Monday, November 30, 2020

Kathmandu-New Delhi flights to resume soon

After nine months the flights between Kathmandu and New Delhi are resuming soon.

“Flights between Nepal and India are set to resume from next seven to 10 days,” confirmed the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA).

The ministry has started preparations to permit operation of Kathmandu-New Delhi-Kathmandu flights from next week, joint secretary at the ministry Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane said, adding that the ministry has started necessary home works to resume flights, which were halted since March due to the risk of Covid-19 pandemic. 

India has sent a concept of air-bubble through the diplomatic channels to resume the flights. “The ministry is reviewing the concept of 'air bubble' that India sent through the diplomatic channel,” he said, adding that the ministry is working on dates to operate the flights. “The airlines of both the countries would be asked to make necessary preparations to resume the flights.” 

According to the air bubble concept only the nationals of Nepal and India can get permission to fly on New Delhi-Kathmandu flight. India has signed air bubble agreement with 16 countries including Afghanistan and Maldives in South Asia, and has also sent a proposal to Nepal also. 

In the beginning, only two flights – one each from Nepal and India – will be allowed to operate. Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) will operate from Nepal and Air India will operate from India in the first phase, the ministry informed. “The number of flights will be increased based on demand later.”

The government has already resumed the regular international flights, except from India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Thailand, from September 1 after they were halted nearly six months ago following the nationwide lockdown imposed throughout the country on March 24. “The flights to the three destinations in Indian cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore – have been halted due to the increasing rate of Covid-19 infection in India.

A Cabinet meeting on November 25 had decided to accept the 'air bubble model' proposed by India regarding resumption of flights between Kathmandu and New Delhi. The cabinet had decided to grant permission to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to study and start the resumption of flights based on the need. However, the flights could be started only after the regulatory bodies of both Nepal and India, together prepare the flight standards.

Currently, some 29 airlines, including three from Nepal, are operating the international flights in various destinations of 16 countries. 

However, the number of international fights has decreased in recent days, according to the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). “In the beginning – when the international flights were opened on September 1 – there used to be up to 25 flights to various international destinations on a daily basis,” the TIA informed, adding that the number of international flights is hardly 20 – including arrival and departure – per day at present. “The number of international flights has decreased instead of increasing due to lack of passengers.”

What is air bubble agreement
'Transport Bubbles' or 'Air Travel Arrangements' are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.