Time to Close Nepal Airlines

After forty years Nepal Airlines Corporation, which once carried more than half of all visitors to the country, has less than five percent of the market. Its decision today to stop flying what was once the most popular route, Kathmandu – Delhi, is a sign of just how bad things have gotten at the airline.

With only two aging Boeing 727s in its international fleet, NAC was managing only 15 flights per week. For the last year they have not flown to Delhi at all, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on a New Delhi office. That too will now close.

Despite low fares, NAC has steadily lost customers over the years due to poor service and erratic schedules. With only two aircraft, maintenance of an engine would typically cause the airline to cancel dozens of flights, and long delays were common. It’s a common joke in Nepal that NAC passengers are fortunate if they arrive on the scheduled day, let alone at the scheduled time.

And the airline has served as a jobs bank for government after government: Political appointees weren’t even expected to show up, let alone do any work. The Bhutan National airline, Druk Airways, operates two aircraft internationally on a similar schedule with fewer than half the employees as NAC.

NAC, it seems, is almost ready to admit defeat. Though the airline hasn’t flown to Delhi recently, this is a highly symbolic act. Even the most ardent advocates for the company – the politicians who benefit from patronage and graft – will be hard-pressed to justify spending the $100-plus million necessary to buy new airplanes and upgrade services.

Rather than that, it’s time to close NAC, save the nation money, and eliminate a sinkhole of corruption.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.