Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has decided to resume flights to Kansai International Airport, Osaka, dropping its earlier plan to directly connect Kathmandu with Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.
The state-owned national flag carrier fears that it would take a long time to begin operation in the Tokyo airport, which would have been NAC’s maiden landing. NAC launched its Japan service in 1994, flying to Osaka via Shanghai, China. In 2007, it was forced to suspend the route due to lack of aircraft.
“We have decided to resume flights to Kansai International Airport, Osaka,” said Madan Kharel, executive chairman of NAC.
“We will be sending a station manager to the airport within 15 days. Other preparations are underway.”
Kharel said that the chief of Kansai International Airport is scheduled to arrive in Nepal on December 3. “We will be holding a brief discussion with the airport’s chief regarding flight operations,” he said.
NAC has also postponed the re-launch of its Japan service from November-end to February 2019 due to incomplete preparations.
Among NAC’s four proposed destinations—Osaka in Japan, Seoul in South Korea, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Guangzhou in China—the Japan service is likely to materialise soon, according to Kharel.
The national flag carrier plans to resume its Japan service after a 10-year break with three weekly flights to Tokyo.
Initially, NAC had begun preparations to operate flights to Kansai International Airport as it was not allowed to serve other airports in Japan under the old air service agreement (ASA).
On June 18, Nepal and Japan revised the ASA, increasing the number of flights seven-fold from twice weekly to 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis.
The revised ASA then allowed NAC to fly to Narita International Airport and the corporation started preparations accordingly. “Now, it seems that resumption of flights to Osaka will take a short time compared to flying to a new airport in Tokyo,” said an official at NAC. “Therefore, NAC opted to choose Osaka again.”
As per the old ASA signed on February 17, 1993, Nepali airlines were permitted to operate 400 weekly seats or two weekly flights out of a single airport. After Nepal and Japan signed the ASA in 1993, the national flag carrier launched its Japan service in 1994, flying to Osaka via Shanghai, China.
The number of travelers from Nepal to Japan has been growing significantly in the last few years. The country received 27,326 Japanese tourists last year.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of Nepalis living in Japan has swelled to more than 60,000 compared to 31,531 at the end of 2013.
The Nepali community is the fifth largest foreign community in Japan. With the 2020 Olympic Games approaching, Japan will be an attractive destination for Nepalis, and the number of Nepalis in Japan is likely to grow substantially in the coming years, the ministry said.
Every year, more than 10,000 Nepali students go to Japan to pursue higher studies and learn the Japanese language. Japan is the second most popular destination after the US among Nepali students going abroad to pursue higher studies, the ministry said.