Bhutan-Nepal revise air service agreement

Tashi Air's plans to start air service to Nepal.
Tashi Air’s plans to start air service to Nepal.

Bhutan and Nepal have revised the bilateral air services agreement (ASA) on Saturday (17 May) in Thimphu, agreeing to increase flights between the two countries by three folds, with an immediate effect.

The two countries agreed to increase the passenger flight frequency to 21 per week, with any type of aircraft, whether owned or leased. The agreement between the two countries signed in 2004 had allowed seven weekly flights.

Nepal’s Tourism Ministry Secretary Sushil Ghimire and Bhutan’s Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Kinley Dorji signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of their respective governments.

The revised ASA has accepted the multiple designation system, under which there won’t be any restriction on any carrier of the two countries to fly to each other’s destinations.

Earlier, the single designation system had permitted only Bhutan’s national flag carrier Druk Air to operate flights to Kathmandu ’s Tribhuvan International Airport, while Nepali private carrier Buddha Air was enjoying the same rights in Bhutan.

The agreement has also eliminated royalties being charged on passengers and cargo along the Kathmandu-Delhi sector for the airlines designated by Bhutan. Currently, Druk Air pays $10 as royalty for every passenger it picks up in Kathmandu and flies to New Delhi.

However, Nepal rejected Bhutan’s proposal to allow Bhutanese airlines to connect Bagdogra and Bodhgaya to Kathmandu under the fifth freedom rights. The fifth freedom rights grant an airline the right to carry passengers from or to Nepal from a country other than Bhutan. But Nepal agreed to work out on the issue through code share arrangement between the designated airlines of both the countries.

Nepal accepted Bhutan’s willingness to make use of the training facilities run by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and both the parties agreed to enhance technical cooperation in the field of civil aviation, exchange of technical expertise, tourism promotion, and other related matters.

Bhutan’s first private airline Tashi Air (also known as Bhutan Airlines) plans to connect Nepal from mid-June with four weekly flights.


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