|Hubs||Tribhuvan International Airport|
|Focus cities||Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport|
|Fleet size||7 (+5 orders)|
|Parent company||Government of Nepal|
|Key people||Mr Shiv Sharan Neupane |
Nepal Airlines (formerly known as Royal Nepal Airlines) is the flag carrier airline of Nepal and also the national airline of Nepal. Its head office is in the NAC Building (formerly RNAC Building) in Kathmandu, and its main base is Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. The airline was established in July 1958 as Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC) on the same day in which Thai Air was established leading to be Nepal's first airline. The airline's first aircraft was a Douglas DC-3, used to serve domestic routes and a handful of destinations in India. The airline acquired its first jet aircraft, Boeing 727s, in 1972. In 2004 the government of Nepal decided to sell off 49% of its stake in Nepal Airlines to the private sector. As of April 2014, the airline operates a fleet of seven aircraft with a new airbus A320-200 and flies to 39 destinations—five of which are international.
In April 2015, a commitee was set up to analyse the economic viability of operating Xian MA60 and Harbin Y-12 aircraft and the reliability of these aircraft. Depending on the results, the remaining orders could be cancelled, and remaining aircraft sent back under its 1 year warranty.
The 1950s and 1960s: early years
The airline was established in July 1958 as Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation with one Douglas DC-3. At the beginning, its services were limited to Simara, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Indian cities such as Patna, Calcutta and Delhi. In 1961, Pilatus Porter STOL aircraft joined the fleet, and in 1963 12-seater Chinese Fong Shou-2 Harvesters were brought into service, opening up the kingdom’s more remote routes.
Nepal's geopolitical situation produced a strange, politically mixed fleet, which was typically financed through aid programs from the country of manufacture. Seven more Douglas DC-3s were added to the fleet between 1959 and 1964. Furthermore, China supplied a couple of Feng Shou-2 aircraft which did not enter scheduled service. Bell Helicopters leased from Singapore were also used for charters. Two Russian Mi-4 helicopters also flew on scheduled routes to remote points. The route network was expanded internally and externally, soon reaching Dhaka in what was then East Pakistan.
In 1966, a turboprop Fokker F27 was added to the airline’s fleet.
The 1970s and 1980s: the jet age and economic boom
Nepal had 181,000 tourist visitors in 1985, of which 80 percent arrived by air. Royal Nepal Airlines carried 38 percent of these tourist passengers, but that number was down from the company's peak market share of 50 percent in 1979. Indian Airlines Corporation was RNAC's main competitor, but newer entrants in the business were also competing with RNAC for market share. These companies included Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, which started direct Kathmandu-Frankfurt service in cooperation with RNAC in October 1987 and now, other airlines are also wanting to do so.
At the time, Royal Nepal Airlines' network connected 38 domestic and 10 international destinations. RNAC was flying directly from Nepal to Hong Kong (home to many Gurkhas employed by the British Army) by 1988 vusing a Boeing 757. In April 1988, RNAC and the Civil Aviation Administration of China cooperated to provide scheduled service between Kathmandu and Lhasa in the autonomous province of Tibet.
RNAC reported revenues of $54.3 million in 1988—89, producing an operating profit of $17 million. With a workforce of 2,200, RNAC had become the country's largest employer and largest earner of foreign currency, bringing in roughly $15 million a year from abroad. Seventy-five percent of the company's passengers were foreign tourists. London, Dubai, Dhaka, Karachi, and Bombay were added to the route network during the 1980s.
The 1990s and 2000s: corruption
The domestic air market of the country was liberalized in 1992, and new competitors emerged: Necon Air, Nepal Airways, Everest Air, Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, Sita Air . Nepal Airlines had its last Boeing 727 flight in 1992. By 1997 these four competitors accounted for 70 percent of Nepal's domestic air traffic.
Adding to the airline's struggles as the millennium approached were allegations of corruption which periodically surfaced. One case involved Dinesh Dhamija, who later founded the Ebookers Internet travel site. Dhamija had been accused of receiving his post as director of RNAC's European operations in the early 1990s on account of cronyism with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Dhamija won a substantial settlement with the airline after a bitter court battle over these charges.
In December 2000, a large scandal revolved around the lease of a Boeing 767 aircraft from Austria's Lauda Air, which entered service in over protests from employees and government officials. The latter claimed the deal was unnecessary since RNAC was not getting enough usage from its two existing Boeing 757s; further, the actual cost per flight hour of the Lauda jet ended up being $5,000 ($1,150 above the cost specified in the contract). RNAC chairman Haribhakta Shrestha was suspended during an investigation, along with other RNAC executives; Nepal's tourism and civil aviation minister Tarani Dutt Chataut resigned soon after.
In 2004, it was reported that the Government of Nepal had decided to sell off 49% of its stake in Nepal Airlines, to the private sector, and hand over management control, whilst retaining a 51% share. This would provide the investment to get the airline out of significant debt.
The former chairman of Nepal Airlines, Ramagya Chaturvedi, was jailed for corruption in February 2005.
