Himalaya Airlines, a Nepal-China joint-venture company, has taken delivery of its first aircraft—the brand new Airbus A320—to serve the international market starting next month.
Himalaya will be the third Nepali carrier in service to serve the international sector after Nepal Airlines and Buddha Air.
The 158-seater aircraft, dry leased from a Chinese company in Chengdu, landed at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Wednesday afternoon. The start-up private carrier plans to lease another A319 jet by June.
The airline is scheduled to conduct its maiden commercial flight on the Kathmandu-Delhi sector. Himalaya will be the sixth airline to operate on the sector after Nepal Airlines, Jet Airways, Air India, Druk Air and IndiGo.
It plans expand to the Kathmandu-Doha route from April 12. Himalaya will be the second carrier to connect Doha from Nepal after Qatar Airways. “We will be operating daily flights on Delhi and Doha routes by the beginning of April and expand networks to Lhasa, Chengdu and Beijing in China a few months later,” said Salina Nakarmi, brand officer at Himalaya Airlines.
With the arrival of the A320, the carrier will conduct test flights on a number of destinations before putting the aircraft into commercial operation. Nakarmi said they are yet to unveil the promotional fares on the proposed routes.
The airlines had previously planned to launch scheduled flights from October 2014, but the plan was deferred due to “some technical problems”. It was further delayed by the devastating April 25 earthquake.
The company plans to link various Asian and Middle East cities initially. It also plans to acquire 15 Airbus aircraft, including long-haul A330 wide-body jets, to expand operations to Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia, and America in the next five years.
Initially, Himalaya had planned to operate Kathmandu-Lhasa flights to become the second international carrier linking directly to the administrative capital of Tibet after Air China, but the plan was changed given the A320 aircraft cannot land at Lhasa airport.
Himalayan Infrastructure Fund Aviation Investment and Yeti World Investment hold a 51 percent stake in the company, while Tibet Airlines owns 49 percent.
The company has a paid-up capital of $25 million. It is the biggest foreign direct investment from China in Nepal’s aviation sector.
Currently, 25 international and two Nepali airlines fly to 23 destinations in 13 countries from Nepal.
The country has signed air service agreements with 38 countries so far, the latest being New Zealand and Vietnam.
(Source: The Kathmandu Post)