The much awaited revision of bilateral air service agreement (ASA) between Nepal and China has finally been concluded on Monday evening with delegates from both countries signing a new agreement, officials said.
As per the new agreement, both countries can run a total of 56 direct flights to each others' land a week, up from the previous 14 flights.
The agreement signed by Sushil Ghimire, secretary of Nepal's Ministry for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) and Xia Xinghua, deputy administrator of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) also said that direct flights between Nepal and China will automatically be increased to 63 a week in 2015 and 70 a week in 2016.
"This way seven direct flights per week can be added every year till 2016 on reciprocal basis," Suresh Acharya, joint secretary at MoCTCA, told Xinhua, adding "even if any of the countries need more flights after 2016, similar revision can be made upon the ASA. "
Nepal and China had first signed the ASA in 2003, following which Air China opened its direct flight operation to Kathmandu in 2004.
Monday's ASA revision agreement has also offered unlimited opportunities in terms of cargo flights for both nations.
Acharya said the agreement has also opened a way for code sharing arrangement between the airlines of Nepal and China.
Nepali officials who participated in the signing ceremony said the Chinese side has also agreed to add one destination -- Xian city in northwest China -- for Nepali airlines. So far, Nepali carriers are allowed to run direct flights to seven Chinese destinations, including Lhasa, Beijing, Kunming, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xian.
During the meeting, the Chinese delegates informed their Nepali counterparts that a new airlines company, Sichuan Airlines, was willing to operate a direct flight to Nepal. "As per the Chinese delegates, Sichuan Airlines will soon begin its commercial operation in Nepal," said an official at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) who was also in the ceremony.
Currently, three Chinese carriers including Air China, China Southern and China Eastern are running direct flights to Kathmandu 's Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
Meanwhile, the Chinese side also has agreed to provide Nepal with necessary support to promote its aviation sector including infrastructure, logistics and training.
Stakeholders believe the revision of ASA between Nepal and its northern neighbor will help promote Nepal's tourism sector, given the increasing frequency and number of Chinese tourists visiting abroad