In September 2007, the airline confirmed that it had sacrificed two goats to appease a Hindu god following technical problems with one of its aircraft. Nepal Airlines said the animals were slaughtered in front of the plane, a Boeing 757, at Tribhuvan International Airport. The offering was made to Akash Bhairab, the Hindu god of sky protection, whose symbol is seen on the company’s aircraft. The airline said that after Sunday’s ceremony the plane successfully completed a flight to Hong Kong. Raju KC, an airline official, was quoted as saying: “The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights.” The company did not say what the problem was, but reports in local media had blamed an electrical fault.
Nepal airlines flies to Delhi, Doha, Kathmandu (hub), Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Bangkok internationally. Previously terminated destinations, such as Dubai, Bangalore and Mumbai are set to operate again after the delivery of the second Airbus A320. From 5 December 2013, European Union bans all airlines from Nepal to fly into the 28 nations.
The Nepal Airlines fleet includes the following aircraft (as of March 2015):
|Airbus A320-200||1||1||8||150||158||To be delivered by April 2015|
|de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter||2||0||0||19||19||One Aircraft being repaired. To be retired once all Harbin Y-12 delivered|
|Harbin Y-12||1||3||0||19||19||To be delivered from end of 2014|
|Aircraft||In service||Exit from service|
|Fokker F27 Friendship||1966||1970|
|Fong Shou-2 Harvester||1963||1965|
|Hawker Siddley HS-748||1970||1996|
Incidents and accidents
- 5 November 1960 – RNA Douglas C-47A-80-DL (9N-AAD) crashed on take-off at Bhairawa Airport and caught fire. All four crew members were killed. There were no passengers on board.
- 1 August 1962 – RNA Douglas C-47A-DL (9N-AAH) en route from Kathmandu-Gaucher Airport to New Delhi, radio contact was lost and the aircraft crashed near Tulachan Dhuri. The wreckage was found on 9 August 1962 on a mountain top at 11,200 feet. All four crew and six passengers were killed.
- 12 July 1969 – RNA Douglas DC-3D (9N-AAP) collided with a tree while flying over a cloud covered ridge at 7,300 feet at Hitauda, Nepal. All four crew and 31 passengers were killed.
- 25 January 1970 – RNA Fokker F27-200 (9N-AAR) after a flight from Kathmandu, was caught in severe thunderstorms with turbulence and down draughts on final approach to Delhi (Palam Airport). The pilot couldn't control the aircraft and crashed short of the runway. Of the five crew and 18 passengers only one crew member was killed.
- 10 June 1973 – RNA 9N-ABB on a flight from Biratnagar to Kathmandu, was taken over by three hijackers of Nepali Congress party who demanded money and escaped after landing in Bihar, India. None of the three crew and 18 passengers were injured.
- 15 October 1973 – RNA De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABG) was damaged beyond repair at Lukla Airport. the three crew and three passengers were unhurt.
- 22 December 1984 – RNA De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABH) crashed off course near Bhojpur, Nepal. Bad weather and pilot error could have been the cause. All three crew were killed as well as 12 of the 20 passengers.
- 9 June 1991 – RNA De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABA), after a flight from Kathmandu, crashed on landing at Lukla Airport following an unstabilized approach in bad weather. All three crew and 14 passengers were killed.
- 5 July 1992 – RNA De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABB), lost directional control on takeoff from Jumla Airport on a flight to Surkhet. The aircraft ran off the runway and struck the airport perimeter fence. None of the three crew were injured and there were no passengers on board.
- 17 January 1995 – RNA De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABI), flight RA133 from Kathmandu to Rumjatar, had problems getting airborne at Tribhuvan International Airport, struck the airfield perimeter fence and plunged into fields. Of three crew and 21 passengers, one crew member and one passenger were killed.
- 25 April 1996 – RNA BAe 748 Series 2B (9N-ABR) overran the runway at Meghauli Airport, after a flight from Kathmandu, when landing in rain on the grass airstrip. The aircraft ran across some ditches, causing the nosegear to collapse. None of the 4 crew and 27 passengers were injured.
- 27 July 2000 – RNA De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABP), on a flight from Bajhang to Dhangadhi, collided with trees on the 4,300 feet Jarayakhali hill on the Churia mountain range before catching fire. All 3 crew and 22 passengers were killed.
- 19 April 2010 – A Nepal Airlines De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABX) on a flight from Kathmandu (KTM) to Phaplu Airport (PPL) (with Kangel Danda as designated alternate airport). The aircraft was unable to land at Phaplu due to poor weather. The crew decided to divert to their alternate airport at Kangel Danda. The airplane touched down on its nose gear first and suffered some minor damage to the nose section.
- 16 May 2013 – A Nepal Airlines De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABO) on flight RA-555 from Pokhara (PKR) to Jomsom (JMO) veered left off of the runway after touching down at Jomsom and went down the slope to the Kaligandaki river. The aircraft stopped at the bank of the river, with the left wing in the water. Three crew and four passengers received serious injuries, and 15 passengers received minor or no injuries. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
- 16 February 2014 – A Nepal Airlines Flight 183 operated by de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter (9N-ABB) went missing on-route to Jumla carrying 18 people aboard. It was later confirmed that the plane had crashed in Argakhachi.
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- Paylor, Anne (5 December 2013). "Nepal carriers added to EU blacklist". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 10 December 2013.
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-  retrieved 3 Jan 2015
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