January 2: The government has given the nod to the cash-strapped Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to initiate the process to purchase at least 14 new aircraft.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Bahadur Ale confirmed that he has already instructed the NAC officials to take forward the procurement of at least 14 aircraft.
The minister made such remarks while inaugurating the 23rd anniversary of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) on Friday (December 31).
Minister Ale added that he has also asked the NAC to fly the grounded aircraft after repair and maintenance.
Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) had recently unveiled its plan to purchase 32 new aircraft in five years which is subject to government approval.
Newly-appointed Executive Chairman of the state-owned airline company submitted a five-year strategic plan in this regard to Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Bahadur Ale in the third week of December last year, sources said.
As per the strategic plan, NAC will operate 14 new aircraft for international flights if the government releases budget. According to NAC, 18 aircraft will be used for domestic flights in accordance to the plan.
According to inside sources, NAC is planning to purchase six wide-body aircraft and eight narrow-body aircraft.
The cash-strapped airline company has also demanded Rs 15 billion from the government for revitalizing the flag carrier of Nepal which is currently reeling under financial crisis.
It may be noted that NAC is facing an additional financial burden due to its inability to operate and manage six of its Chinese aircraft.
NAC owns six Chinese aircraft including two MA 60 and four Y-12E. The aircraft were bought for domestic flights. Nepal received one MA 60 and one Harbin Y-12E each as grant from the Chinese government. Similarly, Nepal's national flag carrier had purchased an additional MA 60 aircraft and three Harbin Y-12E aircraft from the Chinese aircraft manufacturer Avic International on concessional loan.
NAC incurred heavy financial losses while operating the Chinese aircraft due to load penalties, insurance, short-supply of spare parts, expensive parts, expensive simulator training cost among various other factors.
NAC had been operating the Chinese aircraft for domestic flights since 2016.
NAC decided to stop using Chinese aircraft from July 30 after incurring losses regularly.