Nepal Airlines intends to connect Sydney and Kathmandu with one-stop flights as early as June 21, pending Government approval.
Preparations are well underway for the launch, says Nepal Airlines Ganesh Kumar Ghimire.
“We are applying for landing permits and making other necessary preparations to meet the deadline,” Ghimire told The Kathmandu Post.
The actual start remains subject to approval by Australian regulatory body the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
“The proposed June 21 flight, however, will depend on the issuance of the landing permits by the Australian government, even though we have secured the slots from the airport authority in Sydney.”
Nepal Airlines’ Kathmandu-Sydney flights will initially run twice a week, departing Kathmandu on Thursdays and Sundays, with the 13½ trek broken by a stopover in Singapore.
“In the first phase, we have decided to do a technical landing at Singapore, only for refuelling,” said Ghimire, adding that a “second phase” would see Nepal Airlines approved for carrying travellers on the standalone Nepal-Singapore and Sydney-Singapore legs.
One of the state-owned airline’s two Airbus A330s is slated for the new route; the jet has 18 seats in its Shangri-La business class, but with a very dated design and 2-2-2 layout, while behind are 256 economy seats.
Sydney has a sizeable Nepalese population and the country is also attractive to travellers seeking to experience the Himalayan nation.
Australian Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts told The Kathmandu Post that the proposed flights would bring the two countries closer and boost bilateral trade and tourism.
He said more than 130,000 Nepalis live in Australia, including nearly 60,000 students.
“There is an enormous demand for direct flights between Kathmandu and Sydney. Once established, I am certain that there would be no shortage of our people to buy tickets.”
Nepal welcomed almost 40,000 Australian tourists in 2019, and “the numbers will definitely rise as it will make it easier for Australian tourists to get in.”
It’s estimated that almost 120,000 roundtrip passengers flew between Kathmandu and Sydney in 2019, with China Southern, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines the leading choices.