Nepal's national carrier's first Airbus arrives today

KATHMANDU - After a wait of almost three decades, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is scheduled to receive a brand new Airbus on Sunday in what will be the national carrier's first addition to its international fleet in 27 years.

The aircraft, an A320-200, will land at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 11 am on Sunday, said NAC spokesperson Ram Hari Sharma. The plane will be flown by an Airbus pilot and an NAC pilot.

A team led by Tourism Minister Deepak Chandra Amatya will also be on board the plane, and accompanying him will be NAC Chairman Shiva Sharan Neupane, Managing Director Madan Kharel and engineers from NAC and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

According to Sharma, the plane, which is flying in all the way from Hamburg, Germany, will have a transit stop in Doha. It will take off at 6.30am (Nepali time) from the Qatari Capital for Kathmandu on Sunday. To welcome the plane, the NAC has planned a brief ceremony at the TIA. When the plane lands, it should put to rest longstanding speculation about whether the deal would come through at all-as all of NAC's past fleet-expansion plans have ended in fiascos. But if all goes well this time around, there are even more developments for the NAC to look forward to. A second jet is expected to be delivered to the corporation by April.

The aircraft has 158 seats, eight in business class. The aircraft is fitted with Sharklet fuel-saving wingtip devices that deliver unbeatable economics and up to 4 per cent reduction in fuel burn.

On June 27, 2013, the NAC had confirmed its order for two Airbus planes by signing an aircraft purchase agreement with Airbus. That successful procurement process brings to an end a hiatus that has lasted six years.

The corporation currently possesses two ageing Boeing 757s. The first of Nepal Airlines' 757s arrived in September 1987, and the second one a year later. Since then, every effort to expand its international fleet has failed.

Sharma said that the NAC has planned to put the new planes into commercial operation from February 25. The national flag carrier has plans to fly the new plane on the New Delhi, Hong Kong and Bangkok routes. Its first flight will be to New Delhi.

The NAC had earlier said that it would resume the Kathmandu-Delhi flight sector from mid-March.