KATHMANDU: Japan Civil Aviation Bureau has approved the passenger fare filed by Nepal Airlines Corporation, paving the way for the national flag carrier to make preparations to operate direct flights to Kansai International Airport, Osaka.

Navaraj Koirala, deputy spokesperson for Nepal Airlines, said they had received fare clearance for Kansai International Airport, Osaka from Japan’s civil aviation agency. “We filed the fare tariff last Friday.” Koirala, however, said they were yet to receive flight permission to serve the airport.

“The fare filing approval means the carrier can begin selling tickets. We think it will take at least two weeks to get the operating permit,” he said, adding that Nepal Airlines would not open ticket sales until it gets the flight permission. “We have targeted to operate non-stop flights to Japan by the first week of July.”

Last February, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau informed the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal that it would conduct safety checks of Nepal Airlines before allowing it to resume flights to Kansai International Airport which were suspended in 2007 for lack of aircraft. This forced the state-owned carrier to postpone the re-launch. Nepal Airlines had originally planned to resume its Japan service in November-end, but the date was pushed back to February 2019 due to incomplete preparations.

Subsequently, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal sent all documents including the International Civil Aviation Organization audit report on Nepal’s aviation safety progress to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. Nepal Airlines said it had completed the entire process related to ground handling, catering and refueling at Kansai International Airport. It also plans to operate flights to Narita International Airport and has already applied for a slot there.

According to the carrier, if it gets permission to operate flights to both airports, it would be two weekly flights on each sector. If it chooses to serve only one airport, it can operate three weekly flights.

On June 18 last year, Nepal and Japan revised the air service agreement, increasing the number of flights seven-fold from twice weekly to 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis.

As per the old air service agreement signed on February 17, 1993, Nepali airlines were permitted to operate 400 weekly seats or two weekly flights out of a single airport. Nepal Airlines launched its Japan service in 1994, flying to Osaka via Shanghai, China. In 2007, it was forced to suspend the route as it did not have enough planes.