 2011, according to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) data that revealed that they handled some 21.41 per cent of the cargo in and out of the country in 2011.
“Nepal also needs to review its fifth freedom right, as there are some countries that have already entered into the sixth, seventh and eighth freedom rights,” said the official. "The revised ASA may include aviation commercial operations, aviation security, and third party code sharing provisions."
On February 15, the Cabinet had directed the ministry to form a committee to start talks with the UAE to revise the ASA as it was long overdue and the UAE airlines flying to Kathmandu are planning to increase their flight frequency.
The two-day talks will pave the way for long due ASA revision between the two countries, he said, adding that Nepal had signed an ASA with UAE in 1999, which was revised in 2007. "But after 2007, the ministry's decision on December 16, 2010, allowing Air Arabia to operate six flights a week, had come into controversy due to parliamentary committee's direction to withdraw it on December 13, 2011, seeking a revision.
The committee had also prevented Air Arabia to fly on the Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur route against the ASA due to protest from the employees of Nepal Airlines.
Currently, Nepal has ASAs with 36 countries – with a total of 5.7 million seats per annum to and fro – and 90 per cent of them have the fifth freedom right, which is the right to carry passengers from one’s own country to a second country and from that country to a third country. It is also referred to as beyond rights, and allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign nations as part of services connecting airline’s own country.
However, the operating airlines are unable to use even 40 percent of their capacity so far.

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