Ban on international charter flights? There is a simple alternative.
On Saturday when the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal sent an unusual notice to airlines. It stated that Nepal has suspended all the commercial flights except repatriation flights and those repatriation flights should be initiated through diplomatic channel. It also discouraged the advance bookings from travel agencies. This push back was a few weeks in the making.
After the Embassies organized the original rescue flights from the end of March, they have taken the position that their citizens wanting to leave had their chances. After all, a total of 40 flights were arranged through diplomatic channels in the last 60 days. Although some Non-Resident Nepalese left of these flights, priority was given to foreign citizens. When the embassies stated publicly that they did not intend on organizing more rescue flights, some Travel Agencies started to “register demand” from people still wanting to leave Nepal. Using these lists, they then pressure the government to authorize the flights. The embassies stayed out of the way with “non opposition” letter, a far cry from an endorsement. Private companies were free to charge whatever they wanted. When a couple of them such as President Travels, were successful in organizing these chartered rescue flights, a literal frenzy ensued. CAAN became bombarded with flight authorisation requests as well as complaints from potential flyers. The clamp back was brutal. One of the CAAN officials stated to Aviation Nepal News that chartered flights have been cancelled due to complaints that ticketing and travel companies are compelling passengers to buy expensive tickets.
The problem in this conflict is that everyone is right. There is demand for flights in and out of Nepal. The airlines are willing to fly. The authorities are busy with the enormous task of repatriating Nepalese citizens that are in distress overseas. But was the total ban on all rescue flight the right solution?
There is a simple solution the government could consider:
- Select two west-bound and two east-bound international airlines as the exclusive rescue partners. For example, Qatar and Turkish, and Korean and Singapore. All these airlines have restarted their international schedule and provide good onward connections.
- Authorize one flight per week for each of these four airlines while the airport remains closed. Allow only resident Nepalese, Diplomats, and business visa holders inbound. Allow anyone to travel out. Submit the inbound passengers to the same protocol as the official repatriation flights.
- Sell the tickets on the official airline sites. This will allow competitive prices since multiple airlines will be offering the same destinations. It will also allow any IATA certified travel agent to issue the tickets in Nepal removing all favouritism and scams.
Airlines representatives have indicated to Aviation News that they are prepared to implement this solution. They just need CAAN to be willing to listen to their proposals.