The preparatory works to re-launch flights to Japan after 10 year long wait has opened a way between Nepal and the land of the rising sun to sign an amended bilateral air services agreement (BASA) on Monday.
Tourism Ministry Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota has flown to Tokyo, Japan on Saturday to hold a negotiation on revising the BASA along with a two member delegation. The delegation is on the verge of signing the revised BASA on Monday.
As per the Tourism Minister Officials, out of the 14 weekly flights asked by Nepal, Japanese side has granted only 7 weekly flights.
The Officials said, though the flight frequency rely on the perspective of Nepal’s negotiation on the matter but there are other issues regarding landing rights as well at Japan’s airports. However, Nepal has been craving to initiate services to Tokyo but the BASA between Nepal and Japan only allows it to fly to Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Considering it, on February 26 NAC had invited proposals from potential ground handling service providers at Kansai.
Hence, with a motto to authorize Nepalese carriers fly over other Japanese cities as well Tourism Ministry has moved Japan to revise the BASA. Apart from Nepal Airlines, several private carriers including Buddha Air have shown their interest to serve Japan to accompany tourists to Nepal in near future.
Japan was ready to provide landing rights to Nepali carriers at all airports except Haneda Airport in Tokyo due to congestion during an initial discussion.
Haneda Airport, the busiest airport by passenger traffic in Japan, is the fifth busiest airport in the world. Haneda is more desirable because it is just 15 km from Tokyo, compared to some 65 km for Narita International Airport.
Allotting 400 weekly seats, Nepal and Japan had signed the BASA on February 17, 1993. Before the suspension of the national flag carrier on the route due to lack of aircraft, it used to fly to Osaka via Shanghai till 2008.
A traffic growth of 77 percent in five years from nearly 48,000 one-way travelers from Japan to Nepal has been previsioned by Nepal’s Air Traffic Analysis conducted by Airbus in 2015. For which Narita International Airport and Kansai International Airport account 68 percent of the traffic. Last year, the country received 27,326 Japanese tourists.
Nepal has signed ASA’s with 38 countries since 1963, with New Zealand and Vietnam being the latest countries. This provides 6 million seats per annum to and from Nepal. However, less than 40 percent of this capacity has been put to use. At the present scenario, 29 international airlines are operating flights from Kathmandu to 22 cities in Asia and Europe.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in comparison to the 31,531 Nepalese living in Japan at the end of 2013, the number has surged up to more than 60,000. Nepali community is the fifth largest foreign community in Japan. And the number is likely to grow substantially in coming years as 2020 Olympic Games is about to approach on Japan, the ministry said. Every year, over 10,000 Nepali students goes Japan to pursue higher studies. And it has been the 2nd most preferred destination for Nepali students looking to study abroad.