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Cabinet approval sought to revise ASA with Bhutan

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has sent a proposal to the Cabinet asking its approval for the revision of the air service agreement (ASA) between Nepal and Bhutan.

Ministry officials said they moved ahead with the revision of the bilateral ASA at the request of Bhutan, as its first private airline Tashi Air (also known as Bhutan Airlines) plans to connect Nepal. Nepal and Bhutan had signed the ASA in February 2004, allowing Bhutan’s national flag carrier—Druk Air—to operate seven flights per week between Paro and Kathmandu.

The agreement allows only “single designation”. For example, Nepali private carrier Buddha Air has been designated to fly to Bhutan, and as per the agreement, no other Nepali carrier can fly to the destination. Same is the case for Bhutan.

“There are basically two major agendas—providing multiple designations and increasing flight frequency between the two countries,” said Suresh Acharya, joint-secretary at the ministry. “After the Cabinet gives a go-ahead, we will fix the negotiation and agreement signing dates.” Tashi Air was launched on December 4, 2011. The airline is a subsidiary of Tashi Group. The airline made its first international flights to India and Thailand on October 10, 2013.

Travel trade entrepreneurs said the airline has adopted aggressive marketing in various destinations and its interest to connect Kathmandu is to get Chinese tourists to Bhutan. “Chinese tourists normally stay for seven days and the airline plans to fly them to Bhutan from Nepal for at least two days,” said a travel trade entrepreneur.

Buddha Air, on August 23, 2010, had launched commercial flights to Paro with its 18-seater Beechcraft 1900D and became the first international airline to enter Bhutan. However, due to some technical problems, it was forced to cancel its schedule.

The government on Feb 24 signed a revised ASA with China, permitting the operation of 56 flights per week with any types of aircraft. Under the old ASA, Chinese airlines were allowed to operate 14 flights per week.

On April 16, 2013, Nepal and the UAE signed an enhanced ASA permitting operation of 70 flights per week with any type of aircraft.

source: ekantipur, 23 Mar 2014

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