The long-awaited Airbus A330 Airliner arrived today at TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport). Nepal Airlines Corporation finally welcomed its very first long-range Airbus A330 Airliner, ending a bizarre obtaining process that began nearly a decade ago which was marked by corruption charges, governmental trials, and imprisonment of its top brass.
On Oct 26, 2009, the NAC board had decided to purchase two aircraft from Airbus-an A320-200 (narrow body) and an A330-200 (wide body) to expand its international fleet. In December 2009, with dispute surrounding the purchase process, the then Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the government to cancel the deal while the Ministry of Finance directed the Tourism Ministry to scrap the purchase process on May 25, 2010. Sugat Ratna Kansakar was also jailed for alleged irregularities. The order eventually halted NAC’s expansion plan for three years. The deal was revived in June 2013, but the order was changed to two A320s. The two A320s were delivered in 2015.
The plan to equip NAC with wide-body jets was revived by Kansakar after he was re-appointed the managing director of the corporation in May 2015. In April last year, NAC signed the final purchase agreement for two Airbus A330-200 long-range jets from US-based AAR Corp. The $209.6-million contract is the largest-ever jet purchase deal in Nepal’s aviation history.
Of the two long-range jets on order, another one is expected to arrive a month later. “After 10 years, the A330 jets will finally arrive,” NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar posted on his Facebook page. The new Airbus A330 Airliner, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, features a two-class cabin configuration and seats a total of 274 passengers—18 in business class and 256 in economy class.
The arrival of two wide-body jets has been described as a ‘game-changing event’, allowing NAC to compete with other international players on long-haul routes in Europe, Japan and beyond. “But, if it is not utilized prudently and commercially, it can push the national flag carrier into bankruptcy,” said Ashok Pokhrel, a former member of the NAC board of directors.
“The corporation should totally change its traditional working style and adopt new technology and marketing strategy,” he said. The national flag carrier could go broke if it does not adopt the latest market strategy and technology to compete with rivals, said Pokhrel.
Ganesh Bahadur Chand, Deputy Managing Director of NAC, said that they expected to put the aircraft into commercial service in 15-20 days after finishing the paperwork with the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
“However, we will not fly on new routes immediately as the new machine needs to become familiar with the old routes,” he said, adding that the jet would operate on the Doha, Dubai, and Bangkok sectors for at least a month. “We have planned to fly to Riyadh, the capital and most populous city in Saudi Arabia, as a new route and connect Japan and South Korea in the second phase.”
NAC is neck deep in loans. It owes nearly NPR. 40 billion to various institutions, and has to pay at least NPR. 3.5 billion In interest annually. It has been planning to take another loan of NPR. 12 billion to procure two A320 jets soon.
It’s challenging. The A330, with its long-haul capability, needs to increase its passenger market share to at least 30 percent to survive in the market, according to airlines officials.
Reference: Kathmandu Post