Kathmandu, August 29, 2016: Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is expected to call a meeting of its board of directors next week to finalise the procurement of two Airbus A330-200 widebody jets, sources privy to the plan said.
Last January, the national flag carrier had unveiled an ambitious reform strategy that includes buying two widebody aircraft over the next two years.
The NAC board had agreed in principle to the corporationâ€™s proposal to induct two long-range widebody Airbus aircraft into its fleet. NAC expects to spend Rs25 billion for the two jets.
The state-owned airline plans to add the first of the two proposed jets by 2017. It has also decided to phase out one of its two Boeing 757s.
â€œA detailed business plan will be presented to the board,â€ said Ram Hari Sharma, spokesperson for NAC. Sharma added that the NAC management had recommended switching to Airbus as pursuing a one-family aircraft strategy would reduce maintenance and crew training costs. â€œThe board may confirm or reverse the decision.â€
NAC plans to have an all-Airbus fleet in the near future. Currently, NAC flies five different types of aircraft — Boeing, Airbus, Twin Otter, MA60 and Y12e. Due to the diverse fleet, it needs to have different sets of pilots, engineers and spare parts for each type of aircraft.
Recently, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal told the parliamentary Committee for Good Governance and Monitoring that NACâ€™s varied fleet posed safety risks as it has not been able to manage them well.
According to Sharma, the proposed A330-200 can accommodate up to 280 passengers in a two-class layout. The carrier has proposed procuring long-range jets to serve destinations in North America, Japan, Australia and the UK as they have been identified as prospective markets for Nepal over the next 20 years.
NAC purchased two Airbus A320-200 aircraft last year by borrowing Rs10 billion from the Employees Provident Fund in its first fleet expansion in 27 years.
According to NAC, it will formally request the Finance Ministry for funds to finance the project after the board approves the plan. The current fiscal yearâ€™s budget statement has also promised to arrange the necessary money to buy the jets.
In 2015, NACâ€™s market share on international routes stood at 7.88 percent, up from 5.87 percent in 2014. Nepal Airlines saw the strongest passenger growth after it added two A320 aircraft to its fleet.
The beleaguered national flag carrier flew 253,658 travellers last year, up 22.87 percent compared to the previous year.
According to Sharma, NACâ€™s earnings rose Rs2 billion to Rs7.5 billion in the last fiscal year after the two jets were inducted into the fleet. The carrier serves eight international destinations, including three Indian cities, and plans to expand to Guangzhou, China by this year.
By Sangam Prasain