Nepal Airlines issued a global tender this September for the purchase of two Airbus A330-200 aircrafts. Altogether, it has received 10 bids for the aircrafts and 1 bid for engine supply from Rolls-Royce. If everything goes smoothly, Nepal will welcome its first wide-body aircraft next September. So, what role does an Airbus A332 play as a part of the Nepal Airlines fleet? Why is Nepal Airlines pushing for Airbus-only fleet, and that too—why the A332?
Photo: Byeangel via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Major Points of the Nepal Airlines Airbus A330 Global Tender
- Request for proposal for Two Airbus A330-200 Jet Aircraft
- Rolls-Royce Trent 772B Engines
- 250-280 passengers on two-class configuration (‘Shangri-La’ Business Class and Economy Class)
- MOU to be signed on January 2017, and Purchase Agreement on March 2017
- Delivery on September 2017 and March 2018
- Target Destinations: Tokyo and Osaka (Japan), Seoul (Korea), and Sydney (Australia)
The Push For Airbus-only Fleet
Nepal Airlines started soaring high after the introduction of two Airbus A320s in 2015. This was a historic moment in Nepali aviation, as it was the first time in 26 years that the national carrier had expanded its international fleet. In addition, the airline plans to phase out its aging Boeing 757s in the near future. This introduction of Airbus airplanes opened a path to welcome only Airbus aircrafts in the future. Despite many questions from outsiders like “Why Airbus? Why not Boeing?”, it is important to understand that the airline already has two of the world’s first class and exceptionally proven medium-body planes – A320s. So, it makes sense to add only Airbus aircrafts here on.
There might also have been pressures from government or other concerned authorities regarding cost of the aircrafts, cost of crew training (case in point: Airbus did provide free pilot training to NA pilots for A320) and so on. With both of the 757s retired, the airline can significantly gain from the reduced cost of maintenance, spare parts, and on crew training and remuneration expenses on the Boeing planes.
Airline Companies That Operate Airbus A330 for Nepal Flights
Photo: NepaliAviator.com (All Rights Reserved)
- Qatar Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Etihad Airways (unscheduled)
- Cathay Dragon
- Oman Air (unscheduled)
Airbus A330 and Nepal Airlines
When the specs of Airbus A330 were rolled out in 1987, it was already an outstanding jump over its ancestor—the Airbus A300, as it could carry more than 30% passengers while burning the same amount of fuel. When Boeing announced the 787 Dreamliner, aviation media and journalists nicknamed it the “A330 killer”. However, as the time passed, rather than go out of production, the A330 shaped the future of twin-jet wide body market. Improvements kept on coming with more efficient engines and 21 different variants as of date. At the time of certification, the A330-200 model proved to be even better – delivering an extra 3.5% increase in takeoff weight and 8.7% increase in range (that is an increase in flight distance of over 1,100 km for the same amount of fuel).
The -200 variant of Airbus A330 is a newer model adapted from the original Airbus A330-300 model. While the -300 variant seats up to 335 passengers in a two-class configuration, the shorter -200 variant flies a lot longer and farther with 280 passengers. When fully loaded up to its maximum allowed payload, the -200 model flies 13,450 km while the -300 variant flies 11,450 km for the same amount of fuel. With these two jets, Nepal Airlines aims to fly to London (7,500 km) and Sydney (9,700 km) from its base in Kathmandu. Preference of A332 over A333 provides a noteworthy benefit as the airliner will not have to burn extra fuel to fly with empty weight.
Addition of Wide-body Jets Vital for Sustainability of Nepal Airlines
Nepal Airlines is probably the only airline in the world that has managed to sustain without the addition of a new jet aircraft for 28 years. Revenue earned through the workhorses Boeing 757s and the revenue earned through ground handling at Tribhuvan International Airport has managed to keep the company from going bankrupt. However, with the increase in competition from international airlines and from other domestic counterparts, its market share had started to dwindle.
Photo Source: Request for Proposal (RFP) for purchase of Two A330-200 Jet Aircraft with Rolls Royce Trent 772B (NepalAirlines.com.np)
Addition of the two A320s proved to be a boon, but the airline has still not been able to target high-traffic destinations like Guangzhou, Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Since there are no direct connections between Nepal and Saudi Arabia, the Arabian market will hopefully prove to be an important destination that facilitates both the airline and Nepali migrant workers.
Hoping for the best, Preparing for the worst
The upcoming A330s will replace the Boeing 757s, the workhorse that has kept NAC alive for over 28 years. Selecting an aircraft that is going to replace the backbone of an airline is not an easy feat. Incompetent, uninformed and malicious management/business decisions regarding purchase and lease decisions had crippled NAC for decades. This time, we hope NAC breaks through. When the management selects the best bid for the Airbus A330, we hope we would be able to witness the growth and pride every Nepali aviation lover desires.