Civil aviation authority paints grim picture of aviation sector

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The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has stated that the country’s aviation sector will take at least four years to revive.

Speaking during a meeting of the International Relations and Labour Committee of the Federal Parliament, Director General of CAAN Rajan Pokhrel said the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the industry so hard that it would take at least four years for things to get back to pre-COVID level.

“The domestic aviation industry was developing and doing well till last year,” he said, adding, “Now we have to wait till 2024 to witness a similar development.”

He said the aviation industry had been facing a monthly loss of Rs 4 billion since the pandemic hit the country. The authority’s income declined by 43 per cent in fiscal year 2019-2020. According to Pokhrel, along with the flow of international passengers the number of domestic passengers is also likely to drop by 36 to 38 per cent this year.

As per the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the flow of international passengers could drop by 70 to 74 per cent this year.

“Even though the pandemic seems to have had a more profound effect on international travel than domestic travel, the industry will still struggle to bounce back,” he added. In order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, the government had halted both international and domestic flight operations till recently.

International flights were allowed to resume services, albeit with restrictions, from September 1. However, foreign tourists will be allowed from October 17. The government still has certain restrictions in place for visa services.

Domestic flight operations, on the other hand, resumed on September 21. Currently, only 50 per cent of flights are being operated in the domestic sector.

The House panel had called a meeting with CAAN and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to discuss the status of the country’s aviation sector.

The panel has directed MoCTCA to prepare a directive to prevent the aviation sector from being further hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has asked the ministry to implement the directive as soon as possible in airports, hotels and other tourism related businesses.

The committee has also directed MoCTCA to amend the National Aviation Policy-2008 so that the authority to provide ground-handling services can be awarded via competition.

Recently, CAAN issued self ground-handling licence to Himalaya Airlines. However, due to several reasons the use of the licence has been held in abeyance.

Meanwhile, Nepal Airlines Corporation has asked MoCT- CA to allow the corporation to handle ground-handling service at the under-construction Gautam Buddha International Airport.

But the committee has directed MoCTCA to issue the licence for ground-handling service via competition so that a capable party is selected.