Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation announced that work is underway to loosen up the requirements needed for domestic carriers’ license to operate flights to foreign countries.
The development was kick started when Shree Airlines applied for a license to start international services.
Under existing rules, domestic operators need to have five years of domestic flying experience and three aircraft in their fleet in order to qualify to fly to overseas destinations.
“We are currently discussing the issue to review the terms of reference,” said Suresh Acharya, Joint Secretary at the ministry.
According to the Cabinet mandate, the terms of reference need to be examined every three years, he said. However, the government has ceased reviewing it as of March 2010.
The last time the government granted a license to operate international flights was in 2011, with the now defunct BB Airways. According to the ministry’s amended civil aviation rules, potential international airlines need to pay a security bond of Rs5 million and have a paid-up capital of Rs500 million. The terms of reference document costs Rs50,000.
The Ministry usually issues licenses for three categories of international airspace: A, B and C. Class A licenses have been established for airlines whose flights last longer than three hours, Class B for flights going for three hours, and Class C for those operating flights of less than three hours.
Acharya said that Shree Airlines had applied for a Class C license. The carrier holds plans to connect with countries in South Asia, particularly India and Bangladesh.
Shree received a no objection certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) in March to purchase or lease aircraft, eight months after the carrier applied to begin fixed-wing operations.
Shree currently has three Bombardier Canadair Regional Jets (CRJs) in its fleet, and plans to add more after receiving the international flying license.
Ministry officials said that Shree planned to make use of the pilgrim traffic to Kailash Manasarovar from India. The pilgrimage, known as Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, is incredible popular with Indian pilgrims. Sources indicate that nearly 31,000 Indians visited the sacred mountain and lake this year. The travel season starts in May and lasts till September.
Government officials said that the shift to relax requirements was geared to let domestic airlines expand and grow into international markets.