The national flag-carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) plane recently landed in the Riyadh-based King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia.
The landing marked the launch of NAC direct flight between Kathmandu and Riyadh after the completion of 45 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The NAC outreach to Saudi Arabia, the second largest country in terms of geographical size in the Middle East, is taken as not just the extension of NAC connectivity but it is viewed as a matter of Nepal’s pride and prestige.
Speaking at a programme organized at Riyadh on Saturday, Riyadh-based Nepali Embassy’s deputy chief of mission Dilip Kumar Paudel expressed his hope that connecting Kathmandu with the Saudi Arabia with the NAC direct flight would not only contribute to further consolidate the diplomatic relations between the two nations, but also help further widen a door of economic prosperity for the NAC.
“The NAC has been successful in operating the flights following tremendous efforts,” he said, adding that it would play a significant role in enhancing the country’s visibility and promoting its identity in an international arena.
Non Resident Nepali Association, Saudi Arabia coordinator Rajendra Aryal was of the view that the launch of the Kathmandu-Riyadh direct flight would contribute to promoting the country’s trade. “I am one among those Nepalis who is elated to see the presence of NAC in the Saudi Arabia," he said, adding that onwards the trade between two nations would rise and the private could secure benefits from it.
Presently there are 400 thousand Nepalis in the Saudi Arabia.
Lawmaker and former minister of the CPN (UML), Mahesh Basnet, who participated in the launch flight of NAC, expressed the belief that the presence of the national flag carrier in Saudi Arabia would further strengthen relations between the two countries and it would be fruitful for NAC's economic progress.
Nepal had to face complexities to bring the body of Nepali workers to Nepal, who lost their lives at different cities of Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Dammam in COVID-19 pandemic, in lack of direct flight between Nepal and Saudi.
Executive Chairperson of the NAC, Yubraj Adhikari, said that the direct flight to Riyadh would make significant contribution in expanding NAC's goodwill.
He added NAC's flight to Riyadh was very fruitful. A bilateral air service agreement was signed between Nepal and Saudi Arabia in 2015. Nepal has signed air service agreement with 40 different countries including Australia on September 30, 2019. It is the historic flight of NAC in its 63 years of journey.
Stakeholders said that NAC's direct flight to Saudi Arabia would help create opportunity of tourism and economic investment in Nepal.
Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) senior vice-president Chandra Prasad Dhakal believed that commencement of direct flights by NAC to Saudi Arabia would be important in terms of promoting investment of the non-resident Nepalis here to Nepal and trade promotion.
"NAC's presence in countries with sizeable Nepali population has helped promote Nepal as a destination as well as in bringing in investment into the country. Its direct flight to Saudi Arabia has opened the gate for the possibility of huge investment in Nepal," he opined.
Sales and Marketing Manager at NAC's Riyadh-based office, Subas Timilsina said Riyadh would be economically a successful destination for NAC if the flight which is presently targeted to the labour market could be continued as a commercial one. NAC has set up its office at Batha in Riyadh.
He suggested starting business flights to all the three destinations in Saudi Arabia very soon.
Amrit Poudel, who runs a business in Riyadh, said that the NAC's Riyadh flight would be productive as it will not only benefit the Riyadh-based Nepalis but there is the possibility of this flight attracting the Saudi Arabian tourists to visit Nepal as well.
Air India, Jazeera, Salam, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways are operating flights to Nepal with transits in Dubai, Kuwait and India, among other countries at present.
The Himalaya Airlines, a joint investment airlines company of Nepal and China, is operating direct flights to Kathmandu from here and Damam.
NAC will operate flights two days a week using the narrow body airplane in the initial phase. The national-flag carrier started its inaugural flight from a wide-body A 330 aircraft on April 22. NAC recently got permission for operating flights to and from Riyadh, Damam and Jeddah. The Riyadh-based General Authority of Civil Aviation gave permission to operate flights to these three destinations.
NAC has offered concessional air fare, managed in-flight food and 40 kilogrammes luggage facility to passengers on the return flight from Riyadh.
The flight time from Kathmandu to Riyadh is six hours 15 minutes and the return air travel time to Kathmandu is four hours 50 minutes.
Now, NAC will be operating regular flights to 10 destinations of eight countries, including to Riyadh.
Before this, it had been conducting flights to nine destinations of seven countries including three destinations in India. It has been operating flights to New Delhi, Mumbai and Banglore of India, Dubai, Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Narita, Japan.
NAC has two wide-body 'A' 330 and two narrow-body 'A' 320 planes for the international flights.
Source: National News Agency Nepal