Nepali carriers in limbo over EC flight restriction

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018 | | Money

Nepali airlines don’t know when they will be removed from the air safety list of the European Commission (EC) allowing them to operate in the region because its technical team has still not arrived to assess their status.

The EC had agreed to send a technical team to Nepal in September to evaluate the status of Nepali airlines and their improvement towards safety. The group was expected to prepare a field report and submit it to its technical committee meeting in November to decide whether Nepal should be removed from the air safety list.

“The visit was slated for September. It is already October, but there is no word from the EC about when they will be coming,” said an official of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). “We had sent all the documents to satisfy the concerns of the EC with evidence regarding the improvements Nepal has made to address air safety deficiencies, but we have not received a reply.” This indicates that Nepali airlines will not be removed from the air safety list any time soon, he said.

In December 2013, the EC issued a ban against Nepali airlines preventing them from expanding to EU cities after finding regulatory oversight to be inadequate. The airline industry fears that a continuation of the ban will hurt it, as they plan to extend their network to Europe.

According to CAAN, the EC has indicated that it is not happy with the Nepal government’s lack of progress on making a law to split the regulatory body as envisaged. Currently, CAAN is functioning both as regulator and service provider from the same office, and there is no clear demarcation between its duties and organisational structure.

In June, while receiving the Council President Certificate from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) headquarters in Montreal, Civil Aviation Minister Rabindra Adhikari had promised to complete the process of enacting the Integrated Civil Aviation Bill to split CAAN within a year. Although the Cabinet has given the go-ahead to the ministry to prepare a draft of the bill, it is expected to take years to pass the law and split CAAN into two entities, said CAAN officials. The government has been working on the new law for the last nine years.

The EC has also raised concern over inducting airline representatives into the CAAN board because it performs regulatory roles to streamline the airline industry, and it would be inappropriate to take inputs from the representatives of the same airlines it has to govern, according to officials.

The EC wasn’t very happy with Nepal Airlines Corporation’s (NAC) operations and Caan’s certification process of the Airbus A330 wide-body jets that joined its fleet this year.

In July 2017, ICAO removed the significant safety concerns tag it had put on Nepal four years ago. The 2013 audit report, a follow-up to the 2009 audit, had pointed out that Nepal’s score of 55.01 percent in effective implementation of critical elements of safety oversight system was way below the global average of 60 percent.

The 2017 audit gave Nepal a score of 66 percent for effective implementation of safety standards, following which the government moved to get Nepali airlines unbanned by the EC